Motors, Magnets and Motion: Electronic Music Instruments from the Physical World | Loop

Motors, Magnets and Motion: Electronic Music Instruments from the Physical World | Loop


So, good morning. Thanks for coming here early. Last I heard there were people still dancing at Tresor,
did anybody come straight from the club? Anyone? Yes. Okay, that’s awesome. So my name is Mark Zadel, I’m a developer at Ableton… here in Berlin, and I’m also on Loop’s
programming committee. So as musicians, we are always on the search
for new sounds and new ways to make music to create our own unique voice. And all of the artists we have on stage this morning
are also creating their own unique voice but they’re taking this pursuit into entirely new territory
by creating their own instruments. And what’s special about these instruments
is that they’re all electro-mechanical. So that they use electrically-driven acoustic
sound production, so they’re not using… sound synthesis, it’s all acoustic sound production
but using motors and different things like that. And so these are kind of hybrid-acoustic-electronic
inventions. So as we’ll see this will lead to unique sonic potential
and unique performance experience and so we’ll be hearing about their work this morning
and we’ll be questioning what electronic music means. And we’ll ask what this work can teach us
about music making. So first off, right here, we have Koka Nikoladze
who’s a Georgian composer, violinist, instrument maker, who’s based in Norway. So he creates many custom-built instruments
and considers them to be compositions and they include manually-operated beat machines,
motorized oscillators and physically sound effects boxes. And next we have Gijs Gieskes. Perfect, yeah, who’s a musician and industrial designer
from the Netherlands. His work integrates re-purposed consumer electronics
to create electro-mechanical instruments, in a modular synthesizer format usually
but there’s lots of different contraptions here this morning. And finally we have Alice Eldridge,
who’s a cellist and researcher from the UK. And her instrument, the feedback-cello,
integrates acoustic and electronic feedback to create a unique sound palette. So we’re gonna start off by hearing
from each of our panelists and each of our… all of the instruments so we can contextualize
the conversation, so we’ll start with Koka please. Good morning.
Just a couple of words about myself. Okay, so, my name is Koka, I’m a composer. And sometimes I make weird musical instruments
to satisfy myself in a strange way. This could be an example. This is the Mechanic Beat Machine. It’s hand-cranked,
no electronics whatsoever. And it’s programmable. It’s actually an 8-track,
32-step sequencer. This could be another example. A soldering iron coil, some brass tube
that I stole from my girlfriend. She kept her violin strings in that tube, etc.
This machine was electro-mechanical, obviously. This could be another example. So these are the Beat Machines.
Sometimes I also make instruments that are inspired… by who knows what. But they look strange
and feel good to play. So they satisfy me because of that reason. This one is called a Stepper Miniature. So this is an acoustic sound generator, basically.
It’s a stepper motor, so what we’re hearing is the sound
of a stepper motor. You change the speed of the motor,
therefore you change pitch. So… And I made some completely acoustic
instruments too. Something like this. It’s called a Soundtrack Box. Just to move very quickly… I do projects like this. And once in a couple of days I make musical interfaces
to interact with digital machines in different ways. To establish a physical contact
with the world of synthesis. This is my favorite, it’s called a Bow Sensor,
it’s made from an optical mouse. You can actually bow your laptop with it. Well, not all the interfaces I make are weird. I make some traditional stuff as well,
like, I’m trying to specialize in OSC controllers. I dream about the world where OSC will replace midi,
everything will be high resolution and… fancy. So let’s see a short film about it. And… And, well, for instance I have one of my devices here.
It’s called a Rotary Magnetic Bow. Sometimes I make instruments
that could have been made a long long time ago, you know, like, Egyptians, they had magnets
and they had wheels, so it would absolutely be possible to put together
something like this, a totally mechanical device. This is my version of ebo, it’s a mechanical ebo,
it’s just a hard-drive motor with a disc. The disc spins in front of strings,
the disc has magnets attached to it. And this is what you get out of it. What I like about this kind of stuff is that
you don’t need to amplify your instruments. Now I’ve used it very gently on the guitar
but if you put two of these in the grand piano it acoustically sounds like a PA system. Which I find awesome. Now the last video I want to show you is the instrument
I finished the day before I came here. It’s called a Blink Wheel. And it’s an electro-mechanical
controller instrument, basically. Blink Wheel. And that’s it. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks, Koka. So let’s hear from Gijs next please. So I brought a lot of my instruments. And I was thinking
I could demonstrate them individually, like here. This one is a machine that’s… It’s kind of like a loop,
so it starts here and then the circuits triggers something, it moves here and then it triggers here,
and it goes around. So if I trigger it here it starts. So then I can add… with a pick-up I can add the motor. It becomes kind of like a breathing machine. So because it’s a loop I could also expand it bigger,
but then because it looks kind of like breathing so I kept it small like this. Then… I also got… like, for instance this one here.
