[PD] Pd performance at TED

Marco Donnarumma devel at thesaddj.com
Wed Jun 22 15:01:50 CEST 2011

> I figured that I would chime in at this point.

Thanks, it's a great pleasure to have you here.

> Every single note you hear, is being played, as in one at a time, as a horn
> player does, into a looper which I use to layer everything very quickly
> into
> an arrangement then deconstruct and reconstruct on a musically relevant
> trajectory. There was nothing pre recorded or preconceived. Simply a
> controller, a database of synthesizers and a looper with effects. I am
> playing every single solitary note. If that sounds like it is hard to do,
> you're right.

I'm sure about it and I can imagine the training you needed to undertake,
possibly in the same way other complex gestural control require.
But, that's not a constrain, right?
Things don't need to be difficult to be relevant (?)

> I would like an elaboration on how the system is "clunky" if you don't
> mind.
> First off, I feel that it is pretty streamlined for a first prototype made
> of cardboard that is only 3 months old. Two wireless hand units and a mouth
> unit. If you have suggestions as to how I might improve it at this stage,
> before my next stage or dev, I would love to hear it.

Sure. First, I think the video and its text on TED are misleading.
I understood that the work was a finished one and you were demonstrating it.
It's important to know it's only three months prototype.

About the clunkyness.
I'm also designing a wearable biosensor so I'm happy to share my vision
(strictly subjective though).

Imho, the box connected to the mouthpiece which presently is hanging from
the front side, could be placed on your belt.
Increase the lenght of the cable, put the cable under your shirt and you're

As for the phone as headup display.
Something that works very good is haptic feedback.
You can have the Pd system send small pulses to a tiny speaker stuck to your
These could represent key points in a timeline, pattern changes, instrument
changes, behaviour of your sensor, or even the bpm.
Pulses can also have different lenghts so that you can have an array of

That would be invisible, and reliable.

> @marco, how would you
> make this concept more "beautiful" or "efficient"? I am always a willing
> student in these regards.

see what I meant above.

> Do you have any examples of said efficiency? Being
> an instructor, I would have expected that you would have seen the blog link
> on the Ted profile and researched your position before simply asserting
> that
> my concept has no value.

Oh wait, nobody said your work had no value :)
No time to fire it up.

I expressed my respect for your work since the first post, and I kept doing
it in later posts too.
I only said that I couldn't agree with the bold claims "we make the future"
and making the music of the future.
Now, of course, you have to promote yourself, but I felt that was not

I argue about the innovative character of the work (please note, I refer to
the whole work not to the system only).
And I also do not mean that it is not innovative at all.
It's a great system, but it lacks of directness, as Andy pointed out in a
beautiful way.
And I believe that, if you are interested in this topic, your performance
would greatly benefit of a more direct performative outcome.

The audience will clap their hands anyway after your show.
However, if they don't need to ask themselves "what the heck he's doing?"
because your interaction with the system is transparent, their overall
perception of your work would be ten times greater.
A successful performance is something to be achieved in two: performer and

A performer alone (or isolated in his own world) is only rehearsing.

As someone said already, a violin player do not need to demonstrate
transparency because instrumental musical performance is something intrinsic
in our culture.
We, as creators of new instruments or systems, still struggle to prove that
we can control machines in a creative way.
Perhaps, this happen because the technological knowledge of the majority of
people is still very basic.
Although children today play with iPhones, they have no idea how that thing
works. And most of them will never know it. They just assume it does work,
This is the capitalistic approach to tech culture.
A general consumer do not need to know too much, otherwise she/he can start

> One thing that I and other alternative controller artists are realizing is
> that we must be in the audience. Otherwise people can not see that you are
> actually playing. That is why when I play clubs I play from the dance floor
> and currently monitor with the club sound system which is hard but allows a
> flow of ideas that doesn't come from separating ones self from the
> audience.
> And from there people can see your fingers and gestures carve the sound.

I have to disagree.
I would suggest to consider that a gestural controller in a dance party has
a very different scope than one in an experimental performance.
Secondly, there are many other ways to make the people understand that
you're playing.
We come back to the directness of a system.
We could see in your video all the buttons you were pushing, but half of
people who wrote was not aware of what you were doing anyway.
Specially because the wider gesture of your body (like "dancing", keeping
the rhythm as a dj does) were not affecting the music directly.

> This form of performance blends my desire to connect with my space my music
> and my movements as intimately but, it should be noted as well, this is a 3
> month old prototype so that people are discussing it and I have even moved
> from beta stage yet, is encouraging.

Indeed, such discussion prove that your work is very interesting.
That's why I'm arguing so much about it :)

And as Andy said, please, I would love to know in detail how your system
works as I'm working on a similar, yet very different, gestural control
system based on biophysical sensors.
If you still don't hate me :P, I would love to write you in pv and share our


Marco Donnarumma
Independent New Media and Sonic Arts Professional, Performer, Instructor
ACE, Sound Design MSc by Research (ongoing)
The University of Edinburgh, UK
Portfolio: http://marcodonnarumma.com
Lab: http://www.thesaddj.com | http://cntrl.sourceforge.net |
Event: http://www.liveperformersmeeting.net
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