New versions of the MINI PRZM’s are now ready and out in the world. Based on the same technology as the original PRZM, each player now controls their own mini PRZM instrument. Four of the devices have four arcade style buttons located on each side and control a specific instrument or musical layer (drums, bass, chords etc.). The final device has proximity and ultrasonic sensors that react to hand gestures and control master effects.
Together the PRZM project creates a powerful jam station for kids (and big kids) and comes pre-loaded with a range musical settings.
Each PRZM is based on the Arduino Pro Micro to process button presses and sensor inputs. The LED lights are based on the Adafruit Neo Pixel Rings which are also running from the Pro Micro. The top section is made with diffused black/transparent acrylic with a custom laser cut vinyl for the HUD graphics.
Each Pro Micro sends its sensor inputs to a master hub based on the Arduino Leonardo which essentially functions as a receiver for each of the MINI PRZM’s and converts everything into a single message stream connected to a computer. The Leonardo is coded to operate as a class-compliant MIDI device.
All the audio is generated in Ableton Live which receives control messages from the master PRZM HUB.
Each PRZM controls a sampler instrument with a music loop loaded in. Different buttons will trigger different sections of the loop allowing players to re-organise the loop and jam with it.
Krafthaus Arts CIC were successful in gaining a Heritage lottery grant for the acquisition of one of the last remaining EMS Synthi 100s in the UK. The incredibly rare synthesiser was originally commissioned for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1970. From 1971, 28 EMS Synthi 100s were built and distributed around the world. Currently there are only a handful of working models, all in private studios or universities.
The EMS Synthi 100 at R10 is currently undergoing a complete internal restoration and rigours service to make sure this ultra complex machine will be working for many years to come. The end goal is that the EMS Synthi 100 will be at the centre of our heritage studio facility, incorporating and preserving music technology techniques and practices through workshops, talks, concerts and documented output from the R10 collective, invited guests and the wider electronic music community.
Head over to our dedicated site for more information on the project R10.studio
PRZM is an Animated MIDI Lightbox. Up to 4 people can play to generate a semi-random improvised musical jam.
It uses robust, arcade-style buttons mounted on the sides to trigger sound and light at the same time. Triggering a button will send pitch messages out to a MIDI compatible software/hardware instrument. In the current installation, Ableton Live is being used with custom instruments and MIDI effects that manipulate the MIDI data being generated. Animated light patterns display through the tinted black perspex top layer. These have been created with Neo Pixel Digital RGB strips which allow for programmable colours and patterns to be triggered via an Arduino Uno board.
An Arduino Uno is being used as the central brain for the entire system. It processes the code to trigger both MIDI note data and the Neo Pixel patterns. It is also recognised as a class-compliant MIDI device which means MIDI data is sent over the Uno’s standard USB connection.
To generate the necessary MIDI code, the MIDI library for Arduino is being used. Each button is connected to a digital pin on the Arduino board and is hard-coded to trigger a specific MIDI note between C1-G1. The notes being triggered for this installation are not important as these are further modified in Ableton Live.
To generate MIDI data over a USB connection, the HIDUINO firmware is being used to build a class-compliant USB-MIDI device from an Arduino UNO (this also works on the Arduino MEGA 2560). Once the all of the required code is on the Arduino, controlling both the Neo Pixels and the MIDI data, the Arduino is flashed with the HIDUINO firmware after which it is then recognised as a stand-alone MIDI device by a computer.
Neo Pixel Strips
The Neo Pixel strip has 60 digitally-addressable pixel LEDs per meter. Each RGB LED on the strip can be customised to create various patterns via the Arduino code. The main strip has been cut into four smaller sections, each one connected to its own dedicated digital pin on the Arduino Uno. This allows for easier control over the separate strips from within the code.
The code generates a chase routine with a cyclic colour wheel running throughout. This is triggered and cleared with each button press. A layer of frosted white material is being used to diffuse the light being generated be the Neo Pixel strips allowing it to spread more evenly across the stencil cut shapes above.
MIDI notes are transmitted into Ableton Live across 8 separate tracks. Each track contains a customised instrument and makes use of the standard MIDI effects for processing. Each instrument has been grouped to an Instrument Rack as this allows the Key Chain to be used to isolate a specific MIDI note to trigger the instrument (essentially filtering out all other MIDI notes).
An example of a MIDI Effect chain can be seen below where a single note is capable of triggering and iterating through a number of different notes (Random), quantised to a specified scale (Scale), have notes added (Chord) and finally transposed (Pitch) before being sent to the instrument (Operator).
As each PRZM player has only two buttons to interact with, more emphasis can be placed on what those buttons are doing. In the example below, two instruments are being triggered with a single button using a similar method as above, but they are separated via parallel chains and make use of the Note Length MIDI effect. Using the ‘Trigger’ option, the second instrument is triggered with a note-off message. This means a note from instrument 1 is triggered when pressing a button, and a note from instrument 2 when the button is de-pressed. Customising the envelope settings in the instruments can also be useful here to determine variation between short and long presses.
Working with Live’s MIDI effects have made the PRZM a fun and interactive musical tool as they allow each track to have its own unique behaviour whilst conforming to musical attributes such as scale and tone.
A special thank you to some people who made PRZM possible:
The installation uses a Launchpad Pro by Novation, 4 x USB NES style control pads and a modded version of the Asteroids device running in Ableton Live.
The interaction is loosely based on the game play of the original Asteroids arcade game and Bomberman. Up to 4 players control a single moving object around an 8×8 grid. Clashing with other players causes note triggers, pressing fire buttons drops ‘bombs’ which will also trigger notes and slow other players down.
We travelled to Superbooth at Fez, Berlin to show of the Lego Mindstorms project which uses 3 x Lego Mindstorms kits to create physical instruments that communicate with Ableton Live using the Max for Live Connection Kit.