This is another simple yet effective bend. I ended up only adding four controls as well as an output jack. I included two potentiometers: one for adjusting the pitch and playback speed of the sampled sounds while the other causes distortion. I included two normally open pushbutton switches in addition to the pots. The first acts as a distortion mute and low-pass filter while the second either puts the distortion into overdrive or adds a drone tone depending on the situation.
In preparation for the first meeting of the CalArts Circuit Benders i have been doing allot of circuit bending in my spare time. One of my most resent successful bends is a toy my Grandparents picked up for me over the Holidays. It is a cheep Chinese built phonics butterfly toy that is still being sold new at Kmart. I was apprehensive while opening the toy for usually newer toys are harder to bend and have more dangerous chemicals to deal with. After opening the device i was happy to find through-hole components in addition to the expected surface mount components. I had something i could work with.
After poking at the circuit for a few moments i discovered that this little device is the most responsive to body contacts of any circuit i have worked with in the past. After spending a few hours exploring any other bending opportunities such as pitch nobs or glitch buttons i found very little that was consistently responsive. I decided to take a minimalistic approach to the bend using only seven of the body contacts i have found. I soldered small wires to the places i found the most responsive and varied body contacts. The other side of the wires i soldered onto common thumb tacks which i fastened to the butterflies face.
After playing with the instrument for several moments i discovered two annoying tendencies. The first problem was that many combinations of the body contacts at certain times would cause the circuit to produce less power and get much quieter until the device was reset. The other annoyance was that these connections would even often power down the device completely requiring you to flip the power switch on and off, which was inconveniently located on the back center of the device.The simple solution was to implement a reset switch that was easily accessible while playing the instrument. It was easy to find a short that would reset the device and i wired the connection to the red button you see on the front of the instrument. In need of a place to put the output jack i decided to remove the toys purple antenna and use one of the holes for the output jack. I moved the LED that rested inside the antenna to the face of the butterfly which actually does a descent job lighting up the plastic as you play.
What is “The Mask”?
The Mask is a digital synthesizer that uses an Arduino Uno to power a ping sensor and audio amplifier. The ping sensor detects an objects distance from the sensors from a distance of about three inches to around four feet. The distance in inches in converted to pitch in a computer language Processing and is sent to an amplifier circuit that amplifies the sound and plays out of a Sony home entertainment speaker used as a foundation.
What Controls Does it Have?
One aspect BiTDEPH is most proud of with the design of The Mask is the fact that is is powered entirely by a nine volt battery. This makes the instrument portable. The Mask’s 9v power supply has an on/off switch which powers the Arduino Uno inside. For its left ear The Mask has a “kill” switch that will cut the signal off up-on toggling. This should be used during performance to allow for rests and silence in the tune. The right ear is a volume potentiometer that adjusts the overall output level of the signal. This along with the kill switch can be used to create envelopes for the instrument. The “eyes” are in actuality two ping sensors that are the real controllers for the instrument. The sensors emit high frequency sound waves well beyond human hearing and measure the time it takes the audio “pings” to return back to the sensors which also act as microphones. Because the speed of sound is so slow the sensors are able to calculate the distance any object is from the sensor base from the delay of sending its ping and the ping returning again.
What Does the Future Hold For “The Mask”?
The Mask will see programming updates so it doesn’t sound so crazy stupid. A quarter-inch instrument jack will also be added in the near future to allow for application and a general out port. Because The Mask is an Arduino based device it is not limited to merely creating awful sounding music. BiTDEPH is looking into developing The Mask into a MIDI controller that can be used within Ableton or the MiniAudicle. This would allow it to play any VST instrument and most plug-ins. Lastly, The Mask is not limited to being an audio controller and thought has been put into expanding its programming to allow its control over videos and lighting in real time.
Should i Watch This Video?
What Does it Look Like?
Ode to Joy: (September 2012)
A traditional composition written for solo piano in a late romantic tradition. The work was dedicated to BiTDEPH’s parents as an anniversary gift. The work follows traditional harmonic conventions and is written with a rough ABA song form in mind. Ode to Joy has never been performed live and is BiTDEPH’s first Opus.