It’s a wheel that makes sand… Let’s see where it is. It’s the red one. So it picks up the sand and it drops it onto this…
on the lever and then it just goes. So I was looking on the internet, what’s the easiest way
to pick up sand and drop it onto something. And I saw these big cranes that are used to dig out sand
from the… like, for the… these big machines, so I made a small copy of it,
this one basically. And… So it’s a nice way to make some noises. Then there was also this thing here.
This is an hour glass. Let’s see where this one is. Ah, that’s here. So basically it works by letting the… the sand goes down
and then the laser hits the sand grains and then the light gets bent by the… by this… by the grains of sand
and it goes onto the light sensor. And that’s when you hear this sound. It’s a bit low now. So I made this installation for it because I also have
exhibitions sometimes. I automate it so it automatically detects
if there is sound. And if there is no sound it rotates it around
to the next position. And then there’s also here, there’s… There’s some… Like a VU meter. I often use VU meters
to generate sound. You can see it here, it’s this… So here it is, if you can get a close-up from the top. So basically there’s this VU meter hitting this spring. And then it’s just because it’s so small
it can be… it has to be amplified by a piezo mic
and then you can still hear it, and you can get a lot of variations in the sound just by
using a spring or using some metal plates on the back to get some rattling and then adding some extra sound. Here I also have a bigger one. Which I can turn on like this. It’s a… It’s like a cooling thing from a computer. That sounds pretty good. Too many wires. And then I can slide it along
to get a slightly different sound. It’s slightly different. Or I could add some stuff on it,
like a kind of shorter sound. That’s too heavy, this thing. Then I have also this thing here,
let’s see if I can turn that on. Which is the purple one. Maybe I can just switch it. It’s actually a… it’s a magnetic levitation device. By this coil and there’s a sensor in it that detects
when the magnet is above a certain height and then it drop the power and then it goes down again. Then it becomes… because there’s a small metal pin
from a resistor on it, and it just bounces on the… and here if you put it on like… It can also sound nice
if it’s hitting a… a dance for the plastic here. And then there’s also here some other modules.
Here I have a ventilator, and you can hear the bass already a bit. So it’s basically a light that shines on the bottom of the
ventilator and then the light reflects on the blade and goes through a light sensor
and turn the motion into sound of the… You can get a lot of bass out of it. And here there’s a clock which moves on the… So I have to block the light otherwise it
goes into the sensor and then you don’t have the… and turn it on and off. And there’s one more here. Which is a… It’s actually, it’s this thing here. So there’s a magnet on this motor and it goes by
this spring and then the spring starts vibrating. It’s a bit like your guitar. And then…
Oh, there’s actually something missing. There’s a wooden plate here. Because it’s all so small
it can change quite a lot. So if I… if I let it run for a while… It starts changing what’s happening
‘cos all the vibrations… But it’s kind of unpredictable where it goes. Like if it goes… does something spectacular or not. Great. Thank you very much. Thanks, Gijs.
And so next we have Alice. Hi. So as Mark said, yeah, I’m a researcher
and a cellist, I grew up playing the cello. I’m gonna talk to you about our feedback project,
feedback cello project we’ve been doing for a while. This came out of… as I say, I grew up playing the cello,
but I wanted to use electronic and digital music, but when you’re playing the cello you don’t have
the hands free. So about ten years ago I started at looking at using
interactive digital music systems, kind of adaptive systems, robot brain type things.
But I’ve never really felt that satisfied by it. So if we could have my laptop up.
