Remote Audio Tips for Online Meetings and Classes

Since it looks like we might be continuing to meet online for a while, I’ve put together a few tips to consider as you think about your audio setup for Zoom classes, Skype meetings, and the like:

To boil it down:
-Wear headphones
-Mute yourself when you’re not talking
-Consider getting an external microphone
-Don’t run too many programs in the background
-Think about your internet bandwidth
-If all else fails, stop your video

Of course, face-to-face meeting and learning is still preferable, but we may as well try our best to make online communication as effective as possible for now!

Data-Driven Instruments

Traditional instruments make sound by transforming the energy from our interaction with them–striking, scraping, blowing–into acoustic energy. When we perform on electronic instruments, though, our energy is transformed into data which is used to control the different dimensions of sound.

I touch my iPad, it reports the position of my finger (in X and Y), and the I can use those two numbers to control music–dynamically changing pitch, volume, timbre or any number of other dimensions.

In this video (and the rest of the playlist), I dig into “data-driven instruments”, thinking about how the different paradigm of using a digital interface to create numbers that we then use as control information for dimensions of music (with a little demo in Max/MSP)

Here are some examples of data-driven instrument performances from other artists:

GameScenes

Just stumbled on this blog post about “Interesting Decisions” and “Plurality Spring.”

Game Art: Simon Hutchinson’s Interesting Decisions (2016)

Interesting Decisions (2016) is a “neon-packed walking-simulator,” and it is meant as an interactive commentary on the “homogenizing effects of technology” and “the new trends of video-game voyeurism” (Source). In 2016, Hutchinson performed the game live at the 2016 Kyma International Sound Symposium. In Leicester, Great Britain.

Thanks for the shout out!

 

Plurality Spring now available!

In order not to bury the lead, let me start by saying, Plurality Spring, a new game piece by me and Paul Turowski, is available for free download:

In the game, players use acoustic musical performance (via the computer’s microphone) to control robots exploring an orb in deep space.

 

This idea of a “game piece,” where an musical work emerges from performers playing within a set of rules, draws from historical models like John Zorn’s Cobra, or Christian Wolff’s For 1, 2, or 3 People. Since Plurality Spring is a digital video game, though, the performers’ live audio mixes with the in-game sound to create a kind of augmented reality performance piece (whether you perform in front of an audience or just on your own).

It’s been an interesting journey working on this piece and wonderful collaborating with Paul, who’s been working with these ideas for quite some time now. (My previous games feature dynamic or emergent musical ideas as an overall theme but aren’t specifically for musicians.)

One of the things that was particularly enjoyable about the collaboration was both of our willingness to be flexible about the game as it evolved.

The game was originally about this “kid” following a glowing orb. The players directly controlled the orb, but not the kid.

Here is a screenshot of the early prototype:

It’s cute! It’s neat! But without picking apart our whole creative process (maybe another time…), ultimately we ended up with something very different, and ultimately much better.

Our “kid” became three robots, and the orb is no longer something players chase, it’s a traversable planet. Our aesthetic ideas, too, became much more developed, and we ended up with a really pleasing balance of cute and “gritty” in our final visual and audio design.

Photo by Richard Smedley

We premiered the piece on March 24th, 2017 at the Open Circuit Festival in Liverpool, and now it’s available for everyone.

Play it on your own! Perform it for an audience! Share your videos!

We’re excited to hear what kind of AR music you create.

Reviews for “Beneath a Canopy of Angels…”

The Post Haste Reed Duo‘s debut album, “Beneath a canopy of angels… a River of Stars,” which includes my 2011 work, bioMechanics, has been getting some great press.

Check it out:

Post-Haste Reed Duo: Beneath a Canopy of Angels…a River of Stars

“Would that all new music and its performances were this tight and this serious!”

Interesting Decisions @ KISS2016

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This week, I’m settling in from my trip to Leicester, UK, where I attended the Kyma International Sound Symposium to premiere my new work, Interesting Decisions. The piece is a digital game that creates music through player interaction with a procedurally generated world. In the guise of a retro, neon-packed walking-simulator, Interesting Decisions engages with issues of the homogenizing effects of technology, as well raising questions about new trends of video-game voyeurism.

More thoughts on the Kyma symposium later (I’m still processing an fascinating remark from Christian Vogel where he said “I’ve started thinking of my studio like a network rather than a chain”).

For now, I have some catching up to do.

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At the end of my performance in Leicester, the game displayed a message that one could “download the game at simonhutchinson.com” a little prematurely.

Notice that I blame the game for this.

So, with apologies to the delay, here is the game (available in Web, Mac, Windows, and Linux versions):

By necessity, the audio and graphics have been simplified for this standalone version. The piece I performed at the symposium sent OSC messages from the game in Unity to Kyma, and, in order to do a “anyone can play” distribution, I had to bounce out the audio and bring them into Unity, so there’s less nuance in the real-time audio, but I’m sure this is a compromise that game developers must make all the time.

If you’re interested in the original work, you can see a video of a “studio” performance here:

New Media Art at the ICC

On the way home from spending a month in Northern Japan, I had a chance to visit Tokyo’s NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC), a new media art gallery that focuses on the intersection of science and art.

ICC

They’re currently showing their Open Space 2016: Media Conscious exhibition, which they describe as “a beginner’s guide to media art”–perfect for me.

While most of my works for the last two years have been concerned with new media art and the engagement of humans and technology, I still feel like a bit green when it comes to intermedia works, and perhaps a beginner’s guide is just what I need, especially as several of my upcoming works (including Interesting Decisions, premiering this September at KISS2016) tread a fine line between music and intermedia.

The Open Space had a great number of fun and thought-provoking works, but three were standouts for me.

The first was Fujimoto Yukio’s Still Life. Unsure of what I was getting myself into, I was ushered into the Center’s anechoic chamber, where there were a number of ticking clocks situated around the room.

anechoic

The clocks were slightly out of sync, so their clicks, emphasized by the silent environment, had the effect of moving around the room in surround sound. Sitting there silently the eight minutes flew by, and before I knew it, there was a tap on the door letting me know my time was up.

Next, was my first VR experience in The Mirror, a collaborative work by Fuji Naotaka, GRINDER-MAN, and evala.

The piece aims to dissociate the participant from the sense of self, by, in the VR world, delaying the visuals of one’s movement, transforming you into another person, and rapidly moving you through different virtual spaces.

mirror

While I’m not sure that I lost my sense of self (and I was totally game to do so), the piece was consistently engaging, and I was happy to be along for the ride.

I’m definitely more excited to see future VR art possibilities than rollercoaster experiences.

Finally, while relatively low-tech, I was impressed with Nellow Akamatsu’s “Chijinkinkutsu,” a room filled with dozens of glasses of water with pins floating on the top. Small electromagnetic coils were placed on the sides of the glasses, and these coils intermittently drew the pins to the sides of the glass for a satisfying “ding.”

One of the things I find especially appealing about all of these works is the clarity of what the artist is trying to convey.

It serves as a reminder that, in creating music, composers often run the risk of focusing on the “architecture” of music (understandable given our educational training), and neglecting actual content.

It’s always wonderful to rediscover the potential of art for expression and communication of the ineffable.