The Third Party A B2.2 Music and Light Project By Jort Band
Table of Content Introduction The Third Party Vision Concept Design - Interaction - System - Exterior Conclusion Reflection
Introduction This report is a result of the design I made for the project; Music and Light - Improvising, Sharing, Experiencing. The challenge stated was as followed: “Can we design interactive musical instruments that are specifically aimed at ‘the whole’ rather than ‘the sum of the parts’? In other words, intelligent musical instruments that allow the musician control over someone else’s instrument or even the entire group?” To not make the system and the design challenge to complicated, it was advised to design a system for only two instruments. I chose this project, because it seemed like a fun project to do and because it was in line with my ambition to venture into the world of music technology.
The Third Party The final result of this project is a design for a musical system, which I have named; The Third Party. The Third Party is a musical system which is controlled by two musicians playing the synthesizer and MPC. The third Party plays notes based on the chord played by the synthesizer; the MPC cycles trough these notes by just playing. The third Party is specifically designed for electronic musicians who want to up their live performance. While you provide harmony and drums, the Third Party will provide melody to your performance.
The Third Party is a musical System
< Logo Third Party
< Detail of synthesizer. Frontpanel that has an inforgraphic about the system
The third Party is specifically designed for electronic musicians who want to up their live performance.
v Photograph of a live performance
Vision After reading the project description I formulated my own vision on the project and what it should be. I interpreted the challenge stated in the project description as; making instruments that could influence the whole sound rather than just the sound of the individual instruments. Because I am a musician myself I set a few goals that were in line with my vision on both design and music making. One of the most important goals I set myself was; that you should be able to perform live with the instrument. Not only being able to get sound of it in a live environment, but also being able to perform a pre composed song. Another important goal was that the. I found this important, because a lot of people neglect the fact that a lot of musicians spend a lot of time mastering an instrument to get to the level of skill they want and that this is what makes them sound good. So instead of doing something for someone that want to learn something, I wanted to design something for people that have already have put hard work and dedication into their music making and that will continue to do so with mastering, whatever I design. Another decision I made was that I wanted to design for the electronic music, not only because of Inspirational photo of me >
personal preference, but also because the concept of electronic music allows for experimentation with a lot of different instruments, rather than just focusing on orthodox instruments. With the vision of creating a design for electronic music, which would allow for live performance by a skilled musician, I started to work on my concept and design.
I formulated my own vision on the project
the design should be aimed at skilled performing musicians Photography of â€œskilledâ€? musicians >
Concept During the first weeks I already had a good idea in which direction I wanted to take the project. Because of the video sessions (sessions for which everybody had to make a short video, explaining their design/ concept) early in the semester, I quickly settled on a concept. The concept was; facilitating musicians to play electronic music live, by letting them play their own instrument while influencing a third party. After this I had to decide which instruments would be used. I settled on the synthesizer and MPC, because they are one of the most commonly used instruments in electronic music and because they are quite dissimilar. What I mean by this is that they vary a great amount sonically; MPCâ€™s make use of (drum) samples to produce their sound and are often used for short sounds or notes, while the synthesizer generates sound using various synthesizing methods, often used to play notes for melodies, chords or bass lines. Going further trough my process I made the decision that the third party should be some kind of arpeggiator (a device that gets a several notes as inputs and plays these notes independently in a specific order) , that would respond to both the notes played on the MPC and synthesizer. I wanted it to be an some kind of arpeggiator, so it could provide melody, while the synthesizer plays chords and the MPC drums. This meant that two musicians can play two instruments while still having the primary basis of a song (melody, rhythm and harmonics). So in short I settled on a third party device, which can arppegiate trough notes dependent on what the MPC and synthesizer play.
Knopjes van mu synthesizer >
When I started the project I struggled with finding a good concept
letting them play their own instrument while influencing a third party. < Infographic of the system
Interaction After my initial concept, I had to think about the interaction I wanted the musicians to have with my design and how it would respond in return. The development of the interaction was heavily depended on the kind of feedback and control I wanted to give to the user playing the instruments; this is why I discuss both subjects in this chapter. At first I brainstormed about various ways how to interact with the system and how it would respond in return. I eventually settled on the user playing the MPC, to just let him play the MPC, because it both hands to play it and often a lot of concentration, which means it is hard to do something besides playing. For the user playing the synthesizer I settled on using one hand to play melody or chords, while the other hand partially controls the sound of the third party. I decided this on the basis that a lot of musicians, who play synthesizer, use one hand to play something and the other to tweak several knobs to change sound. In line with this development I thought of several ways the system would respond. Of course the system would give feedback trough sound, but it wasnâ€™t obvious in what way exactly and other feedback possibilities were also important to consider. Eventually is settled on giving the players direct feedback on what they were playing only through sound, this had several reasons. One of the reasons was that musicians get most of their feedback trough the sound of their instruments and through the sound of their band members. I think that continues visual feedback would not enhance the experience or give more information and could be a distracting factor during a performance. Another reason was that musicians are used to receive direct feedback, while playing an instrument, because almost all instruments give immediate feedback when you interact with them. This led me to use the MPC to cycle up and down through the notes that the synthesizer plays. The user cycles trough the notes by playing different notes/ samples on the MPC.