Would that be possible? Um, so… This is, as Mark said, it’s kind of a very strongly
hybrid digital sonic-acoustic instrument. We were wanting to explore that continuum I suppose
between gestural acoustic resonant instruments, and programmable DSP processes, if you like. How can you draw a continuum between them both
sonically and also in performance. So it’s quite an instructional talk, I’m gonna talk you
through how we made these instruments. It’s a very much collaborative project
that I’ve been working on with my friend and colleague Chris Kiefer here, who’ll you meet later on
in the performance at 16:30 in the main space. It’s very open-ended, experimental in the kind of tinkering,
tweaking, no fixed plan kind of exploration. And it was very much inspired by an Icelandic guy
called Halldor, and this is the Haldorophone. He’s an artist and 3D fabricator. And having had this sort of itch, if you like,
for a good decade or so of how can we bring together the best of both worlds, of kind of digital music making
and acoustic music making. How much we explore these.
When I saw and heard the haldorphone in action I realized that this kind of feedback process within
an acoustic instrument with a signal that you could take into an electronic control
or digital control might have some kind of room. I’ll slip through these actually. If it’s not too early
for an instructional slide, here’s a diagram. It’s a feedback instrument, so basically the output
is sent back in as input, right, it’s a very simple process, so… it doesn’t matter
where we start in the loop, we can start with the strings, strings makes a sound.
There’s pick-ups underneath the strings, We can control the Gain of those pick-ups in some way.
They’re amplified and sent back to transducers. So I’ve got some slides here but you can also
see them on the instruments, so… these instruments have pick-ups, they’re electric guitar
pick-ups, like electro-magnetic coil pick-ups one under each string. And we made 3D-printed pick-up mounts
so that you can adjust the position nicely rather than setting them in the body
as you might in a guitar. And then that signal goes out to a car amp,
a 4-channel 50 watt car amp, and then sent back in, so there’s speakers
built in the back. And we wanted to build the speakers closely,
really closely couple the speaker with the instrument. So that vibration really comes back in.
So… we… Have we got the sound from the laptop? So we cut some holes in them And it got quite late, we had to bring in some power tools
as well, for the other one. So there were instruments harmed
but let’s say they were enhanced as well as… first harmed and then enhanced. And then these are fitted, in order to get a really nice
close coupling the speaker is very flat, the body is curved, so we’ve got these,
what you can see here is a CNC-cut spruce, a bit of spruce that we sanded to fit the instrument body.
And then these speakers are bolted in, they’re just car speakers bolted in. So here’s a close-up. They’ve also got transducers on the front,
so more than one vibrating body. And that gives you a nice control,
you can pan between them and oscillate between them. You’ll see that in the performance later on. This is in construction, testing out where the nice points
on the cello body, where are the good surfaces to put them in. It works very well just putting it onto the spike
and you can get a really good bass response. If we ever find a venue where we can build
the transducer into the stage that would be quite a nice performance as well. So… Once you have that set-up, The cello traditionally for hundreds of years has been a
string instrument which you typically… you typically excite the strings with your body,
you pluck the stings, or you bow the strings and that’s where the energy comes from.
Once you have this feedback system, the feedback… is the source of energy.
So it self oscillates. Right, so in this situation I’m just controlling
the gains on a mixer, not letting it get too loud. And as you adjust the relative gains
different strings will resonate. So whilst you might spend a lot of time
controlling the lasting effects like, in… in live situations you might want to avoid feedback
if you’re a vocalist, or guitar feedback which we know from the Hendrix etc. The difference here is it’s not just one sound,
we’ve got 4 pick-ups and we can control the relative gains of those
so you can start playing with the feedback rather than it just being
this completely uncontrollable force. But it’s very much a kind of process of negotiation,
and that’s become the unique thing that’s grown out of this hybrid, it now is neither an acoustic instrument
nor a digital instrument but this sort of quite lively complex thing
that you sort of negotiate with rather than control. So that then becomes a key point. The negotiation,
if you like, is both physical, but also we can use various processes
to control that gain. So in the performance later on we’re exploring…
I’m at the moment following a purely analog route. And Chris, who you’ll meet later, is passing the signal
through SuperCollider. So we’ve got now on this set-up, exactly the same,
the pick-ups come into a soundcard, into SuperCollider, and it’s a super simple patch,
all it’s doing is listening to all of the strings and basically saying if it’s quiet turn it up
and if it’s loud turn it down. And then you get this… rather than the strings
you’re having to vibrate, as you touch some strings you effectively
let the sound through, so… It’s silent. And then usually you’ll get some sound. Might need to get a bit more… So the stings become the controller.
