Theremin //

I have been studying the Theremin, the world’s first synthesizer and ‘non-touch’ musical instrument. A Theremin was invented was invented in 1916 by Leon Theremin, a Russian scientist, this represented a revolutionary change in thinking about how music could be produced. The instrument has commonly been used in 50’s horror movies because of its ‘eerie’ and ‘ghostly’ sounds.

The Theremin is built up with three virtually identical oscillators, one controlling amplitude (volume) and two controlling tone. The amplitude is controlled by moving your hand above a metal ring, the further your hand is pulled from the ring, the higher the amplitude gets. The tone is controlled through an antenna, moving your hands in the x and y direction controls the tone of the sound.


Basic Working Diagram of a Theremin

I built a small Theremin to test on musicians who play classic instruments - such as a guitar – and I asked them how they felt about ‘gestural’ music; creating sounds without touching the instrument, how this effected the way they felt about playing it without touching it, not being able to form a relationship with the Theremin as if they would with a classic instrumet.

My Theremin



Proximity Sensors //

I researched Proximity to understand how i could use them to play or manipulate sounds. A Proximity sensor can detect objects without physical contact. A proximity sensor often emits an electromagnetic field or beam and look for changes in the field. The object being sensed is often referred to as the proximity sensor's target. Different proximity sensor targets demand different sensors. For example, a capacitive orphotoelectric sensor might be suitable for a plastic target or a human hand, an inductive proximity sensor requires a metal target. I can use the analogue reading from the sensor to control different parameters of audio. This would be a simple and fun way to play music.



Max/MSP //

I have been learning to use a piece of programming software called Max. Max is a visual programming language for music, audio and multimedia. You create your own software using a visual toolkit of objects, and connect them together with patch cords. The basic environment includes MIDI, control, user interface, and timing objects is called Max. Built on top of Max are hundreds of objects, including a powerful collection called MSP (Max/MSP) which is for working with audio.

Screenshots of Max/MSP



Phidget 8/8/8 Interface Kit //

Max can be used with many different different pieces of software and interface kits, one which i have been using called a Phidget 8/8/8. A Phidget is a USB interface that channels 8 analogue inputs, 8 digital inputs and 8 digital outputs. This is a perfect peripheral for using with Max/MSP; analogue and digital sensors are simply ‘Plug and Play’. The analogue sensors work as variable resistors ranging from 0-5V, Max converts this voltage to a reading ranging from 0-1000, with such a high resolution, this is excellent for working with audio and visuals.

The Phidget 8/8/8 Interface Kit



Touchscreen Technology //

I have been researching the technology behind Touchscreens and their limitless abilities when integrated into Interaction Design. Capacitive touchscreens consist of a glass panel with a capacitive (charge storing) material coating its surface. Unlike resistive touchscreens, where any object can create a touch, they require contact with a bare finger or conductive stylus. When the screen is touched by an appropriate conductive object, current from each corner of the touchscreen is drawn to the point of contact. This causes oscillator circuits located at corners of the screen to vary in frequency depending on where the screen was touched. The resultant frequency changes are measured to determine the x- and y- co-ordinates of the touch event.

Using this technology would help create a brilliant interface for manipulting, making or playing digital music, i will test a few of my different concept ideas with touchscreens.



Digital Audio //

Sound that our ears hear are fluctuations of air pressure, tiny variations from normal atmospheric pressure caused by vibrating objects. Here are two graphs of change in air pressure detected over a distance, it represents a sinusoidal shape (sine wave) rising and falling with the air pressure.

To understand how a computer represents sound, think how a film represents motion, a rapid sequence of still images played at twenty-five frames per second. At this speed the mind thinks it is seeing constant motion. Digital music is represented in the same way, except with 'samples' rather than frames. Typically a song is recorded to a computer at 44100Hz which is 44100 samples per channel, this is known as the sampling rate. Software like Max/MSP are excellent for manipulating digital audio because it reads digital audio at its simplest form, a series of numbers that any arithmic operation performed on these numbers, this is called audio processing. Since digital representation of sound is just a list of numbers, any list of numbers can be considered as a represntation of sound, as long as the numerical value fluctuates up and down at an audio rate. Many methods have been discovered to generate numbers to produce interesting sounds, this is known as Synthesizing, which again Max is designed to control. Here is an example of a sound wave and a digital representation of that sound wave.




Serato Scratch //

Serato Scratch is a piece of software that allows mp3 control with the use of traditional vinyl records. It works on a basic principle, time-coding. The specially designed records have a code from the start to the end, allowing the software to determine where on the song that is playing. It aims to connect the advantages of classic turntables and digital DJ-ing.


The Serato 'Scratch' Set-up