For my Always On, Always Connected midterm I’m on a working on music interface. My inspiration came from being able to make a tool that I can use wherever I am to hash out new ideas, or even as a performing instrument in the long run. I am using Nexus, a company that specializes in making interactive musical interfaces, and connected two keyboard interfaces with a 16 beat drum sequencer. I then connected tone.js to the keyboards, with the polysynth sound from the tone.js library. My goal is to connect all three interfaces with a common metronome so that all the interfaces can be played simultaneously.
My wireframes for Troubadour:
This is my Interface thus far:
The keyboards are functioning with sound from tone.j.s
Most of my garbage this week was food container garbage. Even more specific, it was usually pizza or smoothie garbage. Also, plenty of coffee garbage as well. Can’t forget the sugar garbage to sustain long work hours, like chocolate chip cookies and m’n’ms. One observation: It was kind of gross to see how much pizza I ate this week.
I suppose I can start by bringing home cooked food in containers, but that takes time, and time is what I usually don’t have. Maybe I can just bring a ceramic plate to the pizza place or try to buy things with minimal to no packaging. Pizza is more sustainable, though, as it comes in paper, and smoothies come in plastic. The irony is that the smoothie is better for my body, but not my environment in the long run.
There is also more waste that I used that isn’t pictured. Hygiene products, cigarette packaging, water when I brush my teeth and take a shower, just to name a few.
I grew up indoctrinated to become a musician from the age of four so music was always a part of my life, if not my life. Music is really my all time teacher, beyond learning music in itself.
It has taught me various lessons, including how to be creative, patient, disciplined, undisciplined, and curious. Through my curiosity, music has taken me to places unimagined, even if it hadn’t been because of it directly, but also to mental and physical places. Music is my altruistic history book that has also taught me about different cultures, different ways of thinking, and different ways of doing. Music has informed practically every decision I’ve ever made as well as becoming a pillar in the process of forming my ideologies. Without music, I wouldn’t be me. So I am indebted to it, but I am also honored to be able to contribute to its legacy.
Although I am classically trained, I did not focus on music academically. In fact, music was my inspiration to study other subjects in college, mainly political science and sociology. So, as you can imagine, to me, the intersection between music and politics, as well as music being an enormous sociological contribution, are always on my mind.
I have been concerned with two aspects of music lately. One is production and ethics, the other is distribution and ethics. On the production front, I have always found it to be a double edge that while the means of production have been democratized greatly, it also affords for a more homogeneous approach to it on the large scale. You have to go out of your way to sound “unique” in a sense because everyone is using the same tools. The mass production of instruments has also had an effect. To me, it cheapens the sacredness of the instrument to have all these mediocre versions of it floating around, only as symbols of the effects of capitalism. It is also most likely the most influential of art forms if we are talking about pop culture, which is also a side effect of capitalism, at which point it stops being a culturally rich sociological representation and starts becoming a product to be consumed.
Which brings me to distribution.
I was adamant for a long time about my nostalgia for the paradigm of the past, the record industry and it’s physical mediums of distribution. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the seemingly obsolete concept of making a record as an artist in modern times. Now, the one hit wonder is almost standard. On top of that, people in general aren’t concerned with an artist’s personality, philosophy, or ideology. The song reigns as a 3 minute digital distraction until the next 3 minute digital distraction comes along.
But then I thought…
I’m being nostalgic for a paradigm that is also a product of consumerism, albeit, a bit more artistically rigorous. The record sleeve, the pictures, the liner notes, the 3 minute song, the tours, the money, the drugs, the drama… all of those things were also a part of a system I did not agree with, no matter how romantic it all sounded.
So, what I want to accomplish is to be able to produce intellectually rigorous music, produced by instruments that are not products of an economic system that is tearing our world apart, and for that music to be heard, for it to be listened to, not consumed. I’m working on various fronts in terms of my skill set in order to tackle these different areas, and I realize that much of this work is not only directly music work, but political work, tool building work, reframing and redrawing work. To take music out of the trappings of the economic system we live in and to create a new paradigm, while hopefully, people are creating those new paradigms in other areas of life.
