Sound Design Experiment with Aalto and AudioCubes

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I decided to combine the fluid tangible spatial control of Percussa AudioCubes with the some droning patches I made from INIT with Madrona Labs wonderful Aalto synth.

Aalto has an awesome gate feature which allows you to create interesting drones leaving your hands free to modulate the hell out of parameters to create expressive and unique performances. You can also modulate the gate. Two AudioCubes in Sensor mode allow you to modulate with 8 MIDI CC’s with two hands.

AudioCubes Makes Virtual Synths Tangible

Watch the video above first with annotations on, then a second time with annotations off. On the second pass through watch how fluid the control is and how many parameters I’m managing at the same time. You’ll also see I’m getting visual feedback in the form of light intensity and color. After you perform with AudioCubes for a  while your brain starts to fool you into thinking that there are pressure bubbles around the sensors. In other words, even though the throw is about three inches when using your fingers with cubes, you can become quite accurate with control – especially when you combine visual feedback and audio feedback.

Because you can configure and map cube function differently with each patch, set and instrument, you start also thinking of each combination as an instrument on to itself. Once I set something like this up, I find myself coming back to it again and again getting a little better with the “instrument” with each use. This often results in me wanting to push things further and I learn the synth better plus creating more expressive performances.

Configuration Notes

I used the configure button on the Ableton Device holding the Aalto synthesizer select a set of parameters that I then map to faces of two Percussa AudioCubes in sensor mode. I did a video on the this Ableton mapping process a few years back with different devices, but the premise is the same. These cubes were configured via Percussa’s free MIDIBridge app.  I then use spatial movement of my fingers modulate parameters in Aalto. In same cases cubes modulate each other if sensors are facing each other.

Links

Mark Mosher
Electronic/Experimental Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer

Synth Geek Blog: https://modulatethis.com/
Artist Site: www.MarkMosherMusic.com

Notes and Video: Using Percussa AudioCubes in Sensor Mode to Play Melody for “Alone”

markmosher_cover_reboot_001_400I put in some extra rehearsal time this weekend in preparation for the March 17th show at the Art Institute of California/Sunnyvale . I’ll be performing songs from I HEAR YOUR SIGNALS, and some new songs which I’m considering for my next album. I’m also working on getting some songs from my previous album REBOOT to my live set and wanted to share some notes on implementing my song “Alone”.

First off, here is the album version of the track:

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F1612110
Alone by MarkMosher

As you can hear, “Alone” is the emotional bottom of the story in REBOOT and is the only track on the album without a drum groove. This being the case I wanted to come up with some sort performance that would provide contrast to the other songs in the set. Back in September I came up with the idea of attempting to play all the lead melody and ambient noises solely from Percussa AudioCubes. I’ve decided to push-on with this idea and perform the song this way. Here are the behind-the-scenes notes and a rehearsal video.

Goal
markmosher_rehearsing_01I normally configure my AudioCubes so there is 1 “Sensor” cube for controlling effects, 2 “Receiver” cubes for sending MIDI notes to Ableton Live to trigger clips, scenes, parameter settings…, and 1 cube as a “Sender” to trigger to the Receiver cubes.

For “Alone” I wanted to use each cube face to play a different note according to a predefined user scale that matched the notes in the song. AudioCubes can detect objects in one of two ways –Wirelessly (“Sender”/”Receiver” pairs), or through infrared (cube set to Sensor mode). In sensor mode, an object’s (hand, other cube, cat…) proximity to cube face is detected with infrared. Since I want to use my hand to trigger the note Sensor mode is the way to go.

Solution: Using Sensor Mode to Play Notes
While the Sensor mode is normally used to send MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) values from 0-127 to control parameters on synths and your DAW, there are also options to send MIDI Notes based on minimum sensor thresholds.

Implementation: Configuring AudioCube Function in MIDIBridge
Modes and settings for each cube are configured in the free app Percussa MIDIBridge. Click the image below to see a large version of the screenshot which illustrates how I configured individuals notes for Cube 1. image

You can also see that even though I’ve set note triggering via the threshold, proximity to each cube face will case the LED intensity to respond according to the normal response curve and with a different color for each face. I continue this method with Cubes 2 & 3 to program the rest of the notes.

Calibration
Like a Theremin, AudioCubes running in Sensor mode need to be calibrated. It’s not because they are analog, but instead to take into account the amount of ambient and infrared signal in the “control zone”. The screen shot above also shows how you can tweak gain to adjust for room – and of course you could experiment with “Threshold” as well. The darker the room the better fro the this particular method.

