Music 220C

Research Seminar in Computer-Generated Music



Linden Melvin





The Idea


My plan is to create a series of sound manipulators (in the form of ChucK patches that trigger MAUI interfaces) that will be used to alter the sounds produced by performers in an interview scenario.




Much of the inspiration for this project came from my final project for 220B that focused on manipulating sound samples to create a soundscape. The most important parameter of the performance is that the sounds are produced and incorporated into the soundscape organically, i.e., all the sounds the audience hears in the music are a taken from the sounds they have already heard from the performers.


A few examples


Here are some sample WAV files of what types of sounds I want to produce in the interview. These clips are taken from audience members invited up on stage and asked a series of questions. In turn, these clips were used to create a soundscape, produced entirely from these sounds.


Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example Performance



New Direction


I have been working toward developing sound manipulating ChucK patches that will turn the computer into a mixing board. My idea, at this point, is to create several (in the realm of 4 or 5) patches that all control different parameters of the sound. Some of the patches will have ability to record samples of the live sound; others will have the ability to manipulate the live sound. In this way, all of the computers will alter some aspect of the sound contributing to the soundscape.

Performers will produce all the sounds on stage in an interview scenario. The sounds produced on stage will be heard over the soundscape being produced, but I hope that it will challenge the live sound.


ChucK Example File


More Change


I realized that in addition to manipulation or live sound, I also wanted to create a means of manipulating sounds that were recorded and played back whenever the performer (myself) wanted. In order to get this process started, I met with Michael about how to set up a system that will allow me to record and store multiple samples. We came up with a system that tracks the sound coming through the ADC sample by sample and chucks those samples into an array that we can then pull from later. We also made it so this array can read and write samples at different sample rates to create some interesting effects. I plan on using this code in conjunction with the Sound Control code to develop a soundscape that will eventually overpower the people creating the sound. Here is an example of the Recording Machine I came up with.


Recording Machine


Speaking People


Originally, I was considering the option of having people speak into the microphone randomly throughout the performance. I quickly realized that it probably would not be in my best interest to have people in charge of making the sounds whenever they wanted for my entire piece. Instead, I brought it up with the class and they thought it might be a good idea to bring in actors. As luck would have it, I am in a play in the Drama Department right now and the cast was more than willing to come and partake. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that having actors, even reading a script, takes away from my core ideal of having the entire piece organic. I ditched that idea and started thinking of new ways to create sound. I went back to an idea I had in 220b about dreams. I thought of creating a piece is which everyone said a dream they had and I would manipulate the sounds so dramatically that they would be incomprehensible. The more I thought about it, the more I considered how interesting it would be to simply have the speakers standing in front of the audience speaking about their dreams. In order to get them to talk about their dreams, I needed to set up an interview situation. And hence, the interview idea was born. I have been working out questions for the interview, but the most important part of the performance is that there will be an interview happening and the sounds created in the interview will eventually take over as they are manipulated and reused.



More Manipulation


I have been working on a way to make even more sound manipulation in my project and I think I have come up with something interesting. I have made a system of granular synthesis that will tear a recorded sound sample into little pieces and allow me to play it back however I see fit. I think it will be interesting to throw in this added layer of complexity near the climax of the piece and figure out how to make the ADC code and this code work together. This patch will add more musicality to the piece and will also add a layer of interest from a technical standpoint. Here is an example of the code I have been using.


Granular Synthesis


An Interview


Today in class, the idea of an interview came up. Instead of using a scene from a play or writing something scripted, the idea of using interview questions will open up opportunities for chance and randomness to enter into the project. This way, the performance will be different every time and will be created from different audio samples. Also, since it will be an interview, it will not require the performers to memorize anything meaning it can be done anytime, anywhere.


Part of the concept of the performance is using different sound sources (SLOrk speaker arrays) to spatialize sound. The speaker arrays will be set up all throughout the audience and will be connected to different computers. The different computers will be running different programs that will manipulate the sound in different ways.


Speaker Array. Frustration.

I decided to use the SLOrk speaker arrays to play ChucK files that will manipulate the sounds being sampled from the interview. The problem I continue to run into, however, it making the audio play through all of the speaker arrays from one source. The different speakers have to be wired together using quarter inch cables, but I continue to find that the outputs and inputs are not lining up. I have to go through and make sure that all of the dac.chan expressions are correct in order to make this all work.


The microphone is another problem I am facing. For a call run through, I used a cardioid microphone set up facing away from the speakers. I am finding that there are a lot of feedback problems since I am planning on turning the levels of the speakers up very high. Chris Chafe told me that he will be ordering some very selective directional microphones that I will probably be able to use for my presentation. I am waiting on those and hoping for the best.


The Final Code


Now that the concert is so close, I have finalized the code so that it is ready for performance. I have decided to limit the number of speaker arrays to three since there were so many problems chaining them together.


The first speaker array will be set up in the center of the audience and will primarily function to manipulate the sound coming directly out of the microphones. This patch will allow me to control when the adc is turned on. It will also allow me to add delay, set the rate of decay, add reverb, and add a LPF to the sound. All of these will be manipulated directly out of the microphones.


Sound Control


The other two speaker arrays will be running code that will record clips throughout the performance and play them back whenever I choose. The code maps the sound recording properties to different keys on the keyboard. The top row of keys will be in control of saving samples to different arrays. The second row of keys will play the respective clips back at half the rate and the third row will play the samples back at twice the rate. This way, I will be able to use the sound clips throughout the performance to add color to the soundscape. Every sound that is made throughout the performance will be created from the sounds being made during the interview.


Recording Machine



Linden Melvin, a biography


Linden Melvin is a junior dual majoring in composition and music, science, and technology. He is a member of the Stanford Chamber Chorale and was recently part of the Drama Department production of RENT. His dream in life is to live at CCRMA and forever be a part of that magic that goes on here.



Converse Station program notes


This piece is an extension of a piece I developed in 220b (Converse) that explored the human ability to comprehend speech out of context. Converse Station focuses on the remarkable power of human memory and the selectiveness we all have toward aural stimuli. The sounds may not be discernable, the speech may not be understandable, but everything heard in this performance is an organic product of the most powerful instrument we have; the human voice. The aesthetic of one performer doing all of the work in the piece is vitally important and reflects the complexity of sound production that we often take for granted. Listen carefully and enjoy.





Here is a link to the final product of the piece that was premiered at the 220C final concert:


Converse Station



Next Steps


I am overall extremely satisfied with how Converse Station turned out. I think there are a few things that can be added to make the project even better and I might consider exploring some of these in 220D and beyond. First of all, I think I need more effects or more stations that can achieve different effects. The sounds I produced were interesting, but I am not sure if they were interesting for the entire performance. Next, I would focus on spatializing the sound more. Perhaps I could place speaker arrays throughout the audience so that they feel like the sound is coming from all around them. Next I would incorporate more feedback into the performance. For this performance, I did not want anything to get out of control so I kept the levels down to a minimum, but I think in later performances of the piece I would like to include feedback in the sound. Lastly, I think it will be crucial to have trained improvisers. Michael and Stephen did a FANTASTIC job (thank you again, guys!) but there were moments when the conversation was so sparse it was difficult to pull samples. Also, it might be a good idea to have the interviewers in a separate room, maybe projected onto a screen on the stage. But then again, that would make feedback impossible.


I think there are a lot of things that can be improved about this project, but overall, I am very happy with how if turned out and excited to work on it more in the future.