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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Current Research

So, 15 years later I've dragged the dusty parts of the original Sound Square out of the garage and I'm getting it working again. Right now I'm trying to find parts to replace the Apple II computer that was used in the original project as the Control Voltage (CV) to MIDI interface.

I've found some promising stuff:

I'm thinking it would be really cool to hook the Square up to my Alesis Micron and to other synths, as well as to Max/MSP and Jitter. Not to mention it's a great excuse to finally start building that modular analog synthesizer. After all, making voltages into music is what modular analog synthesis is all about.


The Sound Square – Making music with gestures

Concept / programming / performance: Josh Boughey
Hardware development / electronics: Bill Tremblay

My family traveled by highway across America quite frequently when I was a child. Sometimes I’d pass the time, when I tired of reading, by squinting through my fingers at the landscape rippling by, fingers like tiny legs running along the horizon, dancing and grooving to the rhythm of light-poles and dark fences. Usually the radio was playing and the rhythms merged into a symphony of sound, movement, and light.

I was always fascinated by sensors – the first one I ever saw in action was at a beachside restaurant, where the urinals were giant clam shells – and the automatic flushing action was activated by an infrared sensor as you stepped away. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time, but I’ll never forget standing there putting my hand in front of that sensor again and again to watch the water pour down the wall. So began my desire to have that ability, to make something happen by simply moving my fingers, my arms, my body.

To me it was always a struggle to master an instrument, to remember the fingerings on my clarinet, to convert the squiggle and lines on the page into music. I was required to master these new languages in order to communicate in music, but deep inside I felt I already knew music – I’d been hearing it and seeing it all my life. Yet I was shut out from the place I loved most because my fingers were clumsy, because I didn’t have (or so I thought at the time) a natural musical ability.

What if I could create my music by dancing, rather than simply dancing to the music?

In the Fall of 1992, I entered the SIM program at MasArt and told my teacher about my idea for a room criss-crossed with sensors that could make music. He immediately introduced me to Bill Tremblay, who was a TA. Amazingly, Bill had in his garage a row of infrared sensors from an interactive sculpture he’d built the previous year. Using the leftovers from this project Bill and I collaborated to create the Sound Square.

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The Sound Square is a prototype and proof-of-concept, towards the eventual development of the Sound Cube, which will add a thrid dimension. In addition to the addition of a Y-axis, the Sound Cube will hopefully incorporate Interactive Music Software (Max/MSP) to interpret and react to the MIDI stream coming in from the Sensor Array. There is also something new from the Makers of Max called Jitter which does something similar to Max but with video.

The Sound Square project consists of a Sensor Array, a Control Voltage (CV) to MIDI Converter, and a MIDI Player or instrument.

[Insert video]

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