Posts Tagged ‘ Ableton Live ’

Wiitles on CNN

Been so slack about posting here lately that I somehow forgot to post about The Wiitles being featured on CNN.com. Totally strange seeing us on the front page of a major news organization’s web site for two days. Here it is below (the comments are worth a few reads alone):

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Reflections on PULSE

My band The Wiitles were fortunate enough to perform alongside some truly amazing artists in Savannah Georgia this past weekend. The annual PULSE Art and Technology Festival held at the Telfair Museum has come a long way since I first attended three years ago. Although always intriguing, this year, all stops were pulled and some big time technology artists such as Shih Chieh Huang, “fashion geek” Diana Eng, musical performances by the League of Electronic Musical Robots (L.E.M.U.R), and many others whose M.O. is combining art with electronics and technology.

Upon arrival at the museum, my immediate thought was that we were in over our heads. The lobby of the was taken over by a gigantic sculpture by Shih Chieh Huang which had breathtaking looks and size.

Even better, to my surprise, was the fact that attendants encouraged the attendees to get inside of the sculpture and play around. I think that there is not enough art that allows for play and touch, so I was extremely pleased with this experience. Below is myself and the newest addition to The Wiitles, Matt Gilbert, playing in the plastic:

Also by Shih Chieh Huang, my favorite exhibit from the festival was Counterillumination, which consisted of “kinetic, glowing, “breathing,” environments of low tech electronic creatures inspired by the evolutionary adaptations of life forms that reside in inhospitable environments, for example the deep ocean. The artist states “I create analogous ecosystems in my installations and populate them with organic living things made from common, everyday objects…household appliances, zip ties, water tubes, lights, computer parts, cheap motorized toys and the like.” In Huang’s work “computer cooling fans are repurposed for locomotion, Tupperware serves as a skeletal framework, guitar tuners are rewired to detect sound, and automatic night lights become a sensory input.” Huang’s almost hallucinatory environments have been featured at 01SJ Biennial at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Taiwan pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennalle and in numerous other solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Huang was also an artist in residence at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where he studied bioluminescence in sea creatures and insects.” (taken from http://telfair.org/current-exhibitions/shih-chieh-huang/). One of the coolest things I have ever seen. Watch this video for more: http://messymix.com/showvideo/twilight.php

Most of the trip was devoted to really hard work, however, and so I missed some things that sound mind-blowing, including a musical performance by a league of robots (L.E.M.U.R), Zemi 17, who combines traditional Indonesian music and storytelling with a modern DJ sensibility. Another that I regret missing is Diana Eng “Fashion Geek”, whose worn technology I thought would be perfect for some future Wiitles shows.

The Wiitles now live in separate towns (in fact are considering becoming separate franchises in the vein of Blue Man Group) so preparing for this show was no easy task. Matt Gilbert and I basically came up with a set and a skeleton for programming and running the set. And, I think, mainly to avoid the problem of too many chefs, the rest of the group went along with it.

But even with those time and stress savers, there was still enough work to keep us busy 16 hours a day from Thursday til Saturday. We had redesigned The Wiitles set and sound from scratch basically. Whereas other shows have relied entirely on Max/MSP, we used Ableton Live on every song in this set, with Max primarily used a way to allow for more flexibility in the way that the Wii remotes communicated with Ableton. Also different was the way in which we brought the Bluetooth data in from the Wii remotes. We had been using a Max patch called aka.wiiremote to convert our Bluetooth data into MIDI, but recently had started using Osculator, which seems to lend much more control and sensitivity when operating the Wii remotes. These devices have already changed the sound and scope of The Wiitles for the better. However, getting them together and introducing all this stuff to the rest of the band over the course of two days was quite a chore.

In all honesty, I thought that we were doomed several times throughout rehearsals. Tensions were running high for a group that plays Wii remotes and mockumentaries. But this gig felt special, especially after seeing the amazing art we were performing alongside. We were lucky enough to be able to rehearse in the enormous Studio A at The Wiitles’s alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design. We were also lucky enough to be friends, and to have done this enough times to where now we can ignore or at least accept the stress and get our work done.

