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Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Interactive laser music controller made by Human Beams, Inc., also known as Beamz Interactive, Inc., based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The firm was cofounded in 2001 by the rock musician Paul Riopelle and the Beamz’s inventor, Jerry [Gerald Henry] Riopelle, also a rock musician and record producer. Todor Fay and Melissa Jordan Grey developed the controlling software. The Beamz system was first released in late 2010. Eight patents, for the controller, interactive music creation methods, and applications, had been filed by 2010.

The performer triggers preloaded music sequences, optionally running over a background rhythm track, by interrupting laser beams using the hands or any object. The user need not be able to read music; the system ensures that combinations are always ‘harmonically pleasing’. The model C6 has six laser beams, the C4 has four. The W-shaped Beamz tabletop controller is linked via a USB connection to a host computer running the controller’s software. An easy-to-use computer interface allows the performer to select or store new sequences. Different types of sequences, notes, and sounds can be assigned to each laser. Sound is produced using the computer’s audio hardware and played back through any connected loudspeaker system. The system comes with preloaded songs and settings, with more available for download over the Internet from the firm’s website. In addition the user can save personal music files and improvisations. Particularly intended for the DJ market, the system enables dynamic remixing of songs, and the lasers create a dramatic appearance. The performer can trigger melodies and rhythms that loop on top of each other, incrementally layering the sequences. A sequence can be a melodic or rhythmic pattern that starts, ends, or changes to a different pattern when triggered. A single note of a synthesized instrument can change pitch when triggered, and the player can then trigger different beams to layer in other sounds....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[BCMI]

Technology that allows a person to control a music-related output with commands expressed by brain signals. The output signal can control physical and virtual instruments and composition systems. Therapeutic applications include allowing severely physically disabled persons to participate actively in music-making. A number of methods of detecting and measuring brain activity have been tried; electroencephalography (EEG) has proved to be the most practical. Neural activity generates electric fields that can be detected by EEG electrodes placed on the scalp. The electrodes are placed in an array that allows mapping of neural activity over time. The signals are very weak and must be amplified and broken into frequency bands commonly labeled from low to high as Theta, Delta, Alpha, low Beta, medium Beta, and Gamma.

Three approaches are used for making music with BCMI. The most common approach, ‘direct sonification’, translates the EEG signal directly into sound; ‘musification’ translates the EEG signal by generating musical sequences based on the EEG behavior; ‘control’ detects specific EEG patterns produced by the subject to control music software. Alvin Lucier made the first known efforts at music performance with the EEG in the 1960s with his piece ‘Solo Performer’. He amplified the signals picked up from electrodes on his scalp, relaying them through loudspeakers directly coupled to percussion instruments including gongs, cymbals, tympani, and drums. David Rosenboom systematically studied the detection of human musical experience in EEG signals in the 1970s. A BCMI piano developed by Eduardo Miranda in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[Mobile]

Ensemble of performers using programmable mobile (cellular) phones. MoPhoO, the Mobile Phone Orchestra of CCRMA at Stanford University, formed in 2007 with 16 phones and players under the supervision of Ge Wang, Georg Essl, and Henri Penttinen, claims to be the first repertoire- and ensemble-based mobile phone performance group. Notably it uses only the phone’s onboard speakers. Since MoPhoO’s founding, other cell phone ensembles have been founded at the University of Michigan, Berlin (both founded by Georg Essl), and in Helsinki (directors Henri Penttinen and Antti Jylhä). The Michigan ensemble uses custom-made wearable speaker systems. Repertoire consists of scored compositions, sonic sculpture, and structured improvisation. For each piece, the phones run customised programmes that direct how they respond sonically to inputs that can come from the keypad or touchpad, the accelerometer positions, the built-in camera, or the microphone. For example, the keypad numbers can be mapped to different pitches in different modes, or to any sort of sound or sequence of sounds. While cell phones have considerable computing capability, they have limited acoustic bandwidth, but partial selection can suggest bass frequencies that are below the cell phone’s actual capability....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[chip music]

Term related to music made by the eight-bit soundchips in 1980s and early 1990s gaming systems and microcomputers, as well as music composed using modified (‘modded’) gaming systems or environments designed to emulate the capabilities of early soundchips. (A chip, or microchip, is an integrated circuit packaged in a usually flat rectangular body with input and output pins for attachment to a larger circuit system.) The original systems include the NEC PC-8801, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment Systems, Amiga, Game Boy, and Mega Drive/Genesis. The distinctive sound of music from these systems arises from their use of only a few simple waveforms, white noise, and beeps, as well as unreliable pitches and limited polyphony. Despite these restrictions, inventive chiptune composers in the 1980s emulated many styles of music using flutelike melodies, buzzing square-wave bass lines, rapid arpeggios, and noisy primitive percussion. Game music is designed to loop indefinitely and then quickly switch depending upon the characters or scenes of the game, requiring the music to be simple yet evocative. Composers used software ‘trackers’, tediously entering the note and other information in numerical codes that the hardware chip could use....

