As a musician I often experiment on my guitar on keyboard to develop interesting melodies. This project intended to give this ability to create good sounding music to non-musicians.
The apparatus consists of blocks, each of which includes a infrared sensor pointing upwards. They are linked through a Basic Stamp Stack to a serial port of the computer into which they interact with a patch made in Max/MSP.
The user waves his hand from up to down over a box, towards the infrared sensor. The faster the movement the more there is an attack in the note played. If the user simply waves over a box, it will be considered as a quick movement.
The sound is prerecorded since I did not have the knowledge to synthesize musical instruments in Max/MSP. There are three (3) types of sounds, all sampled from guitar plucking. The hardest attack is a guitar string plucked with a pick. A medium attack is a guitar string plucked with a finger, attenuating the attack. And the softest is simply a faded-in version of the medium attack.
The notes on the guitar were not be chosen at random, really. For the music to sound good, it had to, at least in our western concept of it, follow a scale. I will then sample eight (8) notes from a major scale.
When the player uses the instrument, however, the notes are almost chosen at random amongst the prerecorded sounds.
The gestures are also a way for the player to be more involved in the creation. The notes are chosen so that there is never a feeling of an off-scale, or a tone-deaf musican.
The idea here is to give non-musician an glimpse of what it is to try and create a piece, to experiment with sounds and not know in advance what is the result.