Virtual Ports, Ableton Live and Novaton Launchpad
In my rig, MIDIBridge talks through virtual MIDI ports (Midi Yoke) to Ableton Live. Live is playing some minimal original background tracks from the original album offering me a frame of reference for my performance. The signals from the AudioCubes are routed to various virtual instruments such as Camel Audio Alchemy, Absynth 5, and Sonic Charge Synplant. I assigned buttons on the Novation Launchpad to select and arm tracks (sometimes multiple tracks) so I can swap instruments out from under the cubes without having to load another MIDIBridge Patch.

The End Result: “Alone” Rehearsal Video
I shot this video back in September when I first figured all this out. I’m now actively rehearsing it and hope to add it to the show soon.  The key to playing this song is to play just behind the pocket to give the notes more emotional tension. The AudioCubes are plenty sensitive enough to achieve this and the visual feedback not only helps the audience connect with the performance, but actually helps me with timing. As a musician, I really like the flow and feeling of the movement as well.

I shot this in 720p so if you have the bandwidth watch full screen at that resolution. I also captured audio right from my sound card so listen with good headphones or on a good sound system :^ ).

Watch embedded video

“Alone” by Mark Mosher Peformed on AudioCubes

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
www.ModulateThis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com

Using Green Oak Crystal Synthesizer with Percussa AudioCubes

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Experiments with Green Oak’s desktop version of Crystal continue. It’s been a while since I’ve used this synth as I’ve been focusing most of my energy on using commercial synths. It’s a pretty amazing synth and competes feature wise against many commercial synths.

Here is a cool feature. The MIDI Modulate matrix supports direct mapping of MIDI CC’s. This means you can map controllers directly without having to do it through your DAW. Click the image below to see a close-up of the screen shot which illustrates how I’ve used Percussa’s free MIDI Bridge app to configure AudioCubes to send CCs, and then I configure Crystal to listen for spatial control from cube faces.audiocubs_crystal

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder CO
www.modulatethis.com

Percussa AudioCube Production and Performance Notes for “I Hear Your Signals”

<a href="http://www.markmoshermusic.com&quot; markmosher_rehearsing_01 

For my original music album “I Hear Your Signals” (download the album free) I use Percussa Audiocubes as performance controllers. In this post I’ll give you all the geeky details about how the controllers were applied in the project.

AUDIOCUBES AND MIDIBRIDGE
I used 4 AudioCubes plus Percussa’s free MIDIbridge app on Windows to configure and route AudioCube signals to Ableton Live. I use the same MIDIbridge patch for every song which allows for consistent and predictable data mapping from the cubes to Ableton Live.

In general, I play a lot of the notes on you hear on the album via keyboards, Theremin and Tenori-On live. I tend to use the cubes as controllers, for scene launching, and for real-time modulation of effects and synth parameters and only use them for triggering notes from time to time.

CUBE CONFIGURATION
The AudioCubes are configured with the in the following modes:

  • Cube 1 – Sensor (the red cube at 9:00 in the picture above): This cube sends MIDI CC information back to Live. I configure each side of  cube to give me visual feedback where each cube face is set to a different color. The closer my finger or hand is to the sensor, the brighter the light. Currently, Sensor cubes need to be wired via USB.
  • Cubes 2 & 3 Receivers (white cubes in above picture): Sends MIDI notes back to Live when a signal is received from Cube 4. image I also send RGB MIDI light sequence via MIDI clips in Ableton. The cubes then become light show elements and also offer visual feedback. These cubes are also plugged in via USB so they can receive high-speed transmissions via MIDI clips.
  • Cube 4 – Transmitter (green in the picture above): This cube is wireless. Aligning the faces of this cub with the faces on cubes 2 & 3 triggers MIDI notes back to Ableton Live.

MIDIBRIDGE AND ABLETON CONFIGURATION
I then MIDI map MIDI CC data and Note information coming from cubes via Ableton Live MIDI Map mode to various functions within live.
For cube 1, CC’s are mapped to device parameters and macros. These in-turn are often routed to parameters within VSTs. For example, a cube face might modulate delay time with Ableton’s native Ping Pong Delay FX device. Or the CC might map to filter on a VST synth. Below is a snapshot of the MIDIBridge settings for Cube 1 (click to enlarge).

markmosher_audio_cube_config_cube1

For Cubes 2 & 3, notes are triggered when the face from the transmitter Cube 4 is detected. I route notes to either MIDI tracks holding Ableton instruments or VSTs and/or racks. In some cases I route MIDI notes through a dummy track back to SugarBytes Artillery II running in a send or on the master track for effects. Since effects are triggered via notes rather than CCs with Artillery II, this method allows me to control effects as well as playing notes with signals from Transmitter cubes which only send MIDI note information. In other words, by combining native Ableton effects with Artillery II, I can use any cube in the network to trigger effects.

CUBE USAGE FOR EACH SONG

1) “Arrival”

In this song I’m using AudioCubes as lighting and feedback elements in the live show. They were not used in composition or performance of the music. MIDI clips in Live are used to sequence the lights.

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