All posts by Coby Rangel

Story of the Wind

At the start of this project, we threw multiple proposals around before settling on the idea that we wanted to put on a sort of hybrid acoustic/electronic performance with aspects of both that were intertwined and interdependent on one another. This, we decided, would lend to the feeling we wanted to convey that when we performed our piece, it would seem as if one person was putting on an electronic performance while the other two, playing acoustic instruments, would simply be a part of the first performer’s “tool belt” or more appropriately, instrument rack. We wanted to design our piece such that the performer (Ticha) could change something digitally in TouchOSC (explained below) that would affect the live instrumentalists (Matt and Coby).

 

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It was also decided pretty early on that we would use a melody and accompaniment that Matt composed in Logic as the”backing track” of our piece. This track would be ever present, and Ticha would be able to layer audio effects from Ableton Live onto it to change the sound and mood.

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The other half of the sound part of our performance would be covered by Matt and Coby on the Guitar and Bassoon, respectively. They would improvise a new melody over the backing track, but only when Ticha “switched them on.” She would be able to do this, as well as adjust the intensity of their playing, all from the TouchOSC interface. Below Matt and Coby are represented by the Warrior and Philosopher.

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The bulk of the difficulty in this project lied in the integration of TouchOSC with Ableton, and later on the Media Lab lighting grid. Our goal was for Ableton to recognize OSC as just another MIDI controller and allow us to map various buttons within Ableton to the OSC interface, which was difficult in itself even before we decided that we wanted to do it wirelessly. Ticha was invaluable during this stage of the process, as it was her who was familiar with TouchOSC and another “software sketchbook” called Processing, which allowed her (after many hours of programming wizardry) to eventually link TouchOSC’s buttons to the on/off switches of the audio effects in Ableton. And after another many hours of wizardry, she figured out how to control two lights in the grid individually through TouchOSC.

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It took us a while before we agreed upon how we wanted to present our piece- how we would convey our efforts to the audience, how we would demonstrate that Matt and Coby were simply part of Ticha’s electronic performance, and how, if at all, we would let the audience interact and affect the way the piece sounded.  We ended up with a simple narrative, one where we could make it look as if Ticha’s performance was telling a story, and Matt and Coby represented characters in that story. We were not trying to be to complex,  but we also needed a way for the audience to see the TouchOSC interface in order to more easily understand the story. Seeing as it also received a huge chunk or our attention leading up to this point, we wanted to display it in a prominent spot throughout our performance.

 

We worked through several options, but strangely enough the only one that seemed to work feasibly was mounting a projector upside down onto a tripod and using an Apple TV to receive Ticha’s ipad screen and send it to the projector.

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This way, the audience could see what Ticha was doing in TouchOSC, and immediately see what effect it was having on the performance as a whole. This was our final product:

 

The roles for this project were as follows:

Ticha Sethapakdi – Software Programmer/Experience Director

Matthew Turnshek- Sound Designer/Experience Director

Coby Rangel-Sound Editor/Scribe

Interesting Pieces

In my computer music class we’ve been talking a lot about the history of electronic music, and our professor Opie has shown us quite a few big names. Two of these are Morton Subotnik and Harry Partch. These two pieces of theirs were really interesting to me, but for different reasons- as you will probably be able to tell, these pieces are not similar at all.

 

Ambisonic Space Shuttle

Our sound collage was an audio scene that was meant to provide  a sense of physical space to the listener. Because of the ambisonics of the piece and the detailed “locations” of the sounds, it is best to download the zip file and listen to it on your own computer with Headphones.

Link to the Zip File

 

The whole group workflow was very smooth for this project. We met up as soon as we knew the requirements and details and pretty much decided in one meeting what we wanted our end product to look like.

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We decided to take a more technical approach to this project. We came up with a scene that we wanted to play out, and figured out how we could make this scene believable through nothing but sound.

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This is the final, albeit still rough sketch of our scene and all the events within it.

