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Cube Culture: Chromaphonics

by Grainne Carroll, Ceara McGovern, Rachel Toomey, Declan Tuite

Chromaphonics is an interactive music environment in which the user is encouraged to experiment with music and images in different ways. The aim of the project is to allow anyone who is interested in music to become part of the creative process. Even if youve never played a musical instrument you can pull levers and play with images on screen to make music. The project is composed of three sections: text, pattern and atmospheric. An extract from James Joyces Ulysses forms the basis of the text section, a playful experimentation with rhythm and speech. In the pattern area, you are encouraged to alter aspects of the music being played, in correspondence to the shape and colour of images on the screen. Travel through a seashell into the atmospheric section. Here you can interact with visuals to play music in either the dark urban section or the light natural section.

The levers are attached to a set of 10k linear potentiometers. An I-CubeX converts the voltage into usable MIDI information. This MIDI signal is then sent onto a Macintosh running Opcodes MAX. The I-CubeX/Max combination offers realtime results, no waiting for files to load or multitasking delays. The user can control various characteristics of the music with the levers. Along with tempo and note lengths the user can take a step into FM synthesis. In this way the number of variations available to the user are greatly increased. The levers move through 190 degrees, offering a true feeling of fine-tuning and participation. Within each section of the project the levers offer different traits of the music that can be edited and played with. The levers hold to certain classes. The lever that controls tempo in the text section controls note length in the atmospheric section allowing the user to play their piece staccato or legato, both coming under time related change. Another lever, which is used for distance control, dictates low frequency / reverb content in one section and performs delay and brightness function in another. The levers lend themselves to a form of interaction, which offers several advantages over mouse and keyboard combinations. Each lever has a different texture and coloring. This, along with the action of pulling and pushing the levers, taps into emotive and trans-modal forms of perception, reasoning and recall. The levers it is hoped will form a more intuitive form of control, freeing the mind from endless menus and toolbars and allowing it to concentrate on the creation and response of music.

Chromaphonics is a production for the Douglas Hyde gallery exhibition as part of the MSc. in multimedia systems at Trinity college, Dublin, Ireland.

22 september 1999

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