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Aquarium Reactive App Project Overview: 2011

October 13, 2011 2 Comments

One of my music appreciation classes is beginning a new project: writing music inspired by sea creatures, then embedding those songs in an audio augmented-reality app.

The project began with students going to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific to shoot images and gather film-footage of some of the creatures living there. The footage is for reference inspiration when composing.

Link to the YouTube Aquarium Playlist

I have assembled the clips into small movies in iMovie, removing the sound. The short films are loaded to our YouTube channel to be available for my students at school and home.

The photos are edited and loaded to the app so the user can match the visual on the phone to the actual display in the aquarium.

I am building on the compositional skills learned in the “Krapp’s Last Tape” project in the creation of the apps. Using the RJC-1000 software by the RJDJ team, each app can host up to four samples as well as little reactive modules written in Pure Data.

RJDJ, as hosted on an iPhone or iPad, allows programmable access to the microphone, gyroscope, etc…, to modify sounds and filters written in Pure Data. Each “page” of a “scene” can be labeled with an image. Four pages are possible per scene. The project I assigned my students is to compose four reactive compositions/soundscapes, each of which is inspired by a different aspect of a single exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific, then perform and record the piece at the aquarium in collaboration with the animals.

Once the apps are written and loaded onto devices, we will return to the aquarium, film the composer using the app in front of the display, and record the resulting reactive composition. The composition will then become the soundtrack for the film. We plan to make a documentary as well as art films.

I have been in touch with Marilyn Padilla of the aquarium. She has been very helpful in negotiating releases for the educational uses of our filming and photography. The Aquarium has been very open to our project and approval for the work came in one day! Extraordinary!


“Krapp’s Last Tape” on ReacTIVision Vimeo Channel

October 7, 2011

One of our “Krapp’s Last Tape” videos has been featured on the ReacTIVision Vimeo channel. I encourage you to surf around this channel and see the astounding variety of projects made possible by the open-source release of the ReacTIVision software.

Krapp’s Last Tape: Soundwalk 2011 Installation

October 3, 2011 1 Comment

Go to 20’21” to hear our contribution to the Audio Catalog.

The Soundwalk festival happened this past Saturday. The installation created by my students was very well-received. It was particularly interesting to watch the variety of interactions with the piece; I documented some of them in the above video.


Krapp’s Last Tape: Mapping Fiducials to Ableton with ReacTIVision and some Links

September 29, 2011

With our Soundwalk installation date rapidly approaching, my students have just finished their soundscapes, hosted them in Ableton Live 8, and are learning to MIDI map them to ReacTIVision fiducials via OSCulator.

What I have enjoyed about this kind of project is seeing my students not only grapple with the abstractions of composition, but watching them consider multiple modes of interactivity. I think the important lesson is not just learning to execute the project by daisy-chaining software, but dealing with the metaphors of the objects and their associated sounds.

I am especially appreciative of Martin Kaltenbrunner and Ross Bencina for their open-source gift of ReacTIVision, the software that allows fiducial-tracking. This has opened up a creative use of technology to my high school students that otherwise would be well beyond their capabilities, not to mention mine!

Even the simplistic implementation we use has far-reaching implications for metaphoric and abstract thought.




Ableton Live

Krapp’s Last Tape: Proof of Concept Number 1

September 26, 2011

Our Soundwalk entry this year is inspired by Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape”. In the play, Krapp interacts with his recorded self separated by some thirty years.

Our installation seeks to explore the experience of memories through an interactive soundscape.

Participants will visit a table with a tape player and objects of childhood. Placing cassette tapes on the table triggers soundscapes designed by my students. The soundscapes recreate a memory from their past in the way they remember it.

At the same time, the installation itself is a soundscape. The tape player sets the keynote sounds establishing the time and place of the table in the late 20th-century. An omnidirectional microphone picks up the recording as well as any ambient sound. Projected in front of the table is a ghosted and delayed video capture of the installation itself.

The participants will see and hear the experience in realtime and delayed by three to five seconds. Our hope is to convey the distortion of time upon the memory of one’s experience.

This proof of concept is to check the delay capabilities of the computer and software over several hours, and to set basic parameters for this part of the project.

The software used for this portion of the installation includes Macam and Live Video Delay by Zach Poff.

From the Macam website:

    macam is a driver for USB webcams on Mac OS X. It allows hundreds of USB webcams to be used by many Mac OS X video-aware applications. The aim is to support as many webcams as possible.

    In addition, macam also supports downloading of images from some dual-mode cameras. macam especially tries to support those cameras not supported by Apple or by their manufacturers.

From Zach Poff’s Website:

    This app was made to answer a question from a student: “How come there’s no free software to delay a live video feed?” The original version used the GPU for fast video processing and storage, but VRAM is too limited for long delays, so version 2010-04-08 uses system memory to store the recorded frames. Stereo audio is also delayed, with independent delay-time so you can tweak the synchronization between picture and sound. Additionally, you can mix between the live and delayed video feeds with a crossfade slider. DV-NTSC runs at a solid 30fps on a MacBook Pro laptop, but HD resolutions might be faster using the older (more limited) version of the app.

