Category Archive: Project

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AirDeck mentioned in Electronic Gaming Monthly!

My AirDeck virtual theremin application was recently mentioned in Electronic Gaming Monthly and I was briefly quoted. Here is the excerpt from the article:

I am also posting a couple of photos that I sent to EGM to use in the article. EGM did not end up using them, but they are really great shots taken by my friend Omar Ramirez of Public Works Collective from my sit-down with them last year. Public Works Collective is a group putting together a film documentary chronicling the history of the Los Angeles electronic dance music scene. Here are the shots:

Summer!

Summer is here and along with it an opportunity to recharge, refresh and get working on some stuff that the extra time available from not having school will afford me. That includes more frequent posts to my blog here; I know I’ve lagged somewhat but this last quarter was pretty brutal for me.

Things I’d like to get working on this summer:

1. Make a couple of new mixes. Discogs is now a media partner with Juno, so they are an excellent source of digital media along with Beatport which I have also used in the past. I love vinyl, but there is no denying the ease of use and efficiency of time and cost that mixing with digital media offers. Reading some of the comments in various forums there seems to be some animosity by some DJs and vinyl heads towards the digital media and it’s a debate I’d like to engage in, but that is for another post… Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments if you have an opinion.

2. Work on a couple of remixes. There are a number of remix competitions out there, some of which offer some pretty cool prizes. I’ve done one so far, but I definitely want to get cracking on some more and continue polishing and refining my production efforts. The findremix blog is a great way to keep track of all of these competitions.

3. Do some more work with TouchOSC and PureData.

4. I downloaded the VST Software Development Kit from Steinberg a while back, which allows you to create your own virtual synth instruments. I just haven’t had the time to work with any of it. So I definitely want to take a more serious look at that.

5. Start reviewing some more music/DJ based apps for the Ipod/Iphone/Ipad here (Yes, I want an Ipad, dammit!). Like the vinyl versus digital format debates, there seems to be some apathy by DJs and producers towards these emerging tools. Again, I see no problem with looking for new tools to work with and technology is merely about providing new tools to work with. Again, another debate to post about in depth another time. But since I have an interest in developing apps myself I guess you could call me biased on these issues. Main thing preventing me from serious app development is Apple’s requirement that apps be developed on a Mac… which I neither have nor can afford any time soon. So I might have to look at starting with droid app development.

6. There are still a number of other music development platforms I have been exposed to recently including Max, CSound, Super Collider and something called the Synth Toolkit. Obviously, I can’t delve too deep into all of them, especially with all the other stuff I am trying to get familiar with, but definitely want to play around a bit with each of these. That’s always been one of my problems, overly ambitious with too broad a focus. Something that’s hindered me in the past, but something I am working to improve as I get older (and school has definitely helped with that!)

7. Last but not least, I would like to add a section to this blog that focuses on the history of electronic music. I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to a lot of interesting information over the years; stuff that I think would be interesting to share with other folks who are into synthesis, electronic music of all styles, music production, DJing, music technology and everything that goes along with all that. There are so many interesting precursors and influences to today’s electronic music that I believe are important to share. So maybe something like a wiki or just a “spotlight of the week” type thing.

MouseDeck

For the past few months I have had a number of people asking me if and when I plan on releasing the code to my AirDeck project. This is something I have been thinking about, but I have a number of concerns. I am not intending to make any money off this project (not even sure if I could), but I know that I would not someone else to run with the code and make money off of it either. Also, because I am using several APIs that were developed by other people, I am not sure what the licensing issues are. So, I am still deciding on how to proceed.

In the meantime, however, I have decided to post an early iteration of this project in applet form. This is a mouse based version, not using the Wii remote, as this is how I initially began coding and testing the project. I will be the first to admit this is somewhat buggy. I am also interested in seeing how this runs as a client applet on other machines over the internet. This is using a beta version of the JSYN api that is supposed to work without any plugin software. It works fine on my machine, but please leave me a note in the comments describing any issues you may encounter. Thanks and enjoy!

Also, this is a java applet, so java must be installed on your machine. Here is a link to the applet page:

MouseDeck

AirDeck… it lives!!!

Here is some video I shot shortly after my project presentation which demonstrates the AirDeck virtual theremin application I designed and explains some of the features. It uses the Wii remote as an input mechanism by tracking motion with Infrared LEDs. The AirDeck is written in Java with the WiiUseJ API for handling Wii remote events and the JSyn API for internal synthesis. It can control MIDI out as well as offering a simple DJ scratch interface for real-time manipulation of sound samples similar to a DJ scratching with vinyl records. After about a year of working on this project, I am very relieved that it is finished. I’ve learned a lot and am looking forward to possibly working on other similar concepts in the not too distant future.

Today is the day…

I present my project to the CSUSB Computer Science Department today. I will try and get some video of the AirDeck in action, hopefully this weekend.

Converting MP3s in Java

I was surprised to find that there was very little information on the internets on decoding MP3s for manipulation in Java, which is one of the things I would like to add to my project. After spending almost two weeks on this problem, I have finally cobbled together a solution, that while not perfect, gets close to a resolution. I would like to share my findings in the interest of helping any other struggling souls out there who are stuck. At this point, the main problem I am having is that certain large files are not being played in their entirety – only snippets are being played. I feel this is probably occurring somewhere in the logic of my array assignment; perhaps another pair of eyes could can spot something and post a tip in comments.

In any event, in order to get started, one needs a decoder class. There are two APIs that provide such classes, JLayer and Tritonus, which offers a plugin that can work with Java Sound. I used JLayer with MP3SPI as they have some documentation that serves as a good starting point.

Here is some code that exemplifies the process. This method takes a file name string in as a parameter and after defining an output format it is read through the decoder object and the resultant bytes are assigned to a ByteArrayOutputStream. After this, I send the stream as a byte array on return for further manipulation.

public byte[] testPlay(String filename) throws UnsupportedAudioFileException, IOException {
ByteArrayOutputStream f = new ByteArrayOutputStream();
File file = new File(filename);
AudioInputStream in = AudioSystem.getAudioInputStream(file);
AudioFormat baseFormat = in.getFormat();
AudioFormat decodedFormat = new AudioFormat(AudioFormat.Encoding.PCM_SIGNED,
    baseFormat.getSampleRate(), 16,
    baseFormat.getChannels(), baseFormat.getChannels() * 2,
    baseFormat.getSampleRate(), true);
DecodedMpegAudioInputStream decoder = new DecodedMpegAudioInputStream(decodedFormat, in);
try {
    byte[] byteData = new byte[4];
    int nBytesRead = 0;
    int offset = 0;
    while (nBytesRead != -1) {
        nBytesRead = decoder.read(byteData, offset, byteData.length);
        if (nBytesRead != -1) {
            int numShorts = nBytesRead >> 1;
            for (int j = 0; j < numShorts; j++) {
                f.write(byteData[j]);
            }
        }
    }
} catch (SynthException e) {
    e.printStackTrace();
} catch (IOException e) {
    e.printStackTrace();
}
byte[] buffer = new byte[f.size()];
buffer = f.toByteArray();
f.close();
return buffer;
}

The above method is called like so and I proceed to assign the byte array as a short array so that I can feed it into the format that synthesis API I use, JSyn, prefers.


stream = (InputStream) (new FileInputStream(fileName));
String ext = fileName.substring(fileName.lastIndexOf('.')+1, fileName.length());
if (ext.equalsIgnoreCase("mp3") ) {
    byte[] buffer = testPlay(fileName);
    int j=0;
    short shrtData[] = new short[buffer.length];
    for (int i = 0; i < buffer.length ; i++) {
        int sampled = ((int)(buffer[i])) & 0x00FF;
        sampled += ((int)(buffer[i++])) << 8;
        shrtData[j++] = (short) sampled;
}
if( shrtData != null ){
    sampleTable.allocate( shrtData.length );
    sampleTable.write( shrtData );
}
Hope this is helpful to someone out there…

Project Presentation Day Selected

I will be presenting my project on December 4th. I have been furiously trying to wrap things up. I still have a few bugs here and there to resolve as well as trying to add a few of the last features that I wanted to get in. For example, I am still trying to get the scratch function more accurate. I am also working on trying to decode MP3 files for real time manipulation. In addition to WAV or AIFF files.

Most of the features on the Synth side have been completed. I still have to finish the Infra-Red gloves. Expect some video within the next week or so of where things are at.

JSyn Java Synthesis API

When I initially started working on my project, I began with C#, because I had found a Wii remote library which would get my idea off the ground. And it did, and for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, C# does not have a whole lot to offer in the musical arena as far as synth or MIDI functions.

So, I had to look a bit further. I discovered WiiuseJ, which I wrote about previously, which does the whole Wii remote manipulation in Java. Not having worked in Java before I was a bit skeptical as to whether I should embark down this path. But then after further research, I found JSyn, written by Phil Burk. This API offers a very deep and robust set of synthesizer and digital sound processing functions and is relatively easy to pick up and understand, which was a blessing since I am a complete Java noob.

Check out the JSyn website for  more information.

AirDeck Project Update 2.0

The Fall Quarter will be starting up this week and as a result I am really making a final push to complete as much of my project as possible. My goal over the summer was to complete as much of the application as possible, so I wasn’t scrambling during the quarter to wrap everything up. The good news is, I have made some significant progress on many fronts, but I am still not where I wanted to be when the quarter started.

Here is where I am at so far:

  1. I have redesigned the GUI somewhat, adding elements for some of the features that I am adding. For example, I added tabs to select the mode the AirDeck will be using based on user selection. Right now, my main priority is on the “SynthDeck,” which is the theremin app. I added tabs for ScratchDeck, a DJ scratching utility and MixDeck, a DJ mixing utility. These last two components are outside of the scope of my Project, although I would like to fit them in, time and resources permitting. Even when the Project is complete, I still plan to develop these elements… I Just had to limit the scope of my project work to something that I am 100% confident that I can deliver – which is the theremin/synth side.
  2. I have the MIDI out working now. This will allow the user to select a MIDI out device and it either can use the built in General Midi Instrument library(from the soundcard), or it can be used to control an external sound source such as a VST instrument, a 3rd party synth application or MIDI capable keyboard/gear. One issue I am trying to work through is that because I am using the MIDI pitch bend control, which is a variable parameter depending on what MIDI capable device is being triggered, the notes on the keyboard grid do not line up with the grid that I currently have set up for internal synthesis. So I might have to dynamically reconfigure the keyboard grid depending on the range of notes the pitch bend is set for, although this is dependent on the external application. I did include a dropdown menu for choosing the General MIDI patch, so the user can change the instrument they are playing. Currently these are represented by numbers, if I can figure out how to get the list of instrument names programmatically, I will add that as well.
  3. The amplitude control issue has been resolved, although I need to work this out for midi control. It is my understanding that midi control has aftertouch and velocity signals that can be modified, so I need to figure out how to dynamically control these.
  4. The GUI has been tightened up in terms of event logic. I have individual methods for each of the GUI components such that choices made by choosing certain items make the appropriate calls.

Here is what is currently outstanding:

  1. While I added synth parameter sliders such as Attack, Decay, Resonance, etc. I still need to figure out how to program those to apply the actual effect.
  2. Same thing with the effects sliders, which will add global effects such as Reverb and Delay.
  3. I need to program the preset sounds. I want these to sound as realistic as possible and since I am still learning a lot about analogue synthesis, it will remain a challenge to program these right.
  4. I want to incorporate patch saving capabilities so that a user can tweak certain parameters of a sound and then be able to recall these later. That is why I have added a File Menu.
  5. I want to add status indicators that show the three following things:  a) the Wii remote is connected, b)battery level of the Wii remote, c) Midi out is active.

Here is the GUI as it currently stands:

deck

Airdeck Project Update 1.5

I haven’t posted anything new for a couple of days as I’ve been busy working on some new elements for the Airdeck. For starters, I am designing some Infrared LED gloves. I know virtually nothing about electronics, so I had to research this, but I think I have a decent design in mind now. I actually had a working glove this weekend, but I didn’t know that you needed resistors, so I have to order some and start over. Also, my dad shared with me some information about Molex solderless connectors, so I am gonna try those for some of the connections because my soldering skills need some work. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post some more info on the gloves by the weekend.

As for coding, I have been trying to incorporate some new features. I have two oscillators available now that get mixed together. So if a user picks a “Custom” preset, the radio button panels for oscillators 1 and 2 will be available to  select different waveforms. I also have a panel with several faders, but they don’t do anything yet. The idea is to offer some filtering and modulation to the waveforms. Additionally, because the left hand(Y-axis) is only used for volume… I thought that any left hand movement on the X-Axis should be available to control another parameter such as a filter, if the user desires.

I still need to program the preset sounds, program the filters, and figure out how to get MIDI out to work. Also, when I added two waveforms mixed together,  for some  reason the amplitude control sounds a little glitchy when you try and raise or lower the volume with the left hand. So I have to figure out what that is all about.

Finally, I’ve been working on making the GUI look a little nicer. I still have to work some kinks out, but this is one of the ideas I had. Going old school. Although it might be cool to offer several skins that the user can select from. I will give that some thought as well.

airdeck2b

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WiiuseJ

The Java API that I am using in my application to communicate with the Wii remote is called WiiuseJ and was written by Guilhem Duche. Guilhem maintains his code and a user forum at the WiiuseJ project. He’s a friendly guy; very helpful and responsive. Anyone interested in Java Wii hacking should check it out.

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AirDeck Wii Theremin Project Update 1

As promised, here is some video of my project work completed so far. I still have quite a ways to go; there are a bunch of ideas I have to add to this, as well as checking for bugs and making the GUI look more sophisticated. But this video captures the main functionality of the application and I am pleased with the initial progress I have made over the summer.

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Introducing the Theremin

The theremin, developed by Russian physicist Leon Theremin, is an instrument that allows the user to manipulate musical volume and frequency by moving one’s hands in front of the instrument’s antennae.  The sound produced is a haunting, almost eerie,  timbre that made the instrument a novel feature in many 1950’s horror and science fiction movies.

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The Interface

This is just the initial interface to get things going.  I intend to have a drop down menu with several preset sounds. Additionally,  I want to offer the user the ability to customize their sounds, which is what the waveform radio buttons are for. I am still debating how much customization of sound I will be offering, but choosing a waveform is a good basic start. Further, there will be an option to send the notes out through MIDI. The red dot represents the right hand and controls pitch by tracking movement along the X-Axis. The blue dot represents volume and is controlled by the left hand moving along the Y-Axis. The application is triggered with the Wii Remote communicating with the host PC over bluetooth. More on this process in upcoming posts.

airdeck

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And so it was written…

I am currently working on a Java application that emulates a theremin for my undergraduate Senior Project. It uses a Wii remote for tracking infrared LEDs on one’s hands and converts the coordinate data to pitch and volume. This blog is intended to document changes and ideas as I work through the development process. I will also be presenting other cool and interesting music and technology related ideas here that catch my attention. My application is at a functional stage. I hope to post video of  it in action within the next few weeks. Additionally, time and resources permitting,  I intend to make a DJ version of this that would allow mixing and scratching by moving one’s hands in the air.

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