I spent my spare time last week developing two audio-based activity prototypes for the OLPC: Step and Funny Talk. The whole process was surprisingly quick and easy. I attribute this to Victor Lazzarini’s Csound Sugar GUI toolkit. I do a lot of Csound programming, but I’ve never actually done any GUI work for it. Using the toolkit was as simple as defining widgets and mapping them in Csound.
Step is the first activitiy I’m developing for the XO. It’s a straight forward eight note step sequencer with synth notes, snare and kick parts. So far, I’ve probably put in about 8 hours on this. Once a user has a pattern they like, they can render the loop to an audio file, which can then be loaded in other activities. It still needs a lot of work, especially the synth engine. Though you can still take a listen if you would like: StepDemo1.mp3.
This is my favorite of the two, as my inspiration for this activity comes from my childhood memories of the Yamaha VSS-30 keyboard. My friends and I used to spend hours playing with that keyboard. Often in a very juvenile manner. I figured if we had such a great time playing with our voices, then perhaps the target audience of the OLPC will as well. Here is “the sound of my voice” being processed with Funny Talk: FunnyTalkDemo1.mp3.
Here‘s an interesting alternate controller I’ve not yet seen: a step sequencer where one composes a pattern by placing ball bearings onto a grid.
Though I don’t exactly have one in front of me, I would imagine the sensation of manipulating the device would be similar to patching a modular synth. There must be something entirely satisfying interfacing with music in this manner, akin to eating with a well-balanced set of weighted flatware.
A tangible rhythm sequencer. Ball bearings are used to trigger drum sounds. Visual feedback is displayed from underneath to indicate the current time and the state of each ball bearing.
The brainchild behind the Beat-Bearing Sequencer is Peter Bennett.