This means there is a direct link to what the users play and what they hear, which means that they are able to play the instrument in a context that they are used to.
Photography of â€œskilledâ€? musicians >
< Close up of the Third Pary being played
The development of the interaction was heavily depended on the kind of feedback
System After knowing what I wanted to achieve with my design. I started to think about the system of my design, which was now named the third party. To start off I had to make something that would translate the notes played on the synthesizer to a list of notes that the MPC could control. Another criterion was; that both the synthesizer and MPC should still be able to produce their own sound. For this reason I chose to use the computer and a program called Pure Data to construct a program that would allow this. I chose Pure Data, because it is a free graphical programming language similar to Max/ MSP, which is often used in programming for audio applications. I achieved the results by using midi hardware to interface with my programming and use this to power the â€œbrainâ€? of the third party, while also using dedicated music software to generate sound for the synthesizer and MPC. This brings me to another design decision I have made. The third party should also generate sound, I could have done this trough midi and use the same software as I used to generate the sound for the Synthesizer and MPC. I however, made the decision to use an analogue synthesizer I made during the SDL-weeks, for the sound generation of the third party. I chose this option, because it would give the third party a physical form rather than being just a computer program that outputs some sound. This also meant that people could interact physically with the third party, something I find very important as a designer. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about electronics. This also meant that I did not have to worry about sound design too much. Using an analogue synthesizer meant that I had to build something to convert the output of the program that I used to something the analogue synthesizer can understand. I did this by using the Arduino. The Arduino would receive a digital signal from the program and would translate this to an analogue
signal with the help of some external electronics. However I still had to make something that could control the sound of the third party. I chose to use a xyz sensor (a sensor that can register the position in three dimensions), which would send its data to the computer via the Arduino. I wanted it to control an analogue low-pass filter (a filter that lets the frequencies that are lower than the set frequency pass), however the circuit did not seem to work, this is why I switched to a digital solution that I also programmed in Pure Data, this meant that the sound signal of the analogue synthesizer was feed back into my computer, where a filter altered the sound and then send out to the amplifier together with the sounds of the MPC and synthesizer. So eventually I made a system that generated it sounds trough software and analogue hardware, where the software communicated with the analogue hardware to generate sound. So the users would have something physical for the third party, while still being able to use the software they want to generate sound.
Image of the analogue synthesizer I used >
use this to power the â€œbrainâ€? of the Third Party it would give the third party a physical form
< Overview of the sysyem
Exterior At the beginning of the semester I have set myself a goal, which was; to make a complete product so it would be presentable at the final exhibition. This is why I spend quite some time on the exterior design for the third party and also on building and finishing the design. The idea was to build at least the exteriors of the midi keyboard used to control the synthesizer and to build a matching case for the analogue synthesizer is used to generate sound for the third party. I started out by doing some colour explorations on the case of the synthesizer I already had built. But as my coach pointed out it looked like a box. So he asked me to do some form study, something I am grateful for, because the end result looks a lot better and it is a skill I will and can use throughout my whole career. He also pointed out that my design should looked like
in my opinion it should fit the style of electronic music
Final result >
This is why is started out to do some form studies, which mostly consisted of drawing a lot of side views. After having done several I set out some criteria for the selection of the shape; in my opinion it should fit the style of electronic music, should be minimalistic and should look a bit futuristic. Eventually I settled for a basic shape that fit my criteria. After this I had to design a user interface for my analogue synthesizer which would fit the style of the exterior design. For the user interface, I chose to go for a transparent minimalistic look with the use of straight lines. After this is started to build and finish the product, eventually creating the final product. Resulting in a separate design for both the analogue synthesizer and the midi keyboard, while still seeing that they belong to the same family and the design meets the criteria I set up for the design.