As you lay off… But as a complex thing it’s one of those instruments
that you have to turn your brain off and not think logically about. So I invite you all later on
to the performance at 16:30. I’m gonna show you… a couple of other ways
in which we’ve had this set up. One of the interesting things as well as thinking
acoustically and aesthetically about the different timbres you can get
from an acoustic cello sound to a kind of screeching feedback to a more interesting,
let’s say, modulations, is also… the different ways you can perform with this. So we’ve done some installations where the two cellos
are kind of listening to each other. And listening to the room, so when the audience
come in they respond and feed back from that. This is in quite a noisy set-up. So you kind of have an
instrument which responds to the space and the people in that space. As a cellist I was also interested in…
sorry I’m just gonna turn this one down. ů in how you can extend the sound
and the gestures of the cello towards that electronic direction. So… This is playing with a drummer
and a saxophonist. And normally you can’t get in their sound world. But with that feedback you start to be able to get
into that multiphonic squawking of a saxophone as well as the percussion of the drummer
if you like. And then we’ve been exploring as duo
the continuum between live coding and a cello. And exploring as well with contact mics, so…
because this whole body’s resonating we’ve turned it all on its head in a sense,
we’re using the feedback as the sound source, and using the digital processing,
or our hands and our bodies to control that. So one of the other nice things you can do
is use contact mics, kind of like a stethoscope. So there the bass sounds you’re hearing is a contact mic
moving around on the body of the instrument. So you can… start to explore these other ways of producing sound
and other ways of using gestures in that making. Just to say there’s a range, it has a definite kind of
sound world but within that there’s quite a range of different timbres and textures that you can explore.
I think I’ll leave it there. For now. Thank you.
– Thanks. Cool, so thanks very much for showing us your
instruments. That was pretty inspiring, that was amazing, so from what I understand none of you
have a mechanical engineering or electrical engineering background, right? So how did you come to do this kind of work
in the first place ? What were some of the… What were you looking for,
what were some of the early experiences, what was missing, what were you doing before
you were doing this kind of work? Well yeah, I had a mixture of playing music
outside of any training really. And then I also was really interested in dynamical
systems and complex systems and… evolution and sort of… the sort of more abstract dynamics of how things work.
So that felt very intuitively musical to me. So I was always interested in how you could use
those kind of ideas in an instrument. And somehow simulating them. So for quite a few years
I did models, software models of those kind of things and sonified those, used those in various ways
and it just felt quite unsatisfying. So to me it was a just really personal, kind of intuitive,
very playful thing to say like, what happens then if we start using a body that resonates
and amplifying that and modifying that in some way, so it’s just a very… quite a blind exploration really. Rather than, yeah… What were you doing before? I was studying industrial design,
and then I also wanted to… I went to parties and I did some VJing,
and then I also wanted to make music. And then I still had a drum machine
because my dad was in a band. So I wanted to make some plug-ins for this drum machine but had no knowledge how to make a sampler
or anything. So I just bought like a voice recorders
and then made like a… used the speaker… and then if I put a signal over the amplifier speaker
it hit a metal pin and then triggers the Play button of the voice recorder.
Because I had no electronic knowledge at all, so… I didn’t know what a resister was or anything, so… So mechanical stuff was my introduction
to electronic design, basically. And Koka, you’re a violinist, right?
– Yes, well, a hundred years ago I was a violinist. I graduated as a violinist but I dropped it
the next day I graduated. So, um, yes, so…
my story is that at the age of 19 I realized that I didn’t know much because I didn’t properly study at
school. I was studying at specialized music schools so I only could play violin and that was it. So I panicked, so I wanted to compensate stuff
and I went to composition studies. And tried to compensate some math and physics,
and some basic elementary school stuff. And then after that did some music technology. But I’ve never studied electronics or mechanical
engineering, no. I work as a composer, so I compose music
in the tradition of Neue Musik, if you will. for different ensembles and I’m doing my PhD,
which is now in a way related to what I do here. In a strange way. So I guess this is sort of the big question is:
why do you work this way? What’s interesting to you about this…
And we’ve covered a little bit of it already but, maybe Koka you can start, what is it about
using physical instruments and designing things, especially for performance, that’s interesting to you? Yeah, um, just to… just to compare it. I’ve spent an enormous amount
of hours with synthesis, and I’ve… Like, I’ve developed virtual musical instruments etc.