Free ebook on Sound Art Creation in Processing: ComputerMusicBlog by Evan Merz

September 19, 2011

I discovered a wonderful computer music/sound art blog by Evan Merz. Today, he posted about his newly published book integrating the Processing language with Sound Art Creation. This opens up sound art creation possibilities in the digital visual arts without having to learn yet another language.

On his blog, Merz writes:

    Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering Oliver Bown’s wonderful sound art library, Beads. Beads is a library for creating and analyzing audio in Processing or Java, and it is head-and-shoulders above the other sound libraries that are available for Processing. From the ground up, Beads is made for musicians and sound artists. It takes ideas popularized by CSound, Max and other popular sound art environments, and intuitively wraps them in the comfort of the Processing programming language.

Click here for a link to his post with links to the various libraries and books!

More Piano Videos Using

Satie Gymnopedie #3

Bach Concerto in f-minor, mvt. 2

I created a music video by editing out clips of planes, then slowing them down by 75%. I think it mirrors the stillness of Satie’s harmonies.

For the Bach, I used a video made for a film class and posted on with a CC license. Specifics are cited on the YouTube video comments.

More Piano Music Videos Using

September 10, 2011

In a Landscape by John Cage was written for the dancer Louise Lippold in 1948. The structure of the piece follows the rhythmic patterns dance of the choreography for which it was composed.

A modal composition, the patterns alternate between a mode in B and a mode in G. With the use of both the soft and sustain pedals, Cage creates music that seems to suspend time. There is clearly an aesthetic indebtedness to Erik Satie. The score notes that the piece may be played on the harp or piano.

The recording comes from an annual concert I give at St. Andrews, Fullerton. The video is made of beautiful VJ loops I found at by David Montgomery. I chose a stop-motion dandelion as the primary image, then layered in the other images by rolling a die for the length of the clip and inserting them into the film with the same die roll.

In a Landscape: John Cage

September 4, 2011 3 Comments

I have been recording piano works for my beginning music students as examples. Most recently, I have recorded the suite “Enfantines” by Ernest Bloch. In researching the work, I discovered a wonderful project to keep Bloch’s legacy alive by making free copies of “Enfantines” available to children.

The Enfantines Initiative is designed to preserve Bloch’s legacy by making copies of Enfantines available to children free of charge. Newport, Oregon, resident, Paul Brookhyser, long-time supporter of local efforts to preserve the legacy of Ernest Bloch, made the original contribution which inspired this initiative.

Individuals wishing to contribute ten dollars can arrange to have a copy of Enfantines donated to a music student.

Of the piano compositions from the Cleveland era, Enfantines, a set of cameos with pedagogical intent, reveals a side of Bloch not often encountered in the literature. At the lower intermediate level for the most part, the work contains Blochian features such as modality and bimodality, modal-tonal combinations, and meter and tempo fluctuations. Ternary form is the norm in these monothematic or bithematic miniatures. The titles are illustrated in the published score by the original drawings of the composer’s daughter Lucienne, then a teenager.

1. Lullaby (to Suzanne Bloch)

2. The Joyous Party (to Mrs. F. B. Kortheur)

3. With Mother (to Lucienne Bloch)

4. Elves (to Ruth Edwards)

5. Joyous March (to Beryl Rubinstein)

6. Melody (to Dorothy Price)

7. Pastorale (to Eleanor Foster)

8. Rainy Day (to Nathan Fryer)

9. Teasing (to M. Edith Martin)

10. Dream (to Anita Frank)

With the exceptions of Bloch’s daughters, those honored with a dedication taught piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music during his tenure there. Rubinstein, who achieved fame as a concert artist and who had served as a collaborative artist on concert tours with Ysaÿe, went on to become director of the institute for twenty years, 1932-1952.

From David Z. Kushner’s The Ernest Bloch Companion, New York: Greenwood Press, 2002, pp. 59-60

See also David Z. Kushner, “Ernest Bloch’s Enfantines,” College Music Symposium, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall 1983), pp. 103-112. (This source includes a descriptive analysis of the individual pieces that make up Enfantines.)”

Preserving Ernest Bloch’s Legacy as a Composer, Humanist, & Philosopher Through Music

September 3, 2011

Getting a Little Kick Out of Making Videos From

As a summer Project, I recorded some 20th and 21st Century piano music as examples for my beginning music students. I have made the recordings available to them as examples. I’m kind of getting a kick out of making little music videos with public domain or creative commons licensed video. I’ll post more as I make them.

in the two videos that include toy piano, I played a fragment of John Cage’s “Dream” with a piezo microphone attached. One video is of the resulting electronic manipulation from Pure Data on my iPhone. The other is the recombined acoustic recording with the simultaneous electronic filters. The video is a creative commons licensed clip hosted on it is specifically licensed for remixing as long as the resulting output is non-profit and also creative commons licensed.

The last video is music by Arvo Part with clips of a wonderful early “Alice in Wonderland” movie.

Getting a Little Kick Out of Making Music Videos From

September 2, 2011

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