Wireless Sound Objects

Eric M Beug

Wireless Sound Objects are like the modules of a modular synthesizer, exploded into the physical objects that provide an engaging way to experience unique, collaborative, musical process.


Classes Networked Objects,Thesis

Wireless Sound Objects are objects that either make sound or control the sound that other objects are making. They can interface with a computer, with other existing music hardware or be used as stand alone units. They can be used for performance, recording composition, improvisation, and education. Think: Modular Synthesizer without all the patch cords. Think: Live Electronic Music without getting the sense that a performer is just playing back an MP3 while checking her email.

Modular synthesizers are a wonderful part of the history of electronic music that have long since slowed in manufacturing. This is because they were expensive to produce, difficult to maintain, difficult to move around, and they had tremendous electrical power requirements. The traditions of electronic synthesis have been continued today mostly through advancing software that provides all the technological aspects of the physical objects modeled in binary bits. While many argue that the problem with this is that "it is not true analogue sound," I argue that with software synthesizers what is missing is the physical interface.

These days, fabrication is less expensive, and robust products are not required to be forged from metal or made from expensive woods any longer. Product shells easily be fabricated from recyclable materials specifically plastics, aluminum, and also bamboo. The electronic components can be both inexpensive and environmentally friendly, while rapid prototyping makes testing many options very inexpensive. Modules themselves require low power and can be separated without the need for a single power supply. They then each be thought of as individual objects which interface with each other and with existing computer softwares via wireless connections.

The Early Instruments & Where Are We Going?
Joel Chadabe, Electric Sound, (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, Inc. ©1997), pp. 1-20, 324-338

Chadabe1 discusses early electronic musical instruments and compositions, among these is the Telharmonium, this instrument in the early 20th century was more or less an electrical organ, that was wired to have its output over telephone lines throughout New York City to broadcast live performances of the device on patio speakers. He also suggests that electronic music in the mid 1990's was beginning to go in the direction of interactive, where anyone is the performer, and the performer is also the composer. That the performance of electronic music will continue in traditional sense of music halls, but also on the periphery with more of a sensibility of performance art. That the musical instruments of the future will be inexpensive, easy to manufacture and easy to use, whether they are hardware or software based. That instruments of the future will be intelligent. He paints a picture of the mid-ninetees as a time where there is much potential, but little progress. I think that we are on the cusp today of what Chadabe anticipated years earlier.

Liveness & Telematics: Conjoining Remote Performance Spaces
Steve Dixon, Digital Performance, (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, ©2007), pp. 115-134, 419-435

Monome 2006 Brian Crabtree
For both of these types of Precedents - you need to explain -
1. How it operates? A matrix of backlit LED Buttons that can be assigned to any parameter in software

2. What its function is? Typically used as a midi controller, or is used to control the playback of soundfiles

3. Whether you think it achieved its goals or not? Why? The people who make them cannot produce them fast enough to sell. One example of an artist "Daedalus" most recent album is comprised only of tracks using strictly the monome and a computer.

4. If there were any results/conclusions that could be taken/learned from this project? This project is an example of the success of good engineering and good design aesthetic to produce something that until now hasn't existed in a mainstream capacity.

5. Why it pertains to your project and how your project differentiates itself from this work? The Monome is the result of good interface design, and it pertains to my project because it is musically oriented and simple to build (electronically). The particular model for how the devices are manufactured and distributed successful and useful. Its humble and unified. Wireless Sound Objects is inherently different because it does not rely on a computer, and it features a wireless networking protocol as part of the interface. Where the Monome is 1 single device that plugs into a computer, Wireless Sound Objects are a scaleable set of devices that communicate with one another.


For both of these types of Precedents - you need to explain -
1. How it operates? A camera tracks blocks on a clear table. The camera feed is input to the computer, where software interprets the class of the block being used based on the pattern that is read from the surface of the glass. The software then generates sonic information based on the block's orientation relative to other objects, and produces visual representation of what is happening relatively and sonically. The visual representation is projected back onto the glass so users get a sense of what is happening.

2. What its function is? realtime interactive performance of music

3. Whether you think it achieved its goals or not? Why? I think that the project works beautifully, but is inaccessible, and unavailable to the public (at the moment). I feel that another failure of this project is the size of it. If it is to be used collaboratively, it can only be done on a small scale and in order for an audience to have a sense of what is happening, there must be an additional live video camera of the performance. I feel that this is a paradox because while the visual aesthetic of this design lends itself to be suitable for an audience to see, the product itself is more like a studio instrument.

4. If there were any results/conclusions that could be taken/learned from this project? great example of a beautiful idea executed through technology

5. Why it pertains to your project and how your project differentiates itself from this work? The main thing that pertains to Wireless Sound Objects is the way in which multiple physical objects interact with one another to create a sonic environment. ReacTable uses Computer-Vision to establish a relationship between objects and video projection to visualize the relationship, whereas Wireless Sound Objects utilize a wireless mesh network and possibly colored LEDs to visualize the relationship.

This project is for people who like to use instruments. I predict that people who are synthesizer enthusiasts will enjoy using these devices.

User Scenario
User Scenario #1

Max/MSP is a software tool that allows users to do a lot of things including: generating and manipulating sound. A user might want to use Max/MSP as their synthesizer, but she might not want to use the mouse pad to control her sound. Perhaps the user wants to control the ADSR envelope of that synth with a Wireless Control Module. In this case, a Router Module is plugged into the USB port of the computer, and a simple patch is added to the software to allow Max to read the incoming data from the ADSR from the serial port. The user can now wirelessly control the synthesizer based with physical input to the Control Module.

I will make at least three objects which will interface with each other wirelessly to either make sound or control the sound that is being made. Each object will be fabricated out of plastic and use electronic components. All objects will utilize the Zigbee wireless communication protocol to communicate with each other and will additionally be able to communicate software running on a computer.