Monday, November 26, 2012

it's alive: sounds from the gray goo 3.0

Here is my first foray into live electronic music, something I've only faked-dabbled in since 2009 as part of my Sounds from the Gray Goo series, and I'm already crossing my fingers, throwing salt over my shoulder, and making sacrifices for the Electronic Music Gods1 so that it will not die in public in front of excited teenagers when it premieres this Saturday. (Or later on when I produce a joint electro-acoustic recital with Spencer Lambright in April.)

Long story short, Nancy Gamso, a woodwind specialist, asked me to write a piece for alto flute and soprano saxophone to be performed at Ohio Wesleyan University's Woodwind Day so high school students can see and hear these two instruments being performed…by the same person. I thought using a laptop to combine these two mismatched instruments would help meld them together. I have the alto flute creating a minimalist accompaniment using delay, and then halfway through the piece, the accompaniment plays backwards while the soprano saxophone emits a lyrical melody on top.

Yes, that's the best idea I could come up with.

Since my Max programming skills are…lacking…at best,2 I hope to show my internal frustration and crying in despair progression in creating this Max patch. (In other words, for those who are afraid of programming in Max, you can do it! It's pretty enough so that you won't get terribly confused!3)

So, to start off, I realized my version of Max would not recognize any external mic I plugged in. Or even my internal mic. After two days of cursing at the DSP Status Window, I realized it was not my fault. Two days later. (Did I mention TWO FREAKING DAYS LATER?!)

Afterward, I made some progress.

Oops indeed. I forgot to rename my buffer, which was initially named "helpme." I wonder why.

More progress followed.

And finally, I now have the patch shown at the top of this post. The patch works perfectly on my computer, but only on my computer. I gave Nancy a standalone patch for her computer, which works fine except it will not recognize any audio input. Sob. Anyone know how to fix this? She has Mac OS Version 10.7.5. In the meantime, what do the Electronic Music Gods like as sacrifices? Sheep? Pigeons? Twinkies?

1. Yes, I'm very aware that the Electronic Music Gods are fickle deities similar to the Baseball Gods, who were not kind to two of my favorite National League teams this year.
2. I will say this: I will (and should) give myself credit for (eventually) creating working patches that pass the compiler's muster. Or semi-working patches. (I seriously hope this statement doesn't anger the Electronic Music Gods. [See above footnote.])
3. I think I personally need sleek programming layouts to code properly. Like, having stuff in Presentation Mode outlined in pink. Yes, that's both girly and helpful, unlike the visuals in Pd-extended. (N.B. I don't mean that to sound insulting, and, in fact, I hope to learn this program someday, especially if I want to teach my students computer music programming. Also on this note, it's not like we need girly programming language to code well.)

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