Bittersweet would be a perfect term to describe the last day of PIFcamp. This year’s Open Saturday started out to be more of an Open Skies Saturday, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of it.
Part 1: Morgenspaziergang to the river
It is hard not to get inspired by the beautiful river of Soča and its surrounding nature, so after a week of hard work, some of the participants decided to install theirs on the riverbanks (and in the stream), and invite everyone for a walk down to the river. Vivian and David planted their watermill for generating electricity from the river and converting signals into sound. Upstream, Seamus installed his orchestra (made up of a mycelium conductor and plants/water/lichen musicians) with various sensors and speakers placed on debris from a building site near PIFcamp, which translates sensory data and signals into glitchy synth music to evoke nature’s distress.
Part 2: Raining cats and dogs (and T-shirts)
Riverside activities had to be wrapped up quickly as the rain started to pour… While the youngest enjoyed themselves in the newly formed lake, Urška was hard at work screenprinting approximately a hundred T-shirts with this years’ PIFcamp motifs.
Part 3: Mains hum ePIFany and other community activities
After the rain stopped, PIFparticipants continued with presentations of their projects, formed a 50 Hz cult, and engaged in a community broadcast. We figure this is as good as any spot to thank the amazing PIFcamp kitchen crew for their weeklong service, crowned by the Saturday’s banquet. Thank you!
Part 4: Dance the PIF away
Our incredible video team set the tone for last night at PIFcamp with the world’s premiere of two short video documentaries (ISOLABS and Live coding) made from scratch during the past 6 days. After a quick change of the tent’s function from a cinema to a concert venue, the crowd enjoyed Bernhard’s and Mitja’s performances accompanied by Aljoša’s visuals, and was thus well prepared for a night of clubbing. Under the canopy, a wonderful lineup of live coders programmed their dance steps at the (probably world’s first) terrace algorave, followed by Blažen DJ’s blissfully eclectic mix. And so, we danced the PIFcamp goodbye. Until next year!
According to PIFcamp regulars, the workshop schedule on the first day filled up the fastest ever.This is perhaps not so surprising, given rapid response is encoded in the nature of live coders, who are probably the most numerous community at this year’s PIFcamp. Monday was therefore more or less spent live coding: PIFparticipants were invited to attend two workshops (a live coding music workshop with Živa, a SuperCollider set of tools, and a live coding visualizations workshop in Hydra) and a presentation of the CLAVM live coding system. But first, it was time for the basics: right after breakfast, Bernhard showed the participants how not to get killed by mains voltage in the 50Hz workshop.
With their new-found confidence, the PIFparticipants then built extensions, since you can never have too many of them on the worksite.
Before lunch, Karl Yerkes invited us under the tent for a demo of CLAVM, a live coding system, which is still in development. He impressed the audience (mainly made up of live coders) with his inventive solutions and delivery. Karl is also developing a live coding music workshop these days, so stay tuned!
While some of us were getting acquainted with the new live coding environment, some of the participants started setting up the DIY geodesic dome, by now a traditional PIFcamp feature, on the neighbouring lawn.
This year too, Blaž Pavlica will spend most of his time in its company, continuing his work on the Ambisonic Dome project. This time, he will be working on the development of a user interface that will allow visitors to arrange sounds from the library in a virtual space, and play the result on a multi-channel spherical system. He’s developing the interface as part of the B-air project, which investigates the role of sound in human development from the embryonic stage onwards. Blaž’s installation is aimed at children, and with them in mind he has put together the sound library – you’ll be able to choose from a variety of sounds of jungle animals. Coming soon to a geodesic dome near you!
After lunch (thanks Klemen, Miha and the team!) we worked on our storytelling and drawing skills at the No Name Fiction workshop led by Julien Bellanger. We used the scratchboard technique to create cards of our ghost Pokémon, giving them a rainbow image, naming them and writing out a list of their skills. In a day or two, Julien will hold a follow-up workshop where we will elaborate on their stories. To get ready for the catch, check out the set of creatures on the notice boards while you are waiting in the lunch/dinner queue.
The tables under the canopy were too crowded for all the participants of the late afternoon live coding music workshop with Roger Pibernat, which spread over half of the terrace. The intensive workshop was about getting to grips with Živa, a tool and syntax sugar for SuperCollider. As the PIFlog editorial team prides itself on first-hand reporting, we bring you the experience of one of the participants: “Roger’s live coding workshop was intimidating at first, as I don’t know how to code at all, but in the process of getting to know Živa, using the SuperCollider tools for simple coding, the fun blew all my fears away. We learned how to import libraries of sounds and synths, playing like musicians in an orchestra. Coding finally made sense! There are so many sounds you can create with Živa and the possibilities for modulating them are endless, so you’re bound to be hooked.”
The activities then moved back to the tent, where Thomas presented his PIFproject, in which he is exploring what light looks like in the medium of sound. After introductions of the new PIFparticipants and dinner, followed by short interruptions of work (or sitting on the lawn) due to the occasional rain, the crowd gathered for the last Monday workshop. Mentored by Blaž Pavlica, whom you met at the beginning of this blog entry, it was a smooth introduction to Hydra, a great browser-based tool for live coding visualisations.
Most of the participants were chased away by the rain in the early hours of the night, but the more persistent ones enjoyed the jam session arranged by jesusonecstasy and loopier, with Blaž’s backing in Hydra. Tuesday starts early, with an optional hike or hard work on projects, and then continues with a full schedule of activities, so we bid you farewell for today.
