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Coplay – an interactive sound installation

‘Coplay’ is an interactive sound installation which allows computer and user to play music together.

Interactive System Engineer, Haoyi Xu and Audio Designer Sun Yuxuan explain how they got inspired by Brian Eno, a musician who likes to use algorithms and random numbers to generate ambient music.

When composing music by algorithms, musicians are designing rules, instead of composing specific sections. Although sounds and clips are randomly combined by a computer, they are still musical sounds.

The concept of generative music inspires the team because it’s mind opening, says Haoyi Xu. It’s very interesting to see how musicians can produce and generate music through interactive media instead of traditional albums.

This is what they wanted to do with this interactive sound installation. They provided the listeners with predefined sounds, samples and combination rules, so the audience could get involved by creating their own sounds through the interactive interface.

In this project, a computer generates random music through Ableton live mode, while people play MIDI instruments and trigger several clips by touching the conductive keys.

The notes were set in pentatone, so the audience wouldn’t hear any unharmonic sounds.

They used Electric Paint and the Touch Board to build the touch interface on the wall. Ableton live and processing was utilised to generate music and visual contents.

Haoyi Xu explains that they decided to use Bare Conductive tools because they wanted to avoid noise signals when detecting people’s behaviour. They decided to go with simpler touching devices.

Therefore, the Touch Board was the perfect sensor, as it could send MIDI messages, which helped them to spend less time on hardware hacking. The electric paint was ideal for creating interactive surfaces and works perfectly with the board.

They utilised a projector to show the interface sketch on the wall. Once they decided the location for the connection, they started with masking tape on the edges of the painted area, then used a basic sponge to apply Electric Paint.

When the conductive paint dried, they removed the tape and cleaned the buttons for the best outcome. As you can see in the photo below, all the buttons were connected to the Touch Board’s electrodes.

They uploaded the MIDI interface code to the Touch Board and they mapped the buttons in Ableton Live; the round buttons on the left play the top clips, whilst the rectangle buttons on the right play single notes.

Images & Video: Haoyi Xu

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