Huzzah! There's a video up of my Ignite talk from last month. There was a lot I wanted to say about electronics and music -- perhaps too much for the time allotted -- but hopefully some of it stuck.
Last Friday, Pokey and I went to see Jazari - a one-man band comprised of Patrick Flanagan and his drums (solenoid-driven djembe/bongos, servo'd shakers, claves, etc.). Flanagan deftly achieves his goal of making electronic performance visually stimulating: the music is complex and thrilling; the machines are mesmerizing. One half of his controller (made from a Wiimote) is adorned with supa-badass springbok horns. Check it out:
From time to time, the overhead projector displayed the Max/MSP patch he was using. It was hugely complex, but probably less so when you understand it; Pokey then recommended me its open-source counterpart, Pure Data (Pd). It's pretty glorious; I recommend this tutorial for a running start.
[Side note about Patrick's gorgeous business cards: they are gorgeous. He burned his name and info into chips of Spanish cedar, the wood selected for its aroma. That's my kind of artist.]
My first Pd project was a patch that generates binaural beats, which can be changed on the fly while it's running. I'm a bit skeptical of this technique; it works on the proven fact that your brainwaves pulse at different rates when you concentrate or relax. The lower frequencies correspond to chilled-out states, all the way down to NREM sleep; the more alert and focused you are, the higher the frequency. Proponents of binaural beats posit that you can affect your disposition by syncing your brainwaves to frequencies pumped in through your ears. I've never gotten it to work, but then, I'm a Spanish major / hobbyist, not a scientist. So go figure.
People generally use binaural beats from the low end (delta waves) to normal "concentrating" frequency (beta waves). This encompasses a range from 2-4 Hz - that is, two to four pulses per second - up to about 30 Hz. But your ears can't hear frequencies that low, so this method uses a workaround: instead of listening to a single tone at 8 Hz, you hear two tones, one in each ear, 8 Hz apart. This creates an aural "wobble" effect, 8 times per second. (You have to use headphones in order to hear the two frequencies separately and get the wobble.)
Many binaural recordings are available on the internet, but most use higher-pitched frequencies, while I prefer lower tones around 120 Hz. Making my own is more fun, and more enjoyable than listening to tinny ear-wobbles over recorded rainforest noises. You can download my Pd patch on Posterous; again, I haven't had any results, but maybe you'll get something. I'll probably update the patch in a bit.
Stay tuned for some knitting and crocheting... Michigan is getting cooooolllllddd.