Time_Signature (What is Forky Beatz?)
Forky uses a 36 spoke bicycle wheel attached to an old bike fork. Attached to the fork are 6 LED couples, on one side (drive-side) the LED’s are fed with a constant 5V. The LED’s on the other side are connected to the analogue inputs of the Arduino, which pick up changes in light level. The LED’s are placed in such a way (using an election sign – thanks, Parti Quebecois!) that each drive-side LED shines only on one LED pickup. This uses the property of LED’s that they also work backwards – when light is shone on them they create a small voltage, when in the dark, they don’t.
A small control box was also built with 4 push buttons for track selection and a switch for playback / record modes.
The user (who will now be referred to as ‘the forker’) places pre-made rhythm cards on the spokes in the sequence which they want to trigger events. Spinning the wheel will trigger these events alone. Placing forky into Record mode and selecting a track to record then spinning the wheel will record the events in sequence. This can be done for up to 4 tracks. Placing forky into Play mode and selecting a track will loop the track, until STOP is selected in the PD patch. This can be done while recording other tracks to make layered drum loops.
The forker can also select to place forky into ‘note’ mode, which will cause each of the events to trigger a piano note, instead of a drum sound.
While Forky Beatz can be used in any lighting conditions, best results are obtained in the dark (not because of the sensors, purely the visual effect of seeing each LED be obstructed by the rhythm cards.
Tempo (Design Methodology and Philosophy)
Marcos Alonso of Reactable (here) fame stated at Elektra_Lab (date) that the Reactable was designed in such a way that it was easy to play, but hard to master. I liked this philosophy for an instrument, and tried to make Forky Beats have a similar property. Drum tracks are easy to trigger, but fitting together multiple beats can often be difficult as the wheel has to be spun at a similar tempo, and rhythm cards must be placed in the right sequence to keep a proper time signature.
While testing Forky I managed to lay down some interesting drum tracks, but could see that it would require practise to get anything that was actually rhythmic.
A great deal of inspiration was drawn from Sinyor’s ‘Gyrotyre’ (here), thanks to Professor Marcelo Wanderly for showing me how it worked.
Designing Forky went something like this:
Late at night, testing of infra-red sensors. The