“As audio lovers, we enjoy developing sound-making tools, and we feel very lucky to have amazing community-driven tools at our disposal, that enable us to easily learn about creative design,” explain Lina and Manu. “To give back to the community we are constantly learning from, we focus on making our own designs available during workshops to help others build their own sound machines.”
During PIFcamp the pair from Familiar DIY will be working on a new workshop-oriented device: Fantasía!
Fantasía is a device based on Teensyduino audio platform, with stereo audio inputs and outputs, potentiometers, buttons, Gate and CV control, SD card, etc. It can work as a synthesizer, multi-effect, or utility tool with endless possibilities… while being a portable DIY-friendly device. “During PIFcamp we’re going to create some sketches/programs for the Fantasía, test hardware boundaries and make some noise, and we encourage others to create their own too!“
For those who want to contribute to the Fantasía library during PIFcamp, Lina and Manu have prepared some DIY kits with which you can build your own devices, and take them home as a thank you for your contribution. Fantastic!
Data is awesome, too. It presents the way we store our observations of the world we live in. Wavetable is a sound synthesis technique used to create periodic waveforms by using data.
Today, our portable machines are way more powerful than the first machines used for the wavetable synthesis, and they allow us to change the sound synthesis programs as they run. This activity is known as live coding and has been around for 20 years.
The workshop explores data-driven wavetable synthesis within a live coding context, and is a collaboration between Iván Paz and Julia Múgica, members of the lively Barcelona’s live coding community.
Join Iván and Julia at their sonification workshop where the data collected from natural processes will be translated into wavetables to make sound. The results will be used within a live coding context, so whether you’re interested in sound synthesis or live coding, this workshop is right up your alley!
About the mentors
Julia Múgica is a mexican scientist currently incurring in the artistic exploration of nature complex processes. With an interdisciplinary background that encompasses biology and computational physics, she is deeply interested in understanding how collectives make decisions that result in a behavioral synchrony. Recently, her curiosity extended to the artistic sphere, where the process of creation magnifies and prioritizes different aspects of the same phenomena. Her work includes animated particles design in processing language, noise design from random walks algorithms for modular synthesizers, and collaborations with the artist Lina Bautista in rhythm and collective patterns with interactive robots.
Iván Paz has backgrounds in physics, music and computer science. Iván’s work is framed in critical approaches to technology centered around from-scratch construction as an exploratory technique. Since 2010, he has been part of the live coding community and has presented workshops, conferences and concerts around America and Europe. He is currently working with machine learning techniques within live coding performance.
Alicia Champlin is working on a hybrid digital-acoustic instrument using a handmade OpenBCI EEG headset along with her own MaxMSP live/realtime data sonification application for EEG data, as a partial input to a modified bow chime (somewhat styled after the Robert Rutman projects). The outcome is drone music from mechanically amplified bowed cymbals in a live feedback loop with brainwaves and the player. The bow chime amplifies both the brain synth and the player’s physical interactions, sounding out the intersection between the resonant frequencies of the brain and those of the instrument itself.
You can listen to a performance with the prototype here:
Starting with a host of existing MaxMSP patches which Alicia built for a previous sound project, she will be reviving and reworking the synth components to optimize/tune the output for best effect with the bow chime, and at the same time will be exploring whether she can replicate these synths with Pure Data in order to free the product from MaxMSP and create a truly open-source version.
Anyone interested in how the brain can be expressed in sound, those who know and use PD, and other brain synth makers are more than welcome to join Alicia on her quest and on the stage!
Here are some of Niklas Reppel’s thoughts on the practice: “In the end, the computer is an extension of ourselves, so bringing it to natural environments isn’t an attempt to ‘technologize’ nature, but just bringing our extended eyes, ears, and mind with us, even if it can sometimes present a logistical challenge. So in the end it’s not an attempt to bring technology to nature, but to bring ourselves, we who are cyborgs (as Andy Clark put it). In that sense, it’s not even an attempt at ‘reconciliation’ of nature and technology, if we don’t accept the split between us, nature, and technology. Technology is (or rather, can or should be) an extension of ourselves, and we are part of nature, anyway.”
During PIFcamp, Niklas will initially explore the soundscape in and around the camp by walking and listening, and select acoustically interesting spots. He’ll then apply a variety of recording techniques to create different samples of the same spots, and improvise upon the found soundscape with live coded live-sampling to bring out interesting nuances and different aspects of the sound.
His goal is to make his live coded performances more dynamic and include the physical aspects of the sound in his improvisations. The sound processing will be done in his own open-source software, Mégra, and he’ll be happy to share his knowledge and the stage with anyone who’d like to join.
Živa is a toolset for easy live coding in SuperCollider. During Roger Pibernat’s workshop we’ll be covering everything needed to setup a live coding environment and start playing cool music – in minutes! We’ll start with the installation process, then learn to set up the environment and go through the syntax. We will also learn some tips and tricks for fluent live coding during performances, and wrap it up with a final participants’ jam session.
No prior knowledge of coding or music theory is required. Just bring your laptop and headphones. If you can write, you can live code!
Roger drew from his experiences with SuperCollider and the issues he’s stumbled upon in his (and his colleagues’) performances. Živa could be considered a guide for live coders who wish to improve their knowledge of the instrument, but is also suitable for complete beginners.