Article

Brandon Smith

Creation of new connections inside sound-generating electronic devices to provide sounds unintended by their original designers. A wide range of effects can be achieved, and extra tactile controls such as potentiometers, switches, photocells, and body contacts can be added to control the new effects, the most frequent modification being for pitch control. Often various ‘bends’ are found accidentally by arbitrarily connecting two different points on the circuit board. Circuit bending has attracted considerable attention among persons interested in experimental electronic music and synthesizers, and it can be achieved with limited electronics knowledge and construction skills. Because circuit bending calls for unauthorised, sometimes radical changes to the circuitry’s original pathways, it risks damaging or destroying the device being modified. Toys are often exploited for circuit bending because of their ubiquity and low cost and the small risk of electrical shock from their low voltage. Battery-operated toys such as the Texas Instruments Speak n’ Spell and the Casio SK-1 have latent sonic potential and are prime targets for tinkerers seeking such sounds inexpensively or at no cost and because they tend to ‘glitch’ easily, spewing out fragmented bits of digital speech and strange sounds. Examples of circuit-bent creations include electronic keyboards, sound modules, drum machines, effects pedals, and karaoke machines. Video bending uses these same methods to modify video-game consoles to make abstract visual patterns in addition to novel sounds....

Article

Hugh Davies

[orgue des ondes (Fr.: ‘organ of the waves’)]

Electronic organ designed by the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux of Tourcoing and the radio engineer Joseph Armand Givelet in Paris in 1929–30, and produced under patents of 1934 and 1936. It was the first successful polyphonic instrument based on electronic oscillators (demonstrated already in Givelet’s monophonic piano radioélectrique in 1927) and the first electronic organ to be in regular use. In 1931 Charles Tournemire played the Coupleux-Givelet organ at the church of Villemomble. Up to the mid-1930s at least four were installed in churches in France and Switzerland and one at the Poste Parisien broadcasting station (hence the instrument’s alternative name). The prototype contained only 12 oscillators, the signals from which were routed through frequency doublers; this rather primitive system in which each oscillator signal could be transposed only to other octave positions did not permit the simultaneous sounding of octaves. The finished organs normally had two manuals, with one easily tunable oscillator for each note, necessitating a total of 250 to 700 valves. The Poste Parisien organ (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Line of MIDI-based reproducing player pianos introduced by Yamaha Corporation in 1982 (1986 in North America). The Disklavier system combines an acoustic piano with an electromechanical player-piano system. As in other such systems, fibre-optic sensors register the movement of keys, hammers, and pedals during performance, while the digital controller operates a bank of solenoids installed under the piano’s key bed; one solenoid is positioned under the tail of each key, with additional solenoids connected to the pedal rods. Performance information is stored digitally on CD-ROM, floppy discs (still used for many accompaniments for instructional piano material), or a hard drive. Disklavier systems can be connected to sequencers, tone modules, and computers via MIDI and Ethernet. A built-in speaker system attached to the case under the soundboard is used to play back optional digital piano sound and especially for playback of accompanying orchestral or vocal tracks.

Unlike other electronic player systems, the Disklavier is only installed in new Yamaha pianos and only at the factory. It cannot be installed in older Yamahas or other brands of pianos. Compared with other systems, the Disklavier’s recording capability is generally regarded to be of the highest quality and sophistication. Of the Disklavier models available in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[Doctor Rhythm]

Electronic percussion instrument released in 1980 and manufactured by the BOSS division of Roland. Very popular, small, inexpensive and easy to use, the Dr Rhythm model DR-55 was one of the first drum machines to use ‘step-write’ programming, where in ‘write’ mode the user can select a sound and use buttons to move incrementally (‘step’) through each beat of the beat pattern and select a choice of sounds. It can store up to six 16-step drum patterns and two 12-step patterns, the latter for triple-metre rhythms. Its four (analogue) voice-circuit sounds are snare, kick drum, rim-shot, and hi-hat. The pattern can be switched during playing, and volume, tempo (45 to 300 beats per minute), tone, and accent can be globally adjusted. The DR-110 Graphic (1983) adds a graphic display showing a step-programming grid for the drum voices, and includes 16 preset patterns plus 16 memory locations for user-programmed 12- or 16-step patterns, plus two ‘song’ memories for up to 128 bars of patterns. Its drum sounds can be programmed or played in from drum pads....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Electronic device that changes the sound of an instrument, especially used with electronic or electric instruments such as electric guitar, bass, and keyboard. An effects unit can be a rack-mounted box with manual controls (most commonly used in studios), a tabletop box with manual controls (commonly used by a DJ), a box set on the floor (a ‘stompbox’) and usually operated by the foot, or built into an amplifier (including those in some electric guitars). Multi-effects (multi-FX) devices combine several effects in one unit, allowing combinations to be pre-set and accessed with one touch. The most common stompboxes have one pedal and one effect, but some offer multiple effects and a simple pedalboard for selection. Effects units can be connected into an ‘effect chain’. If an effects unit in the chain is turned off, the signal passes to the next in the chain, allowing the performer to choose which effects in the chain to control. Multiple effect chains can be controlled from an ‘effects management system’....

Article

Hugh Davies

[Télé-sculpture musicale]

The generic name for a series of sound sculptures constructed by Takis since 1963. The earliest ones consist of a vertical white wooden panel (up to 200 × 100 cm), across which is stretched a length of piano wire at an angle of between 15° and 45° from the horizontal; in pieces made since 1966 the wire is amplified by means of a magnetic microphone. From the top of the panel up to three long needles are suspended on nylon lines, one or more hanging freely outside the string, and one resting against the string on the panel side. In some versions a permanent magnet attracts the needles suspended from different points at the top of the panel so that they hang at various angles. When the sculpture is in operation an electromagnet behind the panel is switched on and off by a timer at irregular intervals, attracting and then releasing the needles so that they strike the string in alternation. The sounds are high-pitched and when several of these works are exhibited together they create a magical twittering. A limited edition of one version of the Electromagnetic Musical was produced in Paris in ...