This semester I’m taking Jon Froehlich‘s Tangible Interactive Computing class. For out first assignment we were tasked with creating an input device; no restrictions, it could be as narrow or as broad as we wanted.
My partner, Alina Goldman, and I decided to make a physical device for controlling electronic music called Fuzzy Adventure. Our motivation was to bridge the divide between what you see and what you hear when experiencing an electronic music performance. What are the artists doing? How are their slider shifting, button pushing and knob tweaking affecting the sound? Sometimes its really hard to tell.
Enter Fuzzy Adventure, where physical artifacts or constants physical actuation are the only ways to manipulate sounds.
Aside: Obviously, this is a tiny prototype and it's not *that* useful for making music, but its the ideas we wanted to capture, not a full-blown piece of DJ equipment.
The Fuzzy Controller can manipulate the volume of three looping music tracks – drums, bass, and synth – as well as the level of a Bit Crush effect on each track. The music is started by placing the Power Cube onto its position.
The volume of the drum and bass tracks are controlled by adding weight to the cups on the left. This is an example of a physical manifestation of the intent to raise the volume of a track. The persistent change in volume is consistent with a persistent weight in the cups.
The drum track’s Bit Crush is controlled by crushing the Power Flower on the right of the box. Pipe cleaners give the flower structure such that a crushed flower remains crushed until its deliberately expanded. Again, in this way the artist’s desire for a constant sound change is accompanied by a physical, and visible, artifact.
The bass track’s Bit Crush is instead controlled by the proximity sensor in the blue circle. Only when something is within a few centimeters of the sensor will the effect be applied. This is an example of a transient effect that is only realized through a constant physical actuation by the artist. If they move away from the sensor, the change is revert and thus apparent to the audience.
Lastly, the Synth volume and Bit Crush are controlled by two touch membranes in the center of the box. These have the same property as the proximity sensor in that the artist much physical touch the sensors in order to include the synth sounds in their performance.
So enough talk, here’s a short demo video. Enjoy!
Fuzzy Adventure is powered by an Arduino which reads input from 6 sensors and a switch and writes to a Serial port. The inside looks like this:
Then a Processing sketch reads from the Serial port and manipulates the music based on the sensor values. Here’s the source Code on GitHub.