And at some point I made my first mechanical device. And it was a super simple device, a trivial
mechanical device that would play a simple rhythm. But it was so fascinating, it was in the real world,
you know, it was not perfect at all, but in that imperfection it was absolutely perfect. So I just had this very, you know, childish fascination with… with this mechanical object. So I guess after that it’s somehow natural.
And also when I look at see the audience, you know, people really like moving stuff, you know.
If it doesn’t move, it’s bad, if it’s moves, yes, it’s good, yes. We like it.
So it’s like moving objects that produce music is so much fun. I wouldn’t go further into any discussion,
it’s just fun. And Gijs, for you, what’s interesting about working
in this way? What do you get over using a midi controller
or using a VST or something? Well I always, when I… made instruments
I’m always looking for sounds, like… less for making a song with it, but also I use a lot
of making music with LSDJ, which is this software tracker for making
Gameboy music. And then you also have to make, do certain things
to get extra sound out of it. To get as much out of the instrument as possible. So… And it’s similar with this, I just have some
mechanical stuff and then… yeah, you just try to get as much out of it as possible. Alice, for you, what’s interesting, why do you…
I mean, you covered it a little bit already. Yeah I guess there was an initial, maybe more conceptual
thing but then actually doing it it’s become quite a different pleasure, if you like. And that’s… When you start making these things,
as we’ve said, I’m not trained in any of it, I’ve never done it before, I don’t really know
where the ceiling is, if you like. The first time you’ve got a squawky feedback
you’re like, well is that it? Is that all it does? But it’s purposely a very open-ended,
kind of iterative process, so every time we do a gig we change it a bit then we play again and it’s just quite
a nice, quite satisfying kind of unfolding, and every time you play you’re like,
Oh it can do that as well, so it’s this… I guess sense of exploration and finding this new stuff
and never quite knowing whether there’s more to come or whether that’s it, it’s kind of quite engaging,
yeah, quite inspiring. Koka, a second a go you were talking about the audience
and how the audience like to see moving things. How do you find audiences react to seeing these
instruments? They enjoy them I guess, obviously. Do you think that people enjoy it because of the novelty
of what they’re seeing, or because having something physical, you know,
physically vibrating that you’re interacting with is bring something out… kinda extra out of your self
in performance that’s communicating with the audience? Well I guess presenting an instrument,
or showing off an instrument is one thing, and then playing that instrument
is another thing, right? It’s like, the question doesn’t have one particular answer,
because some people like it because of how they look, but actually playing them, getting better at operating
those instruments and then for instance impressing your audience
with how you play them is a different story. I don’t know much about that now
because these are so new to me as well. So I’m planning to practice a little bit
and then I’ll see. I guess like… When people give you some feedback,
positive feedback about your work… they often use certain terms, right? And after a while
you have some terms settled in your mind. Those are “weird” and “cool”.
So those are two terms that are statistically prominent. So I guess that speaks of maybe how people like it
or what they like about it. And Alice, we were talking earlier about the fact that the
cello is something that people already understand, right? And you’re kinda presenting it in a new way.
Do you think that people are… What do you think that people are responding to
when they’re enjoying watching a feedback cello? I think it’s really personal and it varies hugely.
So some like… we did a gig the other week with a bass player
on the bill as well and he was like, “I really wanted you to play
the acoustic cello and show me how the sound evolved from that into the other thing”.
He kind of felt frustrated and a bit let down that we hadn’t done that. But we’re like, well it’s not a cello anymore
because as soon as you play it like a cello it’s… it’s stops being a feedback, right,
you’re stopping it vibrating. So I think yeah, there’s the novelty, the disconnect
between the sound they expect, and some of the sounds that it makes. And I think I mentioned to you as well,
you’ll see, you got a glimpse of this one, it’s… instead of putting a lot of energy into it, it kind of has its
own internal energy source so you can make huge sound differences with a tiny gesture.
