After developing two domain-specific language prototypes for music composition
(older, newer solo venture), I decided to get back into the
signal processing side of music by developing audio plugins. JUCE is
easily the most popular platform for this because you can create cross-platform
plugins for VST, Audio Units, AAX, and RTAS from the same codebase. However
this functionality requires using their own build tool, and the documentation
for JUCE can be a little sparse or misleading in some places.
I’m a huge fan of the 99% Invisible podcast, and one of the first episodes that
got me into the series was Vox Ex Machina. The episode was about the
Voder, an early example of voice synthesis that Bell Laboratories demonstrated
at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Operating the Voder required almost a year a
training, as each formant and syllable is formed by hand at the same rate as
human speech. You can see the Voder being operated by Helen Harper from this
YouTube video. Helen Harper went on to run a school instructing 300
students on how to use the Voder, only 30 of whom became skilled enough to
produce fluid speech.
I have become quite fond of the Faust programming
language, it’s a functional programming language that lets you quickly design
audio processing and synthesis algorithms. What makes it interesting as a
programming language is that signals are treated as discrete functions of time,
so when you write a function it becomes second-order function over the signal.
Plus it compiles to super-efficient C++ code with support for CoreAudio, Qt,
GTK, VST, and Audio Units!
It has been a busy year since I last mentioned the Michalak Project and a lot
has happened since then. The Michalak Project is a collaboration with Loyola
University Chicago’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital
Humanities to provide greater access to the Loyola
Apple’s release of iOS 7 forced a few interface changes such as the new flat
design, and there have been a few under-the-hood improvements. We are currently
adding and annotating other broadsides from the Michalak Collection.
The Library Archives at Loyola University Chicago has a collection of over
1,000 artifacts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including
broadside prints and satirical cartoons. This collection was donated to LUC by
Thomas J. Michalak, and the Center for Textual Studies and Digital
Humanities has been
these prints and making them available to other scholars. In an effort to
expand the reach and utility of these artifacts, I was
by the CTSDH to develop a mobile application capable of viewing annotated
high-resolution prints from the collection. Below are some images from the
prototype that I developed over the Spring ’13 semester; all functionality and
appearances are subject to change as this application is still far from
This is one of my latest creations: a kalimba-esque synthesizer called KalFMba.
No physical modelling (yet…), rather it works based off a simple FM synthesis
algorithm. I started this project because I was given a nearly-dead Dell XT2
tablet PC which I resurrected and beefed up. At the time I had recently
purchased Max 6 and was intrigued by the idea of creating unique touch screen
interfaces for software instruments. A few ideas were played with but nothing
came to complete fruition until I decided to further KalFMba as a project for
my human-computer interaction course.
Instructables is a fantastic place to lounge
around in. It was in their email newsletter that I saw this
and loved the idea of taking a sound and giving it tactile presence and to see
the dynamics of a favorite piece of music. At first I just wanted to recreate
the Instructables project as a gift but I knew that assembling small paper
discs would be a pain, and paper was not going to be a tough enough material.
After stowing the thought away for a while, I realized I had all of tools
available to develop this individual’s idea into another direction.