No one knew what to expect as far as the type and number of crowd that would show up. The Wiitles have had success in getting press. We’ve been written about in Mix magazine, in South Magazine, in Connect Savannah, oddly, in VSD from France. And the few performances we’ve done have been well attended. But we were usually on riding someone else’s back. We had a lot of people at the GDX conference, but they were there for other reasons besides The Wiitles. But, right at our 3 o’clock start time, the masses started piling in. All in all, the show was a resounding success. The people in charge at the Telfair informed us that we brought the largest crowd ever to their auditorium. The 225 seat auditorium was standing room only, and they eventually had to turn some poor families away at the door.

The thing that surprised me the most was the number of kids that showed up and, even more surprising, the number of kids who stayed through the whole show, and asked questions after the show. And good, encouraging questions like, “Where can we buy songs”. Our soon to be remedied answer, “Nowhere yet”. So stay tuned for announcements about The Wiitles children’s album.

Interview Posted

Below is a link to the full interview I did with Connect Savannah concerning all things Wiitles. The Wiitles welcome any and all comparisons to Devo:

Connect Savannah

Connect Savannah Interview

On January 30th, The Wiitles have been asked to play the PULSE Art and Technology Festival (click for further details) at the Telfair Museum in Savannah Georgia. I conducted an email interview with Jim Morekis, the editor of Connect Savannah, to discuss The Wiitles and promote the event. Below are his questions and my answers where I tried to briefly sum up Wiitles philosophy and performance techniques:

1. Is the Wii hardware itself actually vital, or could you theoretically have built open-source trigger mechanisms for the audio?

I should begin by pointing out that the actual Wii console does not come into play forThe Wiitles. I think that is often the assumption. We only use the Wii controllers, and we use them to manipulate other software (and hardware) outside of the Wii. The way that the controllers are used has evolved along with the band. At first we used the controllers to trigger samples and synthesis inside of a program called Max/MSP, a graphical development environment for creating music and manipulating video. More recently we have implemented other programs such as Ableton Live, Osculator, and several drum and sound samplers, and control all of them with the Wii remotes.

2. My understanding is that WAV files are triggered by the Wii. Do I understand this to mean that you have a limited number of chords/notes/sounds available at any given time through the remotes? Or are you capable of modulating tone/pitch during performance?

Triggering WAV files is just one of the things we can do with the Wii controllers. We

also trigger loops and can control the way that the samples and loops are modulated in an infinite number of ways. It may be that when the only function of the Wii controllers was to trigger samples, The Wiitles were a bit of a gimic. These days, however, with the ability to modulate our audio with the accelerometer (the device inside the Wii controller that measures acceleration that can be used to sense orientation, vibration and shock), the way we perform is totally unique. The Wii controllers allow us to manipulate audio in ways that could not be done with more traditional MIDI controllers. They also allow us to move around during a performance, anywhere within fifty feet of the computer running our programs. Not being tied to cables or a keyboard is another example of how the Wii Remotes allow for a different kind of performance.

3. Is it wrong of me to say that the chief musical skill involved would actually be percussive in nature, because of the rhythmic triggers of the remotes?

On some songs you would be absolutely correct. We play the Wii remotes just like any

other band would play their instruments… every note is played in real-time by triggering the samples. For other numbers, where modulation becomes the primary mode of performance, that would be incorrect to say. The songs we play are often times a combination of triggering loops and samples, and manipulating those loops and samples. Maybe one person will do the triggering and the other three will perform modulations or vice versa.

4. Is each band member evolving a musical persona, i.e., is the one who takes most of the “leads” beginning to mimic the persona of a lead guitarist, etc?

We’re all pretty nerdy guys. I’m not sure that any of us have any stereotypical “rock star” traits in us… although Ian Vargo (drummer) certainly tries.

