Posts Tagged ‘ The Wiitles ’

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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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.

The Wiitles Max/MSP Vocal Effects Processor

In one of my bands, The Wiitles, we use Max/MSP as a vocal effects processor.  The Nintendo Wii-mote acts as a controller for the effects such as delay, pitch shift, amplitude modulation, and a vocoder.

This video also has significance for me since it brought me to buy a little program called ScreenFlow which is pretty much amazing.  ScreenFlow is the program that allowed me to capture the real time actions of my computer on video.  Very cool.  I have yet to scratch the surface on this bad boy, but, especially once I start teaching sound classes, this promises to be a revelation.

The Wiitles at GDX

The Wiitles performed at the GDX (Game Developers Conference) in Savannah Georgia last Thursday (4-16-09).  We were extraordinarily received by some very cool folks who make game sound their careers such as George Sanger, Jason Arnone, Michael Sweet, and Chris Rickwood.  Below is one song from the performance:

A bit of trivia:  That’s my son Sebastian in the background, who joined us on stage for a bit.

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.

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 (www.myspace.com/thewiitles) 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.