Screen_shot_2014-12-01_at_10.37.45_pm

HPSTR Pyramid - Experimental Instrumentation

December 01, 2014 10:31pm
Source: incom.org

The HPSTR Pyramid is an attempt to create an alternative — but native to digital world — interface, to conventional knobs and slide controls. It's an approach to have the same basic and generic functionality a knob has but to achieve it with a more natural interaction.

Idea

The HPSTR Pyramid is an attempt to create an alternative — but native to digital world — interface, to conventional knobs and slide controls. It's an approach to have the same basic and generic functionality a knob has but to achieve it with a more natural interaction.

I wanted to create an instrument that is generic enough to be used in different contexts and to play different kinds of music in a similar way it is possible with an analog instrument like a drum or a guitar. Like an analog instrument it should have its own kind of interaction (e.g. a trombone is operated with a telescopic slide mechanism or a violin is played with a special bow) to eventually create sound that is distinguishable from other digital instruments. Since it is possible to play trigger or simulate every sound with a digital instrument, it is not possible to make it distinguishable by giving it its own sound. A digital instrument has to find its uniqueness in superior musical structures like composition, transitions.

Also I wanted to create an instrument with the potential to perform live. An instrument that could actually be used to jam, improvise or accompany other musicians. It should be possible to play "enjoyable" music and not end up in an experimental chaos of bleeps an noise.

Alt text

Process

From the beginning i liked the idea of operating an instrument only by changing its spatial orientation. It has something magical and mystifying since there is no actual change made to the instrument. But still it is a more natural and intuitive gesture to tilt an object than to turn a knob. Maybe it doesn't have the same quantitative indication like a slider has but nor does a violin. The musician has to trust his intuition and experience. I though of building an instrument with the orientation as the only interaction. But playing a note by tilting an object did not feel right. So i decided to use the orientation only for control purposes. To actually play music I decided to take a more conventional approach and to implement touch sensitive pads.

Finding the right geometric solid was the first task I found myself confronted with. Since I wanted the faces to be of equal size and shape it was clear that the solid has to be one of the five platonic solids. Due to the complexity of the dodecahedron and the icosahedron it was easy to exclude them. Since the faces of the octahedron are not equally accessible i dismissed it as well. Altough the implementation would have been much easier and the musical possibilities would have been richer using a qube I decided to go with the tetrahedron. Besides personal taste I started to like the idea of reducing possibilities to a minimum. Also a liked the complete regularity of the tetrahedron so all the faces could be accesed and played in the same way.

While creating several paper prototypes and a small concept video I had enough time to think about and test the functionality and the way a musician would like to perform and interact with such an instrument. I had the idea to first implement the basic functionality like making the sides tappable and detecting the tilt angle and afterwards testing the different possibilities of making music.

Alt text

Functionality

The HPSTR Pyramid has no visible interface but is the interface itself. The tetrahedron is played by pressing or tapping its sides and by altering the spatial orientation. I liked the idea of hiding the electronic components completely to give it a analog feeling. For somebody who does not know what the instrument does and how it is operated it is nearly impossible to find out by only looking at it. But once the pyramid is played or seen in action the functionality becomes very obvious.

Each peak represents an instrument where the one at the top indicates which instrument currently can be played. Each instrument has three notes which can be played by tapping or pressing the sides and three effects which can be applied and altered by tilting the pyramid to one side. Also every instrument can be recorded and looped. To start and stop recording the pyramid has to be tilted to the point at which two peaks are on the same level and the edge between them is a horizontal line. To mute an instrument the tetrahedron has to be turned upside so the peak of the instrument you want to mute points downwards.

Alt text

Of course this is just one of many possibilities that could be implemented using the sensors in place. Assigning different functionality to the components (Peak, Side, Edge) is only a question of software. For example a different approach could be to think of the tetrahedron as one song and the four sides would be different parts. Changing to one side would trigger a new sample and the musician would have the possibility to improvise on that sample by playing notes and changing effects which could in this case be applied as an overall effect.

Explore more about the HPSTR Pyramid here: www.incom.org/projekt/3114

Comments