Projection 3M x 4M showing dream sampler proof of concept.
Who is the client
Dream Sampler is a research project for Riaan Volsoo's PHD studies at Birmingham City University in which he has been exploring new ways of composing music. Riaan is a Double bassist, composer and educator, who has made many appearances with many well-known artists and has a growing portfolio of composition and album credits, including work for Jamie Cullum, Universal, Sony, Ninja Tune, Decca records, Tru Thoughts, and Impossible Ark Records. On top of his freelance work Riaan currently occupies the Bass chair in many projects including Nostalgia 77, Twelves, James Allsop/Ross Stanley quartet, Ed Jones quartet and Richard Fairhursts Triptych.
Riaan approched Creative Research and Development to collaborate on an idea he had been working for his musical compostion research PHD at Birmingham City University. His research proposition was to explore new ways of composing music through deconstructing the methods of music composition and recital. With a lot of expierence working as a session musciain and producer using digital techniques, Riaan's concept was to reference the idea of a music sampler, but instead to make a 'visual' sampler which a band leader or conductor could use to give instructions to a band. This sampler had to be able to be triggered using a foot controller as the leader of the band would often be playing music at the same time as communicating to the rest of the band.
The premise was to build a software package that could be widely distributed to other composers and musicians so that any visual samples could be loaded into the sampler and played back on demand. In addition for the proof of concept, Riaan challenged us with coming up with a the first set of content which ranged from static pre-written musical bars to totally abstract animations. It was necessary that more than one visual sample be displayed to the members of the band at one time, and that the visual content could be displayed on a variety of devices, e.g. ipad's, phones, monitors or projectors.
What we did
Through several development meetings with the client we realised that we would have to break the project down into several areas. 1) was the software development, 2) was content generation and 3) production for the proof of concept recording.
The brief for this project was to develop a stand alone software package that could be used by anyone. As such we looked at what languagues we could use in order to develop the tool. We settled on working on processing as it gave us good flexbility in building a protoype that could be distributed, but would still give us good control over the equipment we would be using on the first recording. After choosing a language we went on to develop site maps, information archtiecture and a project scedule for the development of the code. We also worked closely with the project team to ensure that the software would be compatible with thier equipment.
In addition to the software development we collaborated with the composer to develop the first set of content that would be input into the tool. The composer had 'written' an abstract outline of the approximate structure he wanted compositon to have. He had also developed some approximate concepts and sketches of the type of visual ideas he wanted to develop. The range of content varied from very standard musical notation to completely abstract sketches. We took these sketches and then started to develop them into story boards. Once the story boards were passed by the client we went onto animating about 15 x 2 minute films which were used for the 'compostion' and first proof of concept recording.
Proof of Concept
Working closely with the client we specified plans for how the space should be laid out. This involved the set up of a special foot controller and projects and 2.4 x 4 M screen. We also worked on set with the team to ensure that the project ran smoothly that the sampler worked correctly.
This project took several months of development and encompassed many different areas of competency. It required working as a team as there was cross over from Creative Direction, Developement, Animation and Set Production point of views. We feel this project shows how CR&D is exploring and pushing the boundry of how Creativity and Technology can be fused in an innovative way. The Composer and University were both very happy with the final outcome and we look forward to working on the next iteration of the project.
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