Sunday, July 4, 2010

A week of good CCRMA

The Knoll - CCRMA Home

This past week I cashed in some vacation time and attended the 5-day New Music Controllers Workshop, led by Edgar Berdahl and Wendy Ju, at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA, pronounced "karma"). It was a great experience, with terrific guest lecturers and a fun group of participants.

(Update 7/22/10: Video of all the workshop demos is now online on the CCRMA website.)

The workshop is a one-week version of the same material covered in the Physical Interaction Design for Music course offered at Stanford (Ed and Wendy teach that course as well). Topics covered in the course include the Verplankian Physical Interaction Design Framework, basic electronics, the Arduino, using Max/MSP and pd, and using sensors to interact with the real world.

The guest lectures were one of the high points of the workshop. We heard from Bill Verplank (Interaction Design), Dan Overholt (Music Interface Technology Design Space), Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos (Cardiff School of Art and Design - Haptic Digital Audio Effects), and Ge Wang (Chuck programming language, Smule). I particularly enjoyed seeing all the cool projects that Dan Overholt did, including Overtone Violin, Sphere Spatializer, and his Overtone Labs work. And if you've never seen Ge Wang talk, you really, really should. He blew me away with his geek chops, his musician chops, and his business chops -- all in one hour.

I also really enjoyed meeting all the other participants. We were all over the range in terms of experience with music performance, synthesis, hardware, software... but everyone chipped in to help each other fill in their knowledge gaps.

Here are some photos and videos of the workshop:

Ian's Thumb Piano (force sensitive resistors, an acceleromoter, and some Max/MSP code)

Ian is also no stranger to geeking out with electronics and music. Here he is with his Guitamoton (built previously):

and a video of it in action:


A sensor glove from Jenifer (Masters student in Intermedia Music Technology at the University of Oregon)

Jeremy and Chekad testing their "conductor" device that allows the player to change the tempo of a performance by conducting. They had about two days to build it, and it actually worked!

For the final demo/concert in the CCRMA Stage, we had a great audience of CCRMA faculty and students, including John Chowning (!).

Between sessions, I wandered around the CCRMA building. Man, that place is one big house full of cool toys:

The door to the Max Lab, named after Max Matthews

Inside the lab - a music/hardware/software hacker's paradise. And we had full access to it for the week.

Yes, there's one whole bin just for accelerometers.

On the CCRMA ground floor there's a museum of sorts. Check this stuff out:

A NeXT cube. Man, I used to support those things at U of M. The optical drive qualified as a percussion instrument.

A Yamaha DX-7, the first commercially successful digital synthesizer. The FM synthesis patent that Stanford licensed to Yamaha was at one point the most lucrative patent held by the University.

An early prototype FM synthesizer from Yamaha? Check out the console:

Notice how there are actually four separate monitors.

Interesting aural possibilities...

And, in the 2nd floor common area:

When reading Computer Music Journal, it's best to have an ample supply of Tabasco on hand.

After the demo/performance, some beer was consumed, and then Chekad pulled out his violin. I had no idea he was such an accomplished violinist, both in western styles and in the styles of his native Iran. He jammed with Dan Overholt, and then with Alexandros, who managed despite lacking a piano bench:



A nice end to the week.