The Final day of the physical computing was based on creating a custom made instrument based on the knowledge and experience gained from the past three days. We had to figure out if we wanted to make one instrument, which could be played across the two campuses, or if we would choose to make two different instruments that could complement each other.
From Trondheim, Eigil and Shreejay suggested the idea on using a contact microphone as an input for the LittleBits and producing beats and percussive elements in real time. The idea was to incorporate the soundwalk and circuit sniffing techniques for real-time sound sampling into the Percampler. This idea perfectly fit the analog-digital hybrid concept, and while performers in Oslo played with the digital sampler, performers in Trondheim supplied the analog sounds, noises, and feedback by utilising the contact mic, cymbals, and an amplifier connected to the LittleBits delay effect to produce and alter sounds through analog means. The instrument was packaged together in a portable design as can be seen here:
Besides the analog effects, the analog nature of the Percampler was based upon the real-time circuit sniffing and soundwalk techniques - the idea of finding sounds and interferences in everyday objects. In Trondheim, Eigil and Shreejay used a contact mic as the input, a cymbal and other items to produce sounds, as well as a portable speaker built into the “body” of the Percampler to produce feedback and noise.
Trouble in Paradise:
As it worked so well to connect one input source to the Little Bits kit, we thought that it could be interesting to also use the “handwaving smartphone-instrument” to the LittleBits chain. Sadly, not only Mari’s phone wouldn’t collaborate, but none of our phones! We used some time to troubleshoot, but figured out that this was a waste of time. However, maybe it wouldn’t alter the quality of our instrument to bring an extra chain of sound, sometimes it’s for the best to keep things simple.
Digital Sampler in-depth:
The under-the-hood elements of the sampler include variable delay time mapped to the Z and X buttons of the keyboard (X increases the delay time by 0.2 seconds, Z decreases it by the same amount), the ability to reverse sounds by pressing R (works great for turning percussive samples with long “tails” into swelling drones), the ability to loop-play sounds to create rhythmic collages by pressing L, as well as the ability to play the computer keyboard like a real piano, changing the pitch of the melodic sounds by affecting the playback rate. If you want to change the sound of you keyboard, just press the up/down/left/right arrow to select one of the four melodic sounds (provided you set the sounds accordingly when you run the example below).
Dmitry had used a lot of time on mapping the keyboard, and it worked perfectly to use this solution. Thus the group decided to not spend time mapping MIDI to control the instrument. After all - we had made an instrument we were very satisfied with - and it was possible to play it by multiple people at the same time!
The Percampler is an instrument playing on the ambiguity of technology and the fluidity between the digital and analog worlds. It can be realised as a simple 4-channel audio gate and built into a digital app or a VST plugin, or it can be incorporated into an analog modular synthesizer setup, with tangible controls and analog sound sources. It is very open for interpretation, and this is what makes it so fun to play with!
As a closing remark, big thanks to Anna Xambó for an incredibly engaging and FUN week! We learned a lot, built our own prototype, and had a great time learning, doing, and learning by doing.