December 10, 2008

What I've Been Up To In The Past Couple Of Weeks

If you've been wondering why there have been no updates in the past couple of weeks, there are two reasons:

First of all, I'm off to Palestine in a fortnight to meet up with Daz who's over there working on this, so I've been busy trying to learn Arabic. (Unfortunately, the Arabic I've been learning is "classic" Arabic which seems to be rather different from what they actually speak on the streets of the West Bank, so it may not end up being that useful.)

Secondly, after coming across Mobispray, a mad mobile phone light-painting project, and discovering that the genius behind it, Jurgen Scheible, had tutorials on music programming for mobiles; I decided to build my very own mobile phone theremin using Python for Symbian S60. (That's the operating system for phones like the Nokia N95.)

Unfortunately, no one's yet built a usable module in Python to dynamically queue sounds to the audio buffer on these phones, so the best I could come up with was something that used the accelerometer to cycle through a series of prebuilt single-note midi files as I waved the phone up and down. The end result sounded like a skittish cat prancing across a piano keyboard... Cosmovox, it wasn't.

After next failing to create a gesture-based drum machine, I turned my attention to something more modest that would work and that I might actually be able to use on stage - a phone-key sampler pad.

It's not rocket science (and its no doubt all been done before), but its a damn good interface for this sort of thing... and its a lot of fun!

At present, I'm only loading predefined samples but, when I get up to speed on this Symbian stuff, I'll incorporate multiple banks of samples that can be pulled from anywhere on the phone and live recordings to specific "keys"; and I'll package it all up in an app that you can download if you like.

(NB: Where you see a red number on the key display in the video, that's a sample being looped; where it's yellow, that's a single-shot.)

Posted by Warren at 02:09 AM