[LAU] controllerism on linux

Ken Restivo ken at restivo.org
Sun Nov 28 03:15:05 UTC 2010

On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 10:17:14PM +0100, Renato wrote:
> On Sat, 27 Nov 2010 21:38:55 +0100
> Esben Stien <b0ef at esben-stien.name> wrote:
> > Renato <rennabh at gmail.com> writes:
> > 
> > > any ideas/thoughts on how one would go about to make something
> > > similar to this on linux?
> > 
> > SuperCollider, definitely. 
> > 
> > I haven't done scratching with SC, though, but most of what he's doing
> > is easily done with it, though requires a little time to set up. 
> > 
> yeah sc is definitely able to do that, and more, plus it's fairly
> easy to make GUIs with it... but whenever I end up using sc for
> something I end up spending weeks struggling with the language (which
> IMHO has far too many quirks) and eventually getting turned off on the
> artistic side. (I have to say though the sc community is great and I'm
> allways pleased to see the guru's taking time to answer my noob's
> questions)
> But it is the most customizable solution, I agree.

Ah yes, Moldover, local San Francisco electronic music impressario. Met him a few times, seen him live, been to events at the hacker space where he lived (LoveTech), been to his CD release party last year. Nice, polite guy, and a very nice bunch of nerds at LoveTech. Check 'em out if you're ever in town.

His 2009 CD included a Theramin built into the jewel case. Pretty cool gimmick. I got a free copy of it (without Theramin) at the release party, and it's... prog rock! I was surprised, since his live stuff is very DJ-dance oriented, and so is some of his CD, but a few tracks on that CD would curl the toes of the most hardcore LAU prog-rock and even prog-metal enthusiast, I guarantee it. The guy can play, and write, and arrange.

As for the customized Novation rig in his Controllerism videos, I've played around on it. He had it set up at the record release party along with a bunch of random synths, controllers, theramins, etc., for the guests to play and jam on. My favorite, by far, is the "Free Bird" button! Also got a chance to poke around on his more modern custom controller when it was still under construction, and not yet functional. It uses arcade-video-game buttons, and was very durably and professionally constructed. He had finished it and was playing it at the record release party, IIRC.

To set up a rig like his, you'd just have to be well-organized and methodical, which is something that comes through quite clearly in his videos, his music, and his performance. Ableton is a fine tool for looping, but I think the quality of what he does is directly related to how he organizes things and thinks them through. As a counter-example, I worked some years ago with a DJ whose Ableton layout was a complete mess, stuff everywhere, and he'd spend time on stage squinting at the screen trying to figure out which loop was what, or even which loop was a loop or a whole track. He was (and is still) a great selector and a very popular DJ around here, but as for live performance, he wasn't doing anything like what Moldover does, because he wasn't trying to, wasn't set up for it.

You could just as easily do some controllerism stuff with a hacked Novation of your own, or an Arduino, or a Monome, and just about any looper (Freewheeling, SooperLooper) or music language (PD, SC, ChucK, etc.) in Linux. The real work is in collecting and organizing the music, and organizing your controller's workflow to make performance smooth and interesting, as Moldover has done. I think that the tips he gives (chunky faders, clear layout, not too many choices, combining many controls into one, eliminating stuff you don't need, etc.) are just good advice that transcends the specific tools he used.


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