regarding Velcro

I did not invent Velcro. But I do think it’s been sorely underutilized in the realm of electronic music, and I make a point to evangelize its usefulness at every opportunity.

I have a music stand that I’ve covered with industrial strength velcro. If you’ve been following my videos, you’ve seen it in at least two of them so far. The music stand faces away from me, and I reach over it to interact with things.

What this allows me to do is position a bunch of small electronics such that I can use them with decent ergonomics, holds them down so they don’t slide away, and ensures that an audience can see what I’m doing.

Why is that last bit important? Well, it pretty much establishes whether or not I have any chance of connecting with the audience. Rule of thumb: If I’m not making eye contact and you can’t see what I’m looking at, you’re not engaged. In fact, you’re probably making plans to leave early.

Anyway… I put Velcro on stuff. And whatever else I might achieve in life, I think that’s my legacy. Someone is going to rocket to stardom on their own Velcro laden music stand, and I’ll be the one who convinced them to try it.

All of which leads us to this bit of nonsense, for which I apologize (while simultaneously making no apologies).

Velcro!! from GreaterThanZero on Vimeo.

GTZ Habitrail

Until I come up with something better, the first tool mentioned here (in the first paragraph) is called “GTZ Habitrail”.

(the rest of that post describes a different project, which has a long way to go)

Habitrails, as I understand them, are a three dimensional maze that one creates for their pets to live in and explore. You don’t control with your pets directly, but their decisions are guided by the constraints you’ve set forth. So, it’s a different kind of interaction.

I’ve never had one, so I don’t know how accurate that is, but it does makes a nice metaphor to describe the tool.

Anyway, it came out much better than expected, and performs well within its intended parameters.

But more interesting, by cloning the MIDI source over several octaves, we get something close to a melodic instrument, reminiscent of the Suzuki Omnichord.

Here’s a quick experiment with that, mapped to an XY pad on my iPhone (via TouchOSC).

TouchOSC solo from GreaterThanZero on Vimeo.

The experiment was less about technology as psychology. I had the computer selecting chords in a random order, and I tried to create a melody that would lead you through them, despite the fact that I had no control over the progression, nor little idea where it was going. It’s an interesting exercise. It makes you stop thinking about specific notes, and concentrate more on the contours of your melodic line.

I think it actually becomes listenable at about the 2 minute mark, which is something I’m both proud of and horrified by.

After making that video, I spent the following weekend refining the controls. I built a version that drove three synthesizers independently, so you can jump between instruments in interlocking melodies, or let them harmonize. I recorded several takes on a demo, but despite these advancements, it just wasn’t as musical. These takes are now deleted.

I’m going to rethink and revisit that idea, and perhaps a new video will come out of that. Stay tuned.

something new

There’s an extra tool I want to build for GTZ Hydra. Continuing the guitar analogy, it would represent the ability to, given a chord, pluck individual strings. There would be a percentage slider, and the utility would look at the notes currently playing, divide them up equally in an array, and find you the note closest to that position. This would allow you to record patterns that are slightly more melodic (which still transform to accommodate the whims of the performer).

Thinking about the limits of this approach, I started contemplating a purely melodic instrument that ties into this system. Something a little more fluid; less restrictive than what I’ve got going. This notion consumed my brain, and a week later, I’ve got something fairly close to a proof-of-concept (of a preliminary first step). It’s not perfect, but I’m declaring this milestone achieved.

Without giving anything away, it looks a little somethin’ like this:

GTZ Hydra

GTZ Hydra is a MIDI routing utility. It is currently only available for Ableton Live.

There will be other versions (some day), including a basic hardware solution, but their functionality may be cut down to meet the functional limits of those other platforms.

The Ableton version requires Live 8.1 or higher, and the Max For Live add-on.

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST VERSION:
GTZ Hydra v1.11

Now. What the heck are we looking at? What does it do, and how can you use it?

Here’s the first part of that:

Explanation - Part 1 from GreaterThanZero on Vimeo.

The “how can you use it” bit is up next. Watch this space.