Archive for September, 2008

The Wiitles make Mix

The Wiitles are my performance art group that uses Nintendo Wiimotes as instruments.  This month the ubiquitous audio nerd magazine Mix writes about us. The Wiitles use Wiimotes to control the software Max/MSP, another name ubiquitous among my audio nerd brethren.

The Wiitles have been making music, videos, mocumentaries, and other conceptual mayhem for about six months now, and we have enjoyed a fair amount of recognition.  Despite this, there is an unfair amount of people who either a) think the entire thing is a joke, or b) think that the entire thing is a sham (a.k.a. we actually make all of our music not with Nintendo Wiimotes controlling Max, but with ‘real instruments’ and then randomly wave Wiimotes around for show… shame them).  I am here to say that, while a large portion of The Wiitles is, of course, a joke (e.g. the outfits, the acts, the drummer), the Wiimotes really are used as the instruments and we do take our music (mostly) very seriously.  However, in order to shush the unbelievers, The Wiitles will soon be creating a video that shows the group’s entire creative process, from building the simplest of Max patches all the way through to slipping on our lab coats.  I will, of course, be writing about that when the time comes.  In the mean time, if you have not been initiated into Wiitlemania you can visit our Myspace page ( or check out the videos that I have included here.

And for those of you interested in the nitty-gritty technical aspects of how the Wiitles create songs…when we play live, we have one instance of Max/MSP running on one single MacBook. The four different Wiimotes each has its own subpatch, one for each instrument, each working in its own unique way.   For the drum patch, each button on both the Wiimote and it’s corresponding nunchuck trigger different drum samples (wav files).  The bass patch works the same, only the individual samples are made by synthesis from scratch.  The guitar patch triggers wav files, but is unique in that movement by the accelerometer allows the triggered sample to play, so the player must actually “strum” the nunchuck in order for the sample to be triggered.  The vocal patch is essentially an effects processor. The buttons on the Wiimote activate different effects (e.g., delay, octave, harmonizer, and for the song ‘Robot Love’, a vocoder) in the vocal patch.  Each of these patches only receives information from an individual Wiimote.  The only other equipment we use is a Firewire interface that takes the sound from the MacBook to the PA via a single mono out (we could do stereo if we wanted, but none of the PAs we have used so far have been stereo).  All of the mixing is done in Max/MSP.



Before I jump in and start talking about my art, I thought I’d take a little time to tell a little more about myself.  I hate Republicans.  It’s not so much that I hate Republcans as people, my mom, for example, is a really kind and nurturing person, it’s just that I hate the characteristics of a person that make them think Republican… I hate their “Republicanism”.  A point of pride for me is that, whenever I’ve been chided into a political argument by a Republican, I’ve never lost an argument without the Republican arguer eventually succumbing to a perceived loss of rationality (“(fill in blank) just frighten me” or “What are you, French?”).  I can usually, to my mind, at least, take the logic high ground.  However, last night, I quickly fell from atop my high ground into a gaping hole.  I went over to a friend’s house that I am scoring an animation with (more on this animation later) and, while we were setting up microphones to record guitar in his make shift studio, we turned on the Republican National Convention for some comic relief.  There I was, laughing it up at everything any one of those “inferior intellects” had to say when, suddenly, something happened that immediately caused me to fall.  A close-up on the TV focused solely on a certain senator’s wife that also happens to have been my fifth-grade teacher.  This woman, who was always kind to my family and I, had, some years ago, caught me in the act of my most heinous moral violation yet.  “Brandy’s Booger Brigade” the name of my comic book collaboration with a boy with the last name of Strange.  And when said fifth grade teacher had her little talk with us later concerning “Brandy’s Booger Brigade”, and told us all about how said Brandy had been badly abused as a child by her own parents and, quite frankly, was still not being treated very well by her own grandparents, I knew my life would never be the same.  So every time I have seen my fifth grade teacher since then, I turn into that same shamed boy on the day that he realized that “Brandy’s Booger Brigade” was far from funny.  Every time I see her, my logical high ground falls to pieces.  She could probably tell me that George Bush is a genius and I’d have no choice but to agree.  So last night, after seeing her face, seemingly looking just like she did when I was in the fifth grade, my mood changed to a somber one as I unrolled some XLRs and set up the stereo condensers.  My next post will definitely consist of nothing but art, starting with my own performance art group, “The Wiitles”, who are being featured in Mix magazine next month.