Noise Machine Proposal (Final)


My project will be called the collection box.  I’d like to keep the physical element of my noise maker as simple as possible, doing most of the heavy lifting on the software side.  With this in mind, the design will essentially be a small, rectangular box that has a microphone within it and two simple buttons, along with one joystick.  The buttons will be connected to a teensy2, which will grant me the opportunity to process their data using Max.  I can then create a Max for Live device that lets me get the data from the buttons into Ableton Live, so that I can use them to start and stop the function of the microphone.  If I have time, I will also decorate the box with LEDs that indicate when the user has started and stopped recording.  The data from the joystick will be sent to a separate max for live device that is used to control the parameters of a few choice audio effects.


Once the user has armed the microphone using the buttons, the signal will immediately enter a precomposed effects chain designed within Ableton, derived mainly from compression, grain delay, and convolution reverb.  The joystick will grant the user some amount of control over these effects.  The goal is to create a system that will transform any sound into a sound that I at least kind of enjoy, based on the idea that using my favorite audio effects I can give a lot of unconnected sounds a few elements in common.


Set up in the Ellis Gallery, my piece would constantly be armed and the laptop would have a pair of headphones.  Users would walk up and put the headphones on, and be able to hear their own voice being affected by the effect chain I created.  Things like where the microphone is wouldn’t be obvious (if possible I’d use an omni-directional microphone).  Similarly, the joystick wouldn’t have an obvious effect on the sound, encouraging users to play around and experiment with different positions.  The ideal presentation of this piece would be in a completely sound proof room, with monitors as opposed to headphones to listen back.  However, with that said, one of my favorite aspects of the box will be the fact that it is as portable as a laptop, and can be taken to process any encountered sound in a remote fashion.  Because of this, limiting the size of the box is very important to me.  


Taking into account everything listed above, the following materials will be helpful for my project: a Teensy2, a joystick, two buttons, a box, a mini USB chord, and a breadboard (or other type of prototyping board).  Resources such as the C200 lab in Doherty will be crucial for the completion of the physical element, and I’ve been watching a lot of video like this ( to prepare for building the software part. 


The earliest steps of this process for me will be ensuring that I can build the physical elements-especially the joystick.  Once I have successfully gotten data from the real world into Max and from Max into Ableton, I will spend the majority of my time experimenting with the audio effects.  I want to create a system that has some parameters that change very slowly over time no matter what, and some parameters that only change when cued by the joystick.  I will research the idea of creating a “sound palette” that is consistent with itself.  


My biggest influences for this piece are kind of all over the place.  Number one is actually Radiohead, who was the band that gave me the idea for this project.  I think that a lot of their songs employ the same basic principle that I’m applying; a baseline of effects on a certain sound that determine the general character, with a few parameters that change is a musically relevant pattern.  A close second would be the artists Baths, who employs the same technique specifically on his voice, which I think will probably the the sound most commonly received by my box.  My last inspiration is the producer Sabzi, who is the first producer I ever heard use the grain delay and convolution reverb plugins in exactly the way I hope to as well. 



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