So, yeah, it’s kind of breaking those expectations and kind of re-imagining and re-thinking
what an instrument can be. Something else that’s interesting to me about these
instruments is that traditionally we had acoustic instruments
and then we later had electronic instruments and now we’re coming back into acoustic instruments. How has the sound world of electronic music
informed the kinds of sounds that you’re looking to make with these kinds of instruments?
Is it influenced by electroacoustic composition or those kinds of things,
or are you just looking for new sound? I mean… how do you feel that electronic music…
traditional electronic music has affected those kinds of sounds
that you like to make here? Yeah, I’d say again that the initial impetus was the sound.
So I don’t just play the cello… wanting to expand the sound of the cello
was kind of one thing, but for me maybe it was more about the processes of music making,
and the sort of sense of time and those kind of things. When I first started to program was for making music
and making kind of generative systems and that kind of joy in setting up processes
which you’re not quite sure what they’re gonna do and then they kind of make stuff, you know,
so that kind of joy of generativeness. And then at the other end the gestural music making.
And one is like, you’re in that, making music now in time right now, and the other one is
time unfolding in a different way. And I found in performances
I do a lot of improvised music and… it never really sat well, like, laptop musicians,
digital and acoustic musicians rarely got along: there was a whole live coding scene
and then an acoustic-improv scene and somehow the fact that people had different time,
a sense of time, made it hard to interact. So that was sort of the initial interest was that,
trying to merge those practices maybe more than sounds. But certainly, I think the way that electronic music
and computer music and contemporary digital music has evolved makes us re-think about the possibilities
of other things, if that makes sense. So maybe we wouldn’t have explored
these kind of things if we hadn’t had a sequencer first,
do you know what I mean? I don’t know. Gijs, what about you? How has electronic sound
informed the kinds of timbres that you’re looking for in your instruments? Well the… when I started I had this 808.
And then I guess my dream for this, like I have these VU meter modules that hit,
like a VU meter hitting something. And for me, my dream was to make like a… like an 808 with VU meters, so it would be this…
the same sound but then mechanical, and really small. So I was thinking maybe it’s possible
but I’m not there yet, it’s pretty difficult to make, also to reproduce,
so if you have like a… Well in theory it’s just that…
if you have a mechanical drum it’sthisbig and then if you’re trying to make it really small,
I think it should be possible, but… Something that I find cool about these instruments
is that because you’re working with actual vibrating objects or bodies, you can kind of insert yourself
into that and change the way that it sounds or the way that it’s vibrating.
What is that like as a control mechanism, do you find that there’s some subtlety that you gain
from being able to just reach out and kinda damp the spring that’s vibrating
or kind of whack something to inject energy into the system,
how does that change the way that you… how you feel about the music that you make? Often the gain is so loud that I cannot touch the stuff,
if I touch it it will be very loud so I just have to… I have to do everything… because it’s just… often when people use piezo microphones
they use it for hitting stuff or whatever. But then… if you just put a lot of gain on it you don’t have to…
It’s just like, you can hear a feather on a… touching something with a feather that’s
and it can sound different, you get some new sounds. I guess the difference is some of us might have… played a virtual instrument with a mouse, right? And then what’s the difference between, you know,
moving your finger around and clicking buttons and having a convenient controller in the physical world
in front of you and then attaining full control right? It’s so much more pleasant to interact with. So in my case I find interacting with physical objects
way more convenient for myself than doing everything on screen
and with a small pad. Or whatever other interfaces, you know? But, digitally. Another aspect to it is there is of course a great
difference between sounds which are produced digitally and which are produced acoustically, right?