5. How do you decide who plays what when?

We always had roles before: I did the vocals, Ian did the drums, Stephen LeGrand played the bass sounds, and Nick Kneece played guitar sounds. This is no longer so straight forward, since often times one of us will modulate several sounds or loops in one song. These days we’ll have discussions during rehearsals and discuss who will play what.

6. Tell me how the Wiitles advance the concept of sound design through their performance art.

I’m not sure The Wiitles are doing anything groundbreaking as far as designing sounds, but the use of the Wii remote allows for motions during a performance that are different for live musicians. Whether or not the way the Wii remotes interact with sound will lead to new sonic discoveries remains to be seen, but I do believe that potential for these types of breakthroughs exist in using the Wii remotes.

Max for Live

As I find my excitement level for Max for Live continues to increase and my bank account continues to let me know that buying the program is not likely to happen for at least a little while, I find myself compensating for my lust by reading about Max for Live online.  This interview with Robert Henke from  Cycling ’74’s own web site  is one of the finest I have read.  He both talks about the exciting possibilities of Max for Live and also warns about having too much expectations from it.  Here is the link: http://cycling74.com/2009/11/21/an-interview-with-robert-henke/#more-3329.

Oryx and Crake (the band)

safe_image.phpIt’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally getting to a place where I have achieved enough separation from the recordings my band, Oryx and Crake, made a little over a year ago, to do some mixing. I tried to mix as soon as the recordings were done and quickly realized what a terrible idea this was.  I couldn’t hear but the mistakes, and even what was played well enough seemed to be too loud or too soft at any level I tried.  A year and a couple of rerecording sessions later I think I’m finally ready for final mix mode.  The problem, of course, is how close to the album I am.  I programmed the beats using Ableton Live, played the guitar, autoharp, piano, organ, and some of the guitar, and, most personally, did almost all of the singing across the songs.  You may be thinking that I should have known better to be mixing my own music… even at this late stage of separation.  But I’m going on in spite of this, and in spite of myself.  I love this music, and I’m going to make it match my vision, even if my vision has shifted a step (or a jump) from the one I had last summer.  Stupid… maybe, but I’m having a blast.

Check it out on myspace or facebook.  If you like what you hear, add us as a friend or fan.  I’m also getting back on the promo highway, and so I’ll be sending updates about shows and posting more mixes in the short run.

Sound Art Showcase featuring The Wiitles

The Wiitles recently performed at a sound art showcase at the Savannah College of Art and Design (The Wiitles’ future alma mater).  The showcase was interesting, with eight different groups of sound designers and weirdos making sound and art(??).  The mostly Max/MSP based projects included a set of speakers made from conk shells, a flautist recording and manipulating her flute with Max, a drum set made from PVC pipe (a la the Blue Man Group), and a DJ manipulating his music selections with the same vocal patch that I use to process my vocals with The Wiitles.  Check out the event web site here.  Our friend and photographer, James Paonessa, was nice enough to document the performance with his handheld.  Below is part of The Wiitles performance.  Enjoy:

Unfortunately, the performance issues in the above video are painfully obvious to us (and may be to you too).  Therefore, we have decided to share the load of the sampling and processing that Max has had to endure with a program called OSculator.  OSculator is an incredible little program that allows “for making sound and vision with new controllers”.  We will use OSculator to send Wiimote data to Ableton Live, ensuring the kinds of (especially rhythmic) performance problems will no longer take place.  This method will hopefully prove more fun as well, being that, using Max with The Wiitles, it always felt like we have been on a tightrope… one little slip and chaos would incur.  I have been pushing for utilization of Ableton for quite a while now.  Ironically, my vocal patch will continue to use Max for at least a little while longer, however.  Updates about our successes and failures using Ableton Live with The Wiitles are soon to follow.

The Wiitles will be performing this year’s GDX (Game Developers Conference) in Savannah.  The event promises to be unfathomably nerdy, and therefore ironically cool.  Do come out to see us if you have the means.

Also, I have been busy mixing some tunes for my other band, Oryx and Crake.  Please stop by and give them a listen.