BATHUMP (pronounce, Bah-thump), my BEAT project for my Interactive Media, uses MAX/MSP, a visual-object oriented sound programming language to create a variation of the step-synthesizer. The BEAT project was ideally supposed to be built on the foundation of our previous project, the BEEP project, which involved creating a patch (aka, MAX/MSP program) to synthesize sound upon the striking of a key. Consequently, Bathump discovered a different place of origin. A consistent theme, however, was the focus on creating a convenient user interface, or at least one that was simple to use. Though ideas such as keyboard controls and hot keys did not ultimately surface within this project, Bathump’s construction leaves ample room for future modifications. Controls such as volume, keyboard triggers, and MIDI inputs are some of the potential ideas.
The project focused on producing more than sound simultaneously. This involves calling multiple objects at once. Though Paul helped sections understand how to use the poly~ object, I found calling separate instances of a single patch wave generator to be more straightforward and clear. This design was to give the user the ability to individually manipulate the sound he/she is creating/layering. With adjustable options from base octaves, limited randomness, softness/hardness of sound, attack/decay time, and etc, users can make a beat note (short attack/decay), drone notes (long attack/decay), or anything in between.
The project contains 4 separate synthesized tracks, with an additional kick track that can be triggered at any interval. What was so appealing about this project for me was constructing a system where limited randomness and simple algorithms could produce musical and rhythmic variety that is not necessarily easy/convenient to humanely do. With normal step sequencers, there is the danger of feeling “too repetitive,” where measures become very obvious and the repetition point is easily identifiable. By generating random values during a session, an organic performance results.
The patch is still relatively new and there is great potential for this fundamental patch to grow into something bigger. After presenting the patch to the class, one classmate proposed that every classmate use this patch in an performance, using only one channel as opposed to four+kick. This idea is intriguing, though the patch was not designed for more than four tracks, and if there were to be more than four, chaos would ensue. The more individuals involved, the patch would require more tweaking to limit the range of each individual instrument, thereby unifying the entire group’s sound. The program was also not optimized for live-performance; it if were to be used in performance, an improved user interface would be required. Food for thought.