My final for Computational Media is called ITP Mixtape.
As a musician living in the beginning of the 21st century, it took me a few years to grapple with the fact that I am solely responsible for the production and distribution of the work I make. It seemed as though technological advances in the tools to create media arts and music production, as well as their price points, became much more accessible.. just in time for the music industry to crash and burn. The consequence turned out to be a double edged sword, in fact. Artists had to learn how to be self sufficient in every aspect of their artistry, from creation to distribution. I was directly affected and influenced by this trend, and in my formative years as a young musician I leaned in on the approach, deciding that I would eventually make my own record label.
I was always inspired by DIY record labels as a teenager, labels like Sub Pop, Epitaph, and Matador. Those were the labels that most of the bands I listened to were on. It was an attractive answer to the major labels that were ridden in capitalist ideals, primarily in how they handled their artists and production. The correlation between the political ideals of the bands and HOW they distributed their music was harmony. I don’t want to get too involved in explaining the history of record labels, but to put it simply, I am nostalgic for them, and their relevance as cultural ambassadors. In an age where people just download songs digitally and don’t listen to albums, nor really care how they are produced, it cheapens the experience of understanding the artist. My impetus to use the term Record Label comes from a place not only of nostalgia, but the record label as a means of connecting ideals and identity with the art itself. I still find relevance in the platform for platform sake because of this.
I understand that the distribution itself is quite a labyrinth, what works and what doesn’t is really up in the air. Artists like Jay-Z have even teamed up with cell phone companies to package a record release within the purchase of a cell phone. Also, new platforms like Spotify and Pandora have created a new monopoly over music distribution that doesn’t really approach the action on a democratic level. Artists are forced to accept cents to the dollar for their downloads. I feel like the scope is wide open to create more efficient ways of music distribution and my ICM final is an experiment in this vein.
I wanted to control not only what people want, but where they are while they are getting it. I am also interested in taking people out of the black hole of their cell phone screen and create more meaningful social experiences outside of technology. I thought applying this experiment to a project of bigger scale can achieve just that.
I collected work from 12 ITPers and made a mixtape, using geo-location as a tool to bring people together. The point is to obligate people to be in a certain place at a certain time to be able to download the art. If they are not in the specific location it is impossible to download. The page simply doesn’t appear and another page pops up giving the person instructions to be in the right place at the right time.
The interface was drawn on P5.js. I created a button that leads to the html page that the links exist on. Here are the pages.
If the person isn’t in Washington Square Park, the page with the map of WSP appears, with the words “Come Hither.”
If they are in WSP, the mixtape page appears.
This is the link to test out the project in WSP: https://marcoitp18.github.io/itp-mixtape/
Computation applies to my artistic endeavors quite directly. I have two distinct angles in terms of what I would like to accomplish at ITP.
On one hand, as a musician/producer I have a fascination with the inner workings of instruments in general, synths in particular. Since I was a teenager I have taking apart and putting guitars back together. I was curious to see just how all these pieces built the puzzle of an instrument. As I progressed in my art form I also really enjoyed playing around with synths, and I’m kind of anal about super custom sounds. On that note, I would like to experiment not only in building sounds, but in building the instruments and interfaces to control them.
I’m also interested in installation art. The installation, however, would only serve to enhance the musical experience that I’m creating. I’m looking for true interactivity in the sense that the spectator becomes the artist. I’m not interested in making art to be put behind a glass. I want it to be used, and I do understand that in order to make all the connections, computation would change the game dramatically in terms of possibility.
One project I know I want to work on involves a drum. I want the drum to be triggered so when the audience hits the drum it will trigger a loop that starts playing the musical piece of that particular drum. If you put 3 or 4 different drums together, you can create an ensemble of loops that play without further interaction from a human. It will almost feel like a music class, because you will see each role of each drum and how that fits in the math of a beat.
