The Rauschenberg Project
A prototype for a performance instrument of computer-generated sounds, made with Max/MSP, MIRA (for the iPad), and Ableton Live.
The main idea behind this project came out of the desire to:
- Be able to change multiple aspects of electronically made sounds through simple gestures stroked on an iPad.
- Play a wide variety of sounds and chords live, through a simple interface.
- Easily play sequences of non-contiguous timbres (e.g. one ‘key’ could play a ‘piano’ on a very low pitch, and the next ‘key’ could play the sound of a ‘bell’ on a really high pitch, etc.)
That is to say, to exploit music technology’s inherent virtues. To explain this by a contrasting example, an acoustic violin, for as versatile as it actually is, its design limits the use of the left hand to follow the strings in the way they have been mechanically set up: one couldn’t easily detune it in realtime, or smoothly jump from one extreme of the fingerboard to the other–or fot that matter, to match its length to that of a doublebass (the wood itself would have to be cut differently). But a computer audio program that is designed to playback any waveform whatsoever, can easily switch from playing the sound of a double-bass to a flute sample, or flick the frequency of an oscillator, very drastically and very easily.
The instrument is made up of 4 fader-keys. Let's first look at the anatomy of each one: as soon as the finger touches the iPad, a sound is triggered; one can then slide the finger vertically and/or horizontally...
There are 4 layers, each with 4 fader-keys: each one of them is able to play one of four different timbres...
Each fader-key is discretely connected to a group track (FK1 - FK4). Each group track is split in two: A & B...
Each single track is made up of four instruments:
- A 5-waveform analog synthesizer
- A frequency-modulated (FM) synthesizer
- A traditional sampler (for now, loaded with a piano sample-set)
- A sampler with a movable-loop playing some kind of texture
Let's now have a look at the MIRA interface: here's the Control Surface...
...divided into the following sections:
- The Sound Palette, a set of 15 faders per pad, divided into 3 layers (60 faders total):
- Layer 1: the first 4 faders control the timbre, the 5th fader is a global effect send (delay).
- Layer 2: the first 4 faders may be mapped to any parameters (e.g. to change the waveforms, other effects, etc.), the 5th fader being another global effect send (reverb).
- Layer 3: the first 4 faders control the amplitude envelope (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release); the 5th fader controls the overall volume.
- The Color Chooser allows you to switch between 4 timbres, for each Sound A and Sound B (for each pad).
- The Preset Section is divided into two banks:
- Chords: stores respective notes for each pad.
- Sounds: stores fader settings from the Sound Palette.
...each bank has 6 available presets at any one time (the left and right arrows below each bank allows you to access further presets). Each preset bank is independent of the other.
- The Interpolator is a special fader that will interpolate between preset values for all 60 fader states set in the Sound Palette. One can choose to interpolate from any two chosen presets.
- The Pad Section is made up of the four fader-keys, plus a Sustain Pedal switch.
And here's the Chord Maker, where one can assign a set of pitches for each pad...
And finally, a very rough video demo that grossly demonstrates how each pad can be set to play a variety of sounds...