We then came up with a list of each sound we would need and at what point that sound would occur. Here is a google doc of the initial list, in addition to the (extremely rough) meeting logs and initial ideas we had that I recorded as we came up with them. Here is a neater version of the final two lists we compiled:

 

 

List of sounds:

  1. overture
  2. footsteps  
  3. door open/close
  4. “rent-a-shuttle” intro script  
  5. shut off button press  
  6. outside sounds    
  7. window closing
  8. lighting fireplace
  9. crackling fire sounds
  10. Coat sounds (zipper, rustling, hanging up of the coat, coat rack sounds)
  11. stepping/tripping on cardboard   
  12. vocals in general
  13. more tripping  
  14. vase knock/ wobble
  15. metallic stepping sounds
  16. putting away books   
  17. vase falling, glass breaking
  18. vase stand falling
  19. coat rack getting knocked over
  20. more fire whoosh
  21. fire spreading
  22. frantic steps
  23. stomping (on fire)
  24. more running sounds
  25. button press   
  26. “sprinkler on”   
  27. sprinkler sounds (water, hissing)
  28. button press  
  29. launch sequence voice   
  30. engine rumbling takeoff prep sounds   
  31. vocal panic
  32. “sprinkler off”  
  33. spaceship launching (rumbling, fuel combustion)   
  34. ambient city sounds (mechanical, workers shouting) 
  35. overture/fade out

 

Sequence of Events:

 

  1. character enters through door
  2. Rent-a-shuttle script
  3. shut off voice
  4. character closes window
  5. character gets cold and lights the fireplace
  6. character puts coat on coat rack
  7. trips over cardboard boxes
  8. trips on boxes again, almost knocks over vase
  9. character goes to put away books 
  10. bookshelf falls, triggering chain reaction
    • bookshelf falls
    • vase falls one way
    • table falls the other, knocking over coat rack
    • coats go into the fire
    • fire becomes uncontrollable
  1. panic by fireplace, attempts to put it out (walking over materials)
  2. after he fails, hits sprinkler button (“sprinklers on”)
  3. fire goes out
  4. attempt to shut off sprinklers, mistakenly initiates launch,
  5. panic, correct button press to turn off sprinklers
  6. shuttle launch sounds, fade away; audience is left with ambient industrial city sounds

 

 

It’s quite obvious from the original google doc that we did in fact change a few aspects of the project as we worked on it. But the most essential factor stayed the same: the Max Patch.

Our absolute beast of a custom Max patch.
Our absolute beast of a custom Max patch.

 

This was undoubtedly the heart and soul of our project. Mark took the downloaded HOA patch from the Git, and did some voodoo programming magic to redesign it to suit our needs. These needs in question were the ability to load in multiple sounds, position them around the “room” based on where we wanted them to come from,  and start/stop them at specific predetermined times and different locations.

 

One of 30 animated sounds with a start and stop position and time.
One of 30 animated sounds with a start and stop position and time.

Within each sub patch there were certain parameters that we could set such as the sound name, the start and end position, and when the sound should start and stop. We ran into some problems here with saving each parameter so that it could easily be loaded in after quitting out of Max, but again Mark came through with a genius preset object within the patch that saved each parameter of every sound.

The man, the myth, the legend Mark explaining the process behind each sound file.
The man, the myth, the legend Mark explaining the process behind each sup patch…

 

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…and a closer look at the sub patch in question.

 

Each one of these sub patches contained one sound from the list above, and in order to add all of the sounds in we essentially had to copy and past each sub patch 29 times and load in each sound individually. The end result was quite messy, but it was really awesome seeing our virtual room with 30 sounds precisely placed in the spots we wanted them to come from.

the virtual room on the left with all 30 of our sounds loaded in.
the virtual room on the left with all 30 of our sounds loaded in.

 

As soon as the patch was completed, we got to work recording each sound that we needed.

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Untitled

There were some sounds that we just didn’t have the resources to replicate at the time (such as the vase breaking or the crackling fireplace), so we did get some sounds from freesound.org, that are cited here.

The rest however were made with recordings, and two sounds in particular- the overture and instructional recording soundtrack- were composed by Erik on the piano and myself in Logic Pro X.

 

Once each sound was recorded, the process of copying, pasting, and uploading each sound to the sub patch began. This was an incredibly long process in itself, not even taking into account the extremely long time it took to time each sound and tell it exactly when to start and stop so that the piece flowed cohesively.

In the lab working hard
In the lab working hard

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Fun times were had.
Fun times were had.

It eventually came together however, and the final piece was rehearsed once or twice successfully before presentation day.

 

The members and (flexible) roles of each member were:

Erik Fredriksen– Experience Director/Sound Designer

Mark Mendell– Sound Programmer/Sound Designer

Coby Rangel– Scribe/Sound Designer

 

Windshield Wiper sample

This is an idea I actually got from the artist Childish Gambino, who uses windshield wiper sounds in one of his songs. Aside from the way they can be used to keep time in someone’s production, they really do sound interesting by themselves. I couldn’t find a recording I was particularly happy with, but this one to me was the most interesting.

It’s cool how something that we generally ignore or view as a commonplace device can sound so complex by itself- even if it is just the same motion over and over again.