Animated Laser Visual Music Meditations

Ron Pellegrino, 11/97

The Root Idea

The Context

Applications


One of the Systems for Realizing the Idea:

The System for Animated Laser Visual Music Meditations

  1. Stereo wavetrains/datatrains are generated by a hybrid stereo synthesizer capable of real-time control of frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, waveshape modulation, ring modulation, and phase modulation.
  2. One branch of the stereo wavetrains/datatrains is 1) routed through an affordable stereo amplifier that drives an xy laser deflection/projection system producing performable laser animations on a projection surface and 2) simultaneously a second branch is routed downline directly to an audio mixer and 3) simultaneously a third branch is routed to the Fairlight Voicetracker.
  3. The laser animations are picked up by a S-VHS video camera that is connected to an Amiga computer which digitizes and processes the video for recording to a S-VHS video deck in synchrony with the audio manifestations of the wavetrains/datatrains that produced the laser animations.
  4. One audio leg is routed to a Fairlight Voicetracker, a special purpose computer for analyzing and converting audio frequency, amplitude, waveshape, and duration to MIDI signals.
  5. The MIDI signals control and conduct a networked orchestra of MIDI synthesizers programmed to respond to the MIDI signals that pass through adjustable response windows defined by upper and lower thresholds for frequency, amplitude, and duration.
  6. The second stereo audio leg is routed to a mixer to be mixed with the audio outputs of the MIDI orchestra and displayed in real-time projections or recorded to S-VHS tape in synchrony with the video of the laser animations.


The Systems Game

If used alone, all instruments, including synthesizers (nowithstanding all that marketing hand-waving about infinite possibilities), impart their inherent sound and light signatures on the work created with them. The only way an electronic artist can create a truly unique voice with commercial or custom products is to combine instruments into one-of-a-kind performance/production systems. Such a performance/production system is, in fact, a higher level instrument much like the traditional orchestra and can be used for a variety of pieces with very different results. The system described in the flowchart above was recently used in a piece, Air Time, that featured four young girls playing on a trampoline functioning as the animation and audio generators instead of the synthesizer. A project in process, Nonstop, uses the same system with the nonstop action of a kid's soccer match as the input.

Unique systems design is the principle at the foundation of the facilities of my company, Electronic Arts Productions; my collection includes a wide-range of affordable electronic arts instruments with release dates from up-to-the-minute to the late 1960s. Based on a music performance background that goes back to my ninth year, I approach all my electronic arts tools as expressive instruments. Since it takes years to build a subtle performance technique, I leverage that time investment by integrating older instruments with newer instruments in ever-changing systems configurations so as to create unique higher level systems for performance-multimedia. The instruments behind the flowchart cover an acquisition period of 26 years from 1971 through late 1997 including 1975, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1992, 1995, and 1996; the point is that it makes good sense to keep and use the tools in which you've made a life investment. Just figure out how to integrate them into your current thinking. Bring all of your history to bear on the moment.


The images above are video frames grabbed from the animations created by the system and process described above. Click on any thumbnail to see a larger more detailed version of that image.




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