DON'T MAKE PLANS


PROJECT OVERVIEW

Don't Make Plans was the final output of my first Master's thesis (see below), an in-depth project involving circuit bent instruments, Arduino micro controllers, and many Max patches. I hacked a collection of kids toys and wired them up to arduino microcontrollers via relay switches and 4066 CMOS chips. From here, I could control the hacks from a computer. I created of series of Max patches which communicated with the instruments via the arduino boards. Each Max patch was different, but each could trigger sounds from the instruments and affect some of the circuit bends I had installed. Patches were designed to play autonomously.

The piece at the top of the page - Don't Make Plans - was recorded live; the computer played the instruments while I monitored the mix, adjusted physical parameters of the instruments, and altered Max patches on the fly. 

Below is an example video which shows some of the instruments used in the project so a listener can begin to connect sounds they hear in 'Don't Make Plans' to sources. The first half of the video focusses on individual toys (instruments) and how they interface with the Max/MSP program. The latter half of the video shows snippets from rehearsals leading up to the production of 'Don't Make Plans'. 


THESIS

Completed in the summer of 2011 as part of the MSc Sound Design program at the University of Edinburgh, my master's thesis documents and critiques a technical project which spanned a 16-week period. The project comprised the development of a unique composition system. Above you can listen to a piece of music borne out of this unconventional system.

I have posted the abstract below, and you can read the full thesis here: A Sound Designer's Car Boot Sale; Composition And Performance Software For Plastic Toys

 

ABSTRACT.

Using electronic switches, in conjunction with micro-controllers, circuit-bent instruments can be controlled and operated from a computer running the necessary software. Can a system be designed that, using this software, plays instruments of this type in such a way as to fulfill their sonic potential? Furthermore, can this same system aid in the composition and real-time performance of electronic music?

This document details the design and development of a computer-assisted composition system which uses Max/MSP as a control surface for circuit-bent toys. Complex and varied compositions are formed in real-time as the program systematically and simultaneously triggers sound from a collection of these unique instruments; the output from which can serve as a live performance of electronic music.

The following endeavours to illustrate the genesis of the project before providing a detailed account of the design process, discussing and justifying key decisions with regard to their impact on the author’s compositional aspirations. A final reflection will be made on a piece of electronic music borne out of this system, critiquing its musical integrity, and evaluating the role of the system as a compositional tool.