You can of course imitate either/or, or simulate, but the authenticity… I think I think I can sense it
when I do the A/B testing and it obviously… it’s obviously much more present
when things are in the real world, so… I actually am… I’m changing my entire workflow
and like, making most of my sound generators acoustic now. And Alice, what about you, do you feel that… you have some subtle control over the music,
do you feel that you’re kind of more present ’cause you’re able to physically touch the vibration, right? Yeah, I guess there’s definitely something around the… leading on from the haptic stuff
that Lauren was talking about, you know, and the whole line of discussion of embodiment
and situatedness and you’re really… if you’re part of that whole loop, and in this situation
you physically are part of the loop, your physical presence changes things
and you’re gesturally controlling things. Playing a bit around with Chris’ cello as well
there’s this… the use of these controllers so… are the knobs from a mixer, you know,
fixing them as a synthesizer, if you like, this is a synthesizer with no unit generators
where this is the speaker cabinet and these are the controllers
which are sitting on the speaker cabinet. So… You’ve actually got direct control,
you’re feeling the sound as you’re controlling the sound. So there’s a definite sense
of being embedded in the whole process, which engages you, so I guess,
as you become part of it… you’re… Is it more subtle? Yeah, in a different way I guess. On the other side, I just remembered something. I’ve seen performance where people performed
with two knobs. And like, two oscillators, and I’ve seen some amazing,
super inspiring performances which were way cooler and better than a lot of acoustic
stuff that I’ve heard, so again, doesn’t it boil down to what we talked about
right now, but at the same time also
how you use the thing, right? So I think that’s a crucial aspect, right? Sorry, did I interrupt you?
-No, not at all. So we’re gonna move to questions from the audience
shortly, but before we do that, how, for anyone who’s listening, who might be interested
in trying out to experiment with some of these things, what are some easy ways that someone can start to
integrate this into their practice, what are some simple things they can start with to… to play around with acoustic sound for a sound designer
for a performance? Conrad, I think it’s called, the shop?
Isn’t it? Conrad? So you go to Conrad, you buy yourself
as box of springs, and some epoxy glue, you go home,
you take a wooden board, and you glue those springs differently
onto that wooden board, you take a contact microphone, stick it on the wooden board, amp it up,
and play for the rest of the day, and the next day, and maybe the day after, so that will be enough to play
with for three days and that will get anyone started. So springboard is my suggestion. Yes, you can get also guitar pick-ups
and like, buy motors and see what sound things generate. So, another suggestion, you can start with a drill. If you have a drill at home, most of the drills
they go in steps. They don’t alternate between slow and fast,
they go in distinct steps. So what you can actually try to do is to play the drill
and harmonize with your left hand on the piano. That actually… Okay… No I’m not doing it
when I’m alone at home. Good. Yeah, I’d say as well, there’s so many ways into making
things now, we had a chat earlier, we said none of us had any training in maths
or computing or engineering or luthiering or… and there’s just so many ways in now DIY kits
and instructables and sample patches and ingredients lists everywhere that…
Find something that you’re… the most important thing is just to find something
that you want to do, basically, and once you’ve… peaked your interest with a drill or some glue
or some springs, think about if you want to use motors,
if you want to use whatever else don’t be put off and dive in
and just do something that you’re interested in. Before you know it you’ll know everything
you need to know, or nothing. Good, okay, I think we have about 10 minutes
for questions from the audience and I think there’s a microphone floating around
right there. So who has a question? Right here, on the front. Hello. Very inspiring work. Thank you. And… I’ve seen a lot of this work like, being
an installation, being a composition, like you said, Koka, or being in the field of sound scouting. And I was wondering, is it a thought
to bring back the musician into interaction with an instrument and like,
having an instrument to be built for a lot of people who aren’t into composition,
who aren’t into sound scouting, and into playing with electronics and coding stuff,
but just want to get an instrument that’s ready-made for them to play? Well that’s a very good question,
but also a very wide question. To respond very shortly: Yes. And to be a bit more precise: Yes,
and on top of that, not only, so… It’s not only about putting an instrument
and a musician back into interaction, but it is also going a bit further than that. There is a cool project going on,
I think I should mention it. It becomes extremely physical now,
so things become extremely physical because… I’m trying to replace the electronic sound generator
of Ableton Live with human ensembles. So I’m basically making hardware to operate
musical ensembles in real-time. So you can still maintain your workflow in Live,
so you can do your loops and do your sessions. But then you can project your loops and sessions
as a score to the ensemble in real-time, so… some modular settings, so it’s not only about
putting a musician and an instrument back into… interaction, or not “back”, it has always been there. But it’s also changing electronic sound generators
with human sound generators and playing with different ensembles in this manner. So… back to physical world. There was…
People used to believe that digital would change… would absorb absolutely everything,
everything would be digital, kits would be digital, food would be digital. It didn’t happen. So, yeah. How does that… Does that work for instruction
or exoskeletons? Do you send an instruction to the violinist’s arm or? Yes, you implant this thing in their brain…
– And it triggers… But we can talk afterwards. No, you accomplish that with an LED light
and custom PCBs, LEDs shine though the paper through different bars of music, loops,
they get a metronome, they get a dynamics Link fader. And then you basically can either program
what they play or you… do in in real-time by twisting your knobs and faders
and pushing your buttons, right. And the score is a firmware in a way, so you upload
the firmware to the orchestra and then you control it. Whatever, so… Yeah, I also sell these instruments,
so you can buy them from me. So they’re for sale. Another question?