Cello Solo in D minor: (awaiting revisions)
A short two minute and fifteen second percussive solo cello piece written, roughly in D minor. The piece was first performed by noted Los Angelas Cellist Derek Stein on the CalArts campus in the fall of 2013. The work is awaiting minor revisions before republishing.
Quartet for Woodwinds: (December, 2013)
A neo-classical woodwind quartet written for Flute, Obo, Bb Clarinet and Bassoon. Also following late-romantic sensibilities with a modern tint. The Quartet is short, totaling just under 2 and a half minutes and is written with focus in providing equal distribution on importance between the four players. The tonal center is A minor with very little modulation. Melodic motifs are passed back and forth between the instruments after breaking from a droning introductory passage that encompasses the first third of the piece. The Quartet is currently in an early draft and is expected to be completed by mid december 2013.
Reaktor: A graphic modular software development platform build by Native Instruments. Reaktor can be used as a performance platform or for the development of audio effects, midi effects or electronic synthesizers and sequencers that can be used in other Digital Audio Workstations. BiTDEPH uses Reaktor to build his own custom instruments and effects. Some of his Reaktor projects include.
Mooger (beta): The Mooger is an monophonic modular synthesizer built in honor of the famous Mini Moog synthesizer. The Mooger is a relatively simply instrument consisting of three waveform selectable oscillators and one noise oscillator. There is a gain envelope as well as a resonance filter with its own ADSR envelope as well. The one twist in the Moogers construction is the addition of BiTDEPHS custom stereo delay which features control for both the delay of the right and left channels independently.
Subtracto (beta): The Subtracto is a subtractive string synthesizer. The instrument takes a complex sawtooth waveform that is modulated by LFO’s. Fed through three separate choruses and then daily chained through my custom delay module with left and right controls. This time i added controls for the relative volume of each stereo field to give more control intro the main delay unit. The “Space Master Deluxe” module will be simplified as well as a overall retooling of the interface.
MonoTab (beta 2.0) : A simple wavetable synthesizer with minimal controls. The MonoTab allows you to draw in your own waveform, instead of relying on simple Sine or Square waves. Contains a tables reset switch for cleaning waveforms and a variable selector switch allowing for you to blend any two of your four banked base waveforms. Although the MonoTab’s development is near complete it will become an oscillator module that will reappear in future BiTDEPH instruments.
Breadth (beta) : Breadth is a subtractive synthesizer with a twist. It only uses one noise oscillator. The Breadth filters the white noise through three different Band-pass filters that can be used to shape the noise into pitch. The noise is also split into three signals each with its own ADSR envelope and bandpass filter. Everything is then fed through a delay processor and a reverb before being exported.
Context: Caliburnus is a song of remembrance. Writen as a requiem for Excalibur, a beloved feline.
Instrumentation: Caliburnus uses two custom drum racks, one with all the percussive samples while the other contains variations of four meow samples of the late Excalibur. Electric bass plays a simple progressions while being fed into a Vocoder to add additional percussive elements. The “string” synth playing the chord progression was custom programmed within Reaktor by BiTDEPH while the modular synth was also created from scratch within Reaktor. Lastly, and most importantly, Caliburnus’ featured instrument is a Sampler based instrument custom build for this project. The “Calibur”(enter at 1:15) is an arpeggiating melodic instrument that takes small samples of Excalibur’s Meows and warps them into a vocoderish sound. (You can find out more about BiTDEPH’s patches, instruments and programs on a soon to come resources page.) All three of these new instruments are making their premier in Caliburnus.
Harmony : The song, although somber in tone, is actually in the key of C major the entire time. During the first of the three sections the chords hover around the minor chords within C major but never actually enter a minor key. The melodic line,(the space-like modular synth) plays almost exclusively C and B notes, which further ground us harmonically in C Major. The Second section cycles between two chords a C Major triad and a C# Major Triad. The C# acts as the C’s Neapolitan chord (a sort of V substitute) and provides an interesting effect. This section builds tension harmonically but is resolved into the third and final section. The chord progression in the last part of the song mimics the intermittent/dominant chord relationships of the first section but draws upon a more traditional, “rocking” I – IV – V tonality. This brings the harmony into C Major with more assertion than at any other times in the composition, leaving behind most implications of minor.
Access: You can listen to Caliburnus and other musical works of BiTDEPH on his Soundcloud page.