The Touch Board’s role in graphic signs and sounds

Graphic Designer Marco Paoli and Sound Designer Andrea Gozzi started a workshop at LABA, the Academy of Arts in Florence. Its main aim was to investigate the relations between the graphic signs and the sounds; how we can ”draw” the main characteristics of sounds (physical, musical, subjective, etc.), and how the sounds can represent images painted on a paper, creating a process of interaction between the two.

With this purpose in mind, the team used the musical composition Treatise (1963-1967) by Cornelius Cardew. Treatise is a graphic musical score, comprising of nearly 200 pages of lines, symbols and various geometric or abstract shapes, as well as some signs of conventional musical notation.

The score is not accompanied by any explicit instruction for the performers on how to play the work – there’s only a ”handbook” with some information and proposals of performance strategies – allowing the musicians complete interpretive freedom. The performers have to devise their own rules and methods for interpreting and performing the partition in advance.

Andrea explains that the first thing they did with the students was to choose some pages (normally 4 to 8) that have some similarities or some signs in common (lines, dots, etc.). Then, the students would be able to associate a musical idea derived from all the graphic signs and a concept related to the score, for example, ”Sci-Fi sounds”, ”Radiohead’s songs”, ”Guitar sounds” and so on.

Once the idea was set, they started to work to associate every sign in the partition with a specific sound. The difference between similar signs should be translated in a change of the sound quality or volume. A simple example can be seen in the image above: every circle symbolize a sound of percussion, a bigger circle corresponds to a louder sound. The sounds can be played live with Ableton Live 10 or – for the majority of the sounds – stored on the Touch Board.

At this point, the students made some interactive control panels to play the sounds in real-time. They also used FX and did live electronics on them using MIDI control devices.

Using Electric Paint, they draw directly on the partition so that they could touch the objects in the pages and trigger sounds directly from the page. They also created some trigger buttons using different icons, to be able to play a few other graphic signs in the partition, which were too small to be pressed the same way as the others.

Andrea and Marco have plans for creating a ”hyper instrument” that would look like a vintage Moog synthesizer and be designed using Bare Conductive Electric Paint, which would be integrated into the workshop as an instrument to use with the interactive partition described above.

Images & Video: Max Lisi

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