– Ask me anything about that. Don’t be shy. We got two right here. Okay, that’s for the presentation. So… You can see that you have objects that vibrate
and you control them through motors to… make the vibrations inject energy.
But then you go back to… electricity, you go back to speakers. Do you have any comments about this? Because in the end there is a piston
vibrating up and down and you don’t get the… beautiful diffusion from the mechanical objects. The what? I said that in the end of the chain of the process,
it seems to me now, but I watched the presentation, that you have a loudspeaker, which is…
– Ah. No I don’t have a loudspeaker. It goes from the piezo
into the mixer. And then into the PA, yes. We’re hearing everything from the PA speakers anyway.
– Ah, that’s why. So normally you don’t experience this… your sounds though loudspeakers? Yes, at home I also have a mixer and a PA, yes,
but I don’t understand the question maybe. I mean the amplification thing, it’s still, you know,
there’s an electronic thing additionally to the acoustic thing, right?
– Yeah there’s always an amplifier, the volume is so low that it needs to be amplified. Yeah that’s what I’m saying, so the very end
of the process, again you go back to electricity into a loudspeaker, while you could have the cello
diffusing the sound energy directly from the body. Yeah but I like to make everything really small. It in a way goes back to this fake-real dilemma, like,
is singing in the microphone real or is it fake? I think… the absolutely charming this about your work is
those objects, they have their identities. And it’s like a human being standing in the microphone
and singing into the microphone, right, versus, whatever, a machine
singing into the microphone. It’s like, I think they bring their identity with them
no matter if we amplify them or listen… to them very closely.
– Yeah, you can hear them like this also. Yeah, exactly, I tried to.
– That’s what I would do. Yeah, and I think with these as well, like the speaker,
the transducer is a core part of it but it’s not at the end of the process,
or it’s not the start of the process, you know, that’s the whole point about feedback right,
it’s completely coupled within that process. So they are further amplified here but they don’t
need to be after we do gigs where they’re not put through the PA as well. Everyone thinks they are
because there’s 150 watts of vibration coming through, so exactly, this is the PA, they are their own PA,
if you like. So it’s on this sort of coupling
on quite a few levels. But can you like, pack, let’s say, 8 car batteries inside
so that you avoid plugging it into something? So that you can run with it, for instance?
Is it possible? Or do you use any hardware?
– Yeah, they’re 12 volt, you don’t need 8, just one. They’re 12 volt. They’re car amps, so yeah,
we could go busking with them. I don’t know if that helps though. Do we win anything
by coming away from the mains power? Which incidentally is separated here,
we’ve got a separate audio feed for power. But I guess, yeah, what are we trying to prove
or what’s the point, and if you like… are we trying to… I don’t think any of us
are trying to avoid speakers, so there’s not a…
– Well, yeah, sorry. Well one trick you can do if you have to amplify a lot,
it’s good to use a battery, you get no noise. So on that note I think we need to leave it there
for reasons of time. Just before we close very quickly, if you would like to see
the two feedback cellos in performance Alice and her colleague Chris will be playing
in the Maker Zone at 16:30 this afternoon, so you can get a nice close look at them. And Gijs will be playing at 18:00 also in the Maker Zone
if you wanna see his instruments up close, So please come for that.
So thank you very much for listening and let’s thank our speakers once again:
Koka Nikoladze, Gijs Gieskes, and Alice Eldridge.

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