Dipping My Toe into Pure Data…

Over the summer I came up with the idea for a fairly ambitious project – using the audience to create a selection of evolving, ambient musical compositions. To do this, I have began developing several prototype devices, each of which uses different sensors to relay control messages to various synthesizers. Each device is designed to be approached, and used in a different way, and will control and trigger a number of different parameters and events.

All good so far, right?

But… how’s your coding?

Though I have some experience with MaxMSP, it dawned on me that I was going to need to learn a lot more about Arduino and so I enrolled in a workshop, put on as part of the ‘Music Hackspace’ program at Somerset House. The workshop focused on Arduino and Pure Data – a free ‘alternative’ to MaxMSP. The beauty of Pure Data, and the reason I was keen to learn more about it, is that unlike MaxMSP, Pure Data can run on virtually any device. The workshop was hosted by Kacper Ziemianin, and originally developed for Royal Academy of Arts in Den Haag.

Kacper’s own impressive instruments can be seen in the video below…

Pure Data is a visual programming language, particularly suited to musicians who may well be more familiar with synthesiser architecture, than web design. Like MaxMSP, Pure Data has a lot in common with modular synthesis – patching different functions and parameters, instead of lines of (to a layperson like myself) gibberish. It is worth mentioning that you still need to do some serious learning – it isn’t MS Paint, but the learning curve isn’t quite as steep, and with minimal components it’s possible to get some reasonably satisfying, if  rudimentary results within a couple of hours.

Here’s what I put together during the workshop…

If you’re considering working with Arduino devices, I would really recommend a workshop like Kacper’s. On the spot troubleshooting will certainly aid your understanding, and save you hours of debugging something like a missed connection on your breadboard.

If you’re interested in more of Kacper’s instruments, he can be found at https://ctrlfreq.wordpress.com/

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