Custom Instruments



Video and audio of The TOOB can be found in my portfolio.

Other pieces featuring the TOOB

The TOOB Controller (standing for Totally Obnoxious and Offensive Butterfly, or Tube-Oriented Optical Bookend, or whatever you desire - I thought it might be an acronym, but still can't figure out the proper one) is an expressive wireless wind controller that also senses finger pressure and motion.

The instrument is made up of two housings, one held in each hand, connected by a flexible tube that allows them to move independently of each other. Modeled after a trumpet, the right hand housing contains the breath sensor and three finger pressure pads. This section also contains most of the electronics, including the micro-controller, sensor conditioning circuits and bluetooth wireless transmitter. The left hand housing is smaller and contains a motion sensor (a 3-axis accelerometer) and three additional finger pressure pads.

Here's an older page about the TOOB written when it was first created, and images of its first performance.

UHER StereoMIX-5 MIDI Controller

An old West German mixer from the 50s/60s gutted and turned into a MIDI fader box. In addition to 5 faders, 2 knobs and 5 switches, this Frankenstein has two self-calibrating light sensors, a pressure sensor and a foot-switch input. Powered by 9-volt battery or AC. Almost indestructible due to the solid molded metal case.

I mostly use it to sample and loop audio recorded on the fly in different ways than the TOOB does, the main difference being that faders and knobs stay where you put them.

I got the original mixer from a friend's garage - it was useless because nobody uses DIN sockets for audio connections anymore. But the DIN sockets were just right for MIDI output. I hear it was never a particularly fantastic mixer anyway, though decent at the time maybe. There is still a piece of tape on one of the channels that says "reel tape".

Custom Cracklebox

A cracklebox built into the housing of a small 8-ohm shelf speaker with drywall screws for touchpads. Its the loudest 9-volt battery powered cracklebox I've ever head. Has an extra touchpad I added for more control, and i adjusted the components to get more low frequencies since the speaker I am using can actually produce them. Optional audio line out. Original speaker terminals can be connected to another 8-ohm speaker, still powered by the internal battery.

The Amphibious Destroyer Trumpet

A trumpet fitted with dual-axis accelerometer, a plethora of buttons and a foot-pedal created by hacking a USB game controller. Up-down and roll motions of the horn combine with amplitude, frequency and tempo tracking to control complex textures that are generated by, and react to trumpet playing and associated gestures. Both unprocessed trumpet and electronic sound derived completely from the current performance are heard together. A flexible routing structure allows for on-the-fly recombinations of the software's components along with the use of routing presets and various other functions that can be accessed directly from buttons on the trumpet controller. A spin-off version called "Float 2" includes live reactive video created by compositing a number of short video clips of different types in realtime in response to the musician's performance (see image inset at left). Custom software was created with Max/MSP/Jitter. Performed at Pixilerations [v.2], artSTRAND Gallery, several concerts at Brown University, a Nam June Paik memorial dinner in NYC, Chingoli in Le Marche, Italia, and most recently an opening party for Ethan Cohen Fine Arts in NYC. Listen to some recordings of performances.

The Self-pollinating Mixers, a.k.a. The Plastic Stochastic Masturbator, a.k.a. The Feedback Boxes

Two really screwed up radio-shack stereo mixing consoles from like the early 90s plugged back into themselves and a Yamaha 4-track to create very dynamic self-pollinating feedback controllable by tweaking knobs and sliders on the mixers. Simple analog EQs on the 4-track yield fantastic pitch-shifting insanity. A cassette tape loop in the 4-track allows me to capture and layer 4 second loops of what I am playing in realtime on 4 separate tape channels and play them back, along with the live feedback, with some speed control. I usually also plug in a microphone into which I scream and/or play trumpet. With certain settings on the mixer the mic input becomes the dominant resonant frequency of the system and trumpet begins to sound like Jimmy Hendrix distorted guitar. Can be easily combined with other instruments using random input or output from somewhere on the mixer. Substandard, noisy and possibly broken internal components create pulsing technoish bass-lines or wailing dirty noises. Can be seeded using waveforms and delayed/pitch-shifted signals of itself using Max/MSP and a computer, but this is not necessary Performed in Sensory Overlord, artSTRAND Gallery in Provincetown, various places at Brown with Mechanical Arms, with the MEME Ensemble (at Pixilerations [v.3] and at the Hellgate Social in Queens) and most recently an opening party for Ethan Cohen Fine Arts in NYC along with vocals by the fantastic Christie Gibson (recording: Arvid+Christie=heartheart). I have also used it in several studio pieces such as Music in Dishonor of Donald Rumsfeld. Performed live at the Underground. Here's an image.

The Percussicube

A 3'x3' PVC cube with 8 drum sensors that is played from inside using sticks and ball-peen hammers, playing back samples and synthesized sounds based on 3D positioning of each impact on the cube's frame. Software created in MaxMSP. Here are some images. Here is a recording of me performing the percussicube at a Nam June Paik memorial dinner in NYC.

The Accretionary Wedge

A delay-based MaxMSP instrument controlled by MIDI keyboard and mouse. 33 delays (3 groups of 11) mash up live input sound into craziness. Parameters are controlled through key velocities, so basically the harder you bash the keys, the more nasty it gets! Used extensively in the soundtrack to "Chemical Weathering".

The Chunker

A Max/MSP patch to take speech, or any sound clip(s) and in realtime play it (them) back again and again, iteratively chopping it into successively smaller pieces which are more and more randomly arranged until it reaches a very many tiny chunks. It then puts the phrase back together again through more iterations. This was used in my piece "A Pitcher of Old Fashioneds" based on lines from Robert Coover's book Gerald's Party.

Instruments In Progress

The Four Finger Filter

Using "Fingerpinger" to make a multi-touch multi-filter instrument controlled by the macbook pro trackpad.