explorative side drawing>
The same family of things
Consisted of drawing a lot of side views color accent explorations >
CONCLUSION Overall I am really happy with the results of my project. I think I have made a functional and good looking final design, which can be used in a live context. The only thing I regret not doing is finishing the design sooner, so I could have user tested it properly with some musicians. I think the final result would have even spoken more if I had composed a song for it which I could have played with another musician. The general process in hindsight looks very linear, however I made several explorations with the system and the interaction it would have and eventually starting over again once I had my final idea. The only thing really missing in my process was formal research. This was not because I did not wanted to do formal research, but more because I did not have to do any research in the field, because I already have quite some knowledge of music theory, music technology and the target audience. I have gained this knowledge, because I am a musician myself, who also dabbles in music production, with a focus on electronic music production. When I started the project I struggled with finding a good concept, that supported my vision of what an instrument should be and should be capable of, and to fit this within the project description. However once I had my concept, I was able to work from there in realizing something that would fit both. Al in all I think I have succeeded in making a good looking design that does what it is supposed to do and I able to do it in a live context. I think I have also realised the goals I have set myself at the beginning of the semester for the project and for what I wanted to learn. Overall I am really happy with the results of my project. I think I have made a functional and good looking final design, which can be used in a live context. The only thing I regret not doing is finishing the design sooner, so I could have user tested it properly with some musicians. I think the final result would have even spoken more if I had composed a song for it which I could have played with another musician.
Close up of the analogue synthesizer >
When I started the project I struggled with finding a good concept
< Detail of synthesizer..
I have made a functional and good looking final design
Reflection I chose this project, because it seemed like a fun project to do and because it was in line with my aspiration to go into the field of music technology. Going into the project I had set myself the goal to have a finished prototype/product at the exhibition. During the project we had several video jam sessions, during these jam sessions you had to present a video of your concept or design. This not only helped me in speeding up my process, because I had to make quick decisions about my concept/ design, it also forced me to make videos, in which I did not have much experience. This also showed, some of my videos were unclear, which resulted in feedback that wasnâ€™t useful, something I have to pay more attention to in the future. The videos helped me in creating a clear picture of what I wanted to make, in the middle of the semester, this meant that I had the rest of the semester to focus on building and designing the exterior. I will take the quick decision making about a project, that I was forced to do trough the videos, with me in my further professional life. I want to do this by giving myself deadlines, trough arranging meetings with clients or experts. On a personal level I also really enjoyed making the music for my videos, something I will definitely keep doing given the chance, as it helps me to develop my music production skills. Because of the videos and of my enthusiasm for the project, I think I worked harder on my project this semester. Because of my enthusiasm I was focused on the project, rather than doing a lot of side projects as a hobby. This tells me that I should from now on pick a project which gets me really excited, as this helps me in being more productive and focused on the project itself. Because I had set myself the goal to make a finished product, I also had to do form studies. I started out with doing colour studies on a case that I had already built for my synthesizer. However as my coach pointed out this was just a â€œblockâ€? that was not really designed. With the help of my coach I then started to do form studies by drawing. Something I
have not done before, as I was not really confident in my drawing skills before this semester. Eventually, after spending quite some time on form study, I can say I was pleased with the results. I see this skill as something very valuable and I am really glad I could develop it during my project as I have always had the feeling that this was an important skill I was missing. I want to develop this skill further by practicing drawing and also using it for product and graphical design. After finishing the form study I spend a lot of time building and finishing the exterior of my design. Although I had anticipated on this and had a lot of time to do this. I still think it took too long. This had two reasons; the first is, because I made the whole case by hand, the second one is that I spend too much time on finishing the product (sanding, priming,
and painting). The first problem could be tackled by making a better assessment of the time spent building or the time spent making a model for rapid prototyping. This choice could also influences the finishing time, because a laser cut model requires les finishing than a handmade model for example. The finishing is a result of trying to perfect every little detail, which takes up a lot of time. To tackle this problem Iâ€™m planning to stop after a given time and come back to it later with a fresh view. This will help me gain perspective on what should be done and lets me focus on the important things. All in all I think I had a great semester. I had a fun project in which I wanted to invest a lot of time and the video jam session helped me in making quick decisions. I did form studies, something I wanted to do for a long time, but often did not because I lacked
the skill or knowhow. And finally I made a finished product; a product I am proud of. I think I have had a great semester and have a properly designed product to show for it.
I did form studies, something I wanted to do for a long time < The analogue synthesizer during the exhibition