I usually like to try to figure things out by myself before I have to look at a manual, and when i do get stuck i resort to the manual. With that said, I find the program to be quite intuitive and the only element (besides the language) that I had to get used to is the math of the grid. I also had a bit of a hard time trying to figure out what the numbers in the code meant, but if I played around enough I would eventually get the gist. The geometric platform of p5js took me into making flag territory, and so I titled my two pieces imaginary flags. I had a much easier time using angles over circular shapes in general and the most fun I actually had til this point was experimenting with the color pallette.
Until very VERY recently, I was always turned off by “technology.” My argument would revolve around a sort of nostalgia for previous technological advances that seemed so commonplace, for two reasons.#1. I really enjoy simple, intuitive interfaces. I dont enjoy spending more time learning how to use something than actually using it. Plus, I always feared that after learning how to use something, two things would happen. Either it wasnt really what I was looking for or it would soon become outdated. So I gravitated to things that stood the test of time. Which brings me to my second reason. If something can withstand the test of time, this means that there is a certain amount of quality involved.
As a musician especially, I also really held onto the idea that we (in the community of musicians) fell into two distinct categories. ANALOG vs DIGITAL.
I certainly fell into the analog side of life. Besides the rhetoric of music sounding better recorded on tape vs wav files, there was a then intangible argument that I couldn’t quite articulate about my preference.
And even though I most definitely enjoyed and respected digitality in the process of making music, ( especially drum machines and synths) I still felt like there was something missing.
I realized what it was!
I spent a lot of time in my years as an amateur producer recording on my 4 track tape machine. I also daisy chained my various guitar pedals ( delay, phaser, etc) and ran them through my drum machine. I would create a pattern on my drum machine, but the real fun for me was moving all the knobs around on the pedals. My instrument would essentially be the knobs on my guitar pedals. I felt like a mad scientist, making my frankenstein beats, twisting and turning to my hearts content. It felt good to touch and move the knobs around. it was an intuitive action. i move the knob a little to the left, it makes this sound, more to the left, more that sound.
When I got protools a few years later I was very excited to finally have a seemingly more powerful instrument to record on. Little by little, however, I was turned off by many things. First, I hated staring at a screen for hours on end. Secondly, no knobs to twist around. And most importantly, NO TAPE HISS! Plus, I just love watching the tape roll while it’s recording…. In the end the recordings seemed cold. No personality, no life.
I ultimately treated my protools setup like my 4 track. I didnt use any edit functions. The only real use I found for it was the endless amount of tracks I could use to build my songs. I couldnt spend time learning how to use it bc the interface just turned me off so much. To me, the 4 track was sufficient enough, and subsequently became my go to, after ditching protools almost completely.
Although in “the art of interactive design” crawford explicitly points out that interaction requires 2 actors, and within that parameter a conversation takes place, (the 4 track is hardly an actor) … It happens to be much more of an active actor than a protools setup. And even still, I think the 4 track has a mind of its own, especially when the signal starts to clip. you can feel the saturation, the overload it is trying to process. The experience of recording in analog is much more interactive in general. Real instruments are being played (i.e guitar, which is made of organic wood that is indeed “alive.” In this case, the guitar is being affected in the exchange just as much as me, playing it. It wears and tears, and the cyclic process of an interaction starts to take shape: listen, think, speak.
Similarly, on “a brief rant” by bret victor, one of the strongest points for me in his essay is his definition of a tool. “address needs to amplify human capabilities.” Although he made a strong point of the importance of the hand, its nerve endings, in short, it is our window to the world.. and there is hardly a difference between typing, swiping, and turning knobs in theory, … in practice it is actually quite different. when turning knobs we are also touching different equipment, plucking strings, banging on things, using “real” instruments to produce sound. The experiences are worlds apart.
The analog way addresses human needs without making our nerve endings on our fingers go numb from lack of use. Sometimes, the most simple instruments are what keeps us from losing our human-ness, by being closer to the process, by being active WITHIN the process, and not just fullfilling some sort of binary questionaire in a homogenous “pictures behind glass” paradigm.