Now that we all live in cubicles, the machines and communication protocols connecting us assume even greater significance. If you don’t know the right way of slipping notes between cubicles – you miss out on all the parties. And so this week – a look at some of the ways electronic musicians, artists & tinkerers get their machines talking to each other.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface
MIDI is a system designed to transmit information between electronic musical instruments, allowing computers, synthesizers, sound cards and drum machines to control one another, and to exchange system information. MIDI allows one person to control many machines such as a drum machine, keyboard or computer with just the one MIDI compatible device. And with MIDI timecode, which has become the standard for digital music synchronization, many musicians can play on connected machines that will keep ‘sync’ with each other.
MIDI file formats
MIDI information can be collected and stored on a computer disk (along with timing information), where it is called a MIDI file. A quick googling for “.mid” files will soon find your HD amassing a range of pop hits, whose parameters you can then play with in an audio sequencing program. A step further down the track, MIDI-Karaoke (which uses the “.kar” file extension) files are an “unofficial” extension to the MIDI Standard, and add synchronized lyrics to standard MIDI files. Many players are available that display the lyrics synchronized with the music in “follow-the-bouncing-ball” fashion, essentially turning any PC into a Karaoke machine.
AUDIO To MIDI Conversion
Why? Well, if you are able to convert the sounds and rhythms of audio to MIDI, you could use this MIDI information to play synthesised MIDI sounds in the same way as your audio sounded, use it as a way of editing sonic ideas, or providing parameters for controlling music with. IntelliScore Polyphonic does this by analysing sounds in a microphone in real-time, and converting them to MIDI, “automatically detecting chord names, key, meter, and tempo” and creating MIDI files suitable for playback, conversion to ringtones, notation, and editing. ( www.mp3-converter.biz/intelliscore-polyphonic )
Much inter-machine fun can be had with MIDI parameters from one machine controlling another – eg a drum machine controlling the tempo of video clips on another PC with a MIDI interface. Unfortunately this MIDI communication happens in a different way to the way information is passed around on the internet, or computer networks – in small ‘packets’ at a time. This means that online MIDI jamming is quite tricky, but there are a few ‘translator’ or ‘conversion’ apps around for PC ( www.musiclab.com/products/rpl_info.htm ) & for OS X ( www.grantedsw.com/imidi/index.shtml ), which will eventually allow jamming over a network ( & without a need for external MIDI devices or interfaces ). Other alternatives for online jammers include custom-made applications such www.resrocket.com and DASE by Traksewt (www.elefanttraks.com ) which even allows jamming over a 56k modem. DASE works by just sending the manipulation information not the sound files, once you’ve both got the same sets of samples on your machines to jam with.
Open Sound Control
OSC is a relatively new protocol which is generally considered superior to MIDI, and has been implemented in software like SuperCollider, Max/MSP, Pure Data, Reaktor, Csound and increasingly more applications. OSC also allows communication over ethernet networks and the internet, which makes it ideal for computer based jammers. Straight outta Berkley >> www.cnmat.berkeley.edu/OpenSoundControl
Plug N Play
And speaking of connecting machines – there’s a weekly Melb event called ‘plug n play’ where jammers can indeed plug n play audio & video –
The Kent st Hotel, 201 Smith st Collingwood every Thu. ( Email oz_hq @ micromusic.net for more info about playing). Or you can google your way to find it, and also come across something like the ‘Matrix Vibe’ – apparently the world’s first USB powered vibrator!
“The first 10 speed Micro-controller computer powered vibe on the planet! No Batteries needed! Just plug it into your laptop, home PC’s USB port with the included USB Cable and you’re on your way! AcidDVD is taking “Plug and Play” to a whole new level! Become one with your computer as you plug and play your Matrix Vibe into your USB port with the included USB cable. Reach orgasmic heights as your body pulsates through 10 different speeds and sensations, all at the touch of your finger. No batteries required.”