Walter Fabeck with Nina Silvert > “GAiA” (Gestural Activity into Audio)

We’ve been at STEIM for a short residency to develop our work following the first performance in May this year (2010) which we gave at the Amsterdam Conservatory (see May blog post).

In the time since then, in London, we have been exploring some new ways of using the limb-mounted Wii-motes, including investigations of the most suitable audio engines and software (currently Ableton with Max-for-Live, also the classic GRM Tools), and have added the hand-held accelerometer capabilities of a RealPlayer Pool Cue (PS2) which Nina is using as a surrogate sword to perform an adaptation of a traditional Malaysian sword-fighting technique.

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During this week’s residency Jun showed us his newly developed Arduino-based accelerometers. We’d like to use them to replace the Wii-motes and RealPlayer system for the following reasons: avoidance of bluetooth interference from audience’s mobile phones; ease of connectivity; range and ergonomic adaptability including attachment of finger-mounted reed switches.

We have also explored getting data readings of continuous acceleration via the type of sustained activity incorporated in Nina’s martial arts-based movement style. This involved investigating the use of JunXion in ways new to us. Our aim is to make the movement create the sound’s envelope rather than triggering sounds or using planes of movement as potentiometers in the way we did in our prior work.

We found this to be a complex but important challenge, and we are still addressing the use of JunXion’s timers to create a dynamic sonic trace decaying after a movement has ceased. We’re very grateful to Frank for his patient help with this!

From this, deeper understanding of the timer functions has also enabled us to design continuous parameter change via the RealPlayer buttons, and we were able to get a new piece underway as a result of this and the other developments.

Overall, our new research has caused us to re-evaluate our sonic palette and incorporate more subtle and complex handling of soundfiles, for example in fine control of loop boundaries. During the week we have enjoyed some time and space to really think about the type of instrument we are developing, in both software and hardware, and also made a useful start with the actual souds for the new piece, based mainly on Nina’s voice with a significant live sampling element, which is our next area of development.

Kristina gave us some useful reflection on the issues of using our lightweight plastic gaming device as a model for a more massive real sword with its greater inertia. She suggested adding weights. Jun’s new Arduino board however could be attached to an actual sword due to its compact dimensions.

To sum up, we now have the blueprint of a system where we have an occasional hand-held instrument to augment up to four limb-worn accelerometers which we had before, and this has helped us start new work to perform next year. We’d like to thank all at STEIM for this useful residency and Frank, Jun and Kristina especially for their interest and input.

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