February 2, 2017 by

“Electronic Music Production and Performance” w/ Brian Dillon from Meltybrains?, week 2

This is the second in my series of of two posts about the 2-day workshop on “Electronic Music production and Performance” by Brian Dillon from Meltybrains?, hosted in Block-T in Dublin 8. You can catch up with my musings on day 1 here!

Day 2 covered two main topics, Real Time Audio Processing, and Interaction Design. We did loads more with our live sets in Ableton (I had lots of questions about things I’d not been able to figure out when I was doing my homework during the previous week, Brian ably answered them), and the day culminated in a short performance of each of our Ableton sets, with live elements.


To show what’s right at your fingertips in the world of real-time audio processing, Brian talked us through the most commonly-used effects in Ableton, with quick demos to show how and why we might want to use them. For more inspiration, we checked out some videos – like Snarky Puppy’s Shaun Martin working the Vocoder:

Most of the day was dedicated to Interaction Design – which is, well, designing an interaction!
It’s *not* building an instrument, or designing a sound, but putting together sounds with movements that suit the sound, via an interface. Brian explained that it doesn’t need to be complicated, and you don’t need to be a technical expert – you can easily build on, hack, and adapt work others have done to make something new!

We got a quick course in Max MSP – a virtual programming language, where you can connect objects with virtual patch cords to create interactive sounds, graphics, and effects (with its drag and drop interface and hand-holding contextual parameter help and tips, it’s not as hard as it sounds).

Max MSP 101: Generating a simple sine wave

Max MSP 101: Generating a simple sine wave

Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead’s a fan, here’s a video of him rocking his own Max MSP patches with chaotic “stuttering” effects:

Part of interaction design is learning to see that the world is full of possibilities, that there are unlimited ways of capturing input through movement, and turning it into sound output. We watched “J.Views playing Teardrop with vegetables” – an inspirational, hilarious, and strangely moving rendition of Massive Attack’s “Teardrops” played on fruit and vegetables:

The magic here is in the Makey Makey a 6 switch keyboard, set up so different sounds and effects are triggered when the circuits are completed – in this instance, when J. Views touches the produce!
Brian had a Makey Makey in the class so we had a go of an interactive demo, each of us holding an alligator clip attached to one of the 6 switches, a sound was triggered each time the circuit was completed with a hi-five!

Makey Makey

Makey Makey

We had a look at the Tether – originally built for a video golf simulator, Andrew Gross at Princeton saw the potential of this controller’s two retractable tethers, and wrote a program to use it to control virtual instruments in 3D space, mapping pitch and volume controls on the the tethers’ X, Y and Z axes.

Tether - made for golfers, hacked by musicians

Tether – made for golfers, hacked by musicians

There’s a freely available Tether patch for Max MSP, so anyone with a tether and a little bit of time can adapt these techniques and make them work for their own sound projects.

Finally, at the end of the day, we played through everyone’s Ableton Live sets, mapping elements of the sounds onto a instruments – MIDI keyboard, vocals, a mic’d up sax, an acoustic guitar with a contact mic stuck on it, an drums. We used non-instruments too: cups hit hit with spoons, knives being clacked together, with the sounds processed in real time – and played a version of each of our tracks, with Brian doing most of the heavy lifting. They sounded great, and it was really a lot of fun.

And for anyone who wants to hear – here’s my first go at an Ableton Live track – I (proudly?) present “wonky 02”!

Need any help with powering synths, old consoles, pedals, some old hard drive or anything else? Let me know, I’ll help! Drop me a line at caroline AT myvolts DOT com, or DM me on Twitter, I’m https://twitter.com/carolinezoids

Caroline is a leading authority on power supply adaptors. Although there's not a lot of competition, admittedly. She's been at MyVolts for more than 10 years, is Director of Operations, and works in the Dublin office.

One thought on ““Electronic Music Production and Performance” w/ Brian Dillon from Meltybrains?, week 2

  1. Pingback: “Electronic Music Production and Performance” w/ Brian Dillon from Meltybrains?, week 1 | Shameless Plug

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