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August 01, 08

i know kung fu (aka Pure Data/GEM)

The past two weeks have felt like my head was jacked into a mainframe and overloaded with programming, a la Neo from "The Matrix":

After the success of my "audio reaction engine" developed at Rocky Ridge Music Center, i had the crazy idea of finally diving in and learning the program i had been avoiding for 2 years: Pure Data/GEM.  This is an open source audio synthesis (Pure Data) and integrated visualizing program (GEM) that a Brazilian programmer had introduced me to back in December '06.  PD also happens to be the precursor*** to the popular commercial program(s) Max/MSP and Jitter by Cycling '74.  They say it normally takes 9 months to get fully comfortable with PD - i'm just barely scratching the surface at this point, but i was able to pull together at least a small working portion of the Visual Recital this past Wednesday at the Woodmere Art Museum.  What worked, worked brilliantly - what didn't, simply didn't load up, and i ended up playing the music sans visualizations (which wasn't necessarily a bad thing!).  I'll try to get around to processing some of the video from the show as soon as my massive headache clears up.  i also hope to start putting together a few short tutorials on PD - it's a daunting program, make no mistake of it, but once you get the hang of its quirks, it actually makes sense.  The visualizing possibilities are simply staggering - i never dreamed that one could achieve such a powerful level of control over the realtime manipulation of images, animations, and videos! 

One major hangup is the fact that despite buying a new HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr laptop with an ATI Radeon HD3200 graphic chipset, the visual renderings within PD/GEM were still sluggish - maybe it's the fault of the Vista 32-bit operating system?  I'm going to try and install an Ubuntu Studio-flavored Linux partition on the laptop to see if there are any performance improvements.  In the meantime, now that i've gotten my gray mass sunk into relatively hardcore programming, i'm starting to investigate another visualizing program called VVVV (i have NO idea how you're supposed to pronounce that...).  VVVV is free for non-commercial use, and runs up to 500 euros for a commercial license (yeow!!)  One nice thing about VVVV is that it appears to be VERY Windows friendly - this seems to run natively with a version of DirectX 9, and the demo patch runs smooth as silk.  The graphic programming protocol looks almost identical to PD, with some very significant GUI improvements (pop out menus! patch cords that can be shaped! huzzah!!)

Time to jack back into the mainframe...oh, and if those of you in the Philadelphia area missed the WHYY radio pieces on me and my work with the Visual Recital concept, along with the "Piano tasting" piece courtesy of Cunningham Piano Company where i demonstrate the different sound qualities of a variety of piano brands, check out the links below!  Many thanks to Alexandra Schmidt for her wonderful reporting!

http://www.whyy.org/podcast/news/arts20080730.mp3

http://www.whyy.org/podcast/news/arts20080729.mp3



***Correction: - according to Wikipedia, Max actually came first in the 1980's - PD is a younger cousin of Max by around 10 years or so, having been first released in 1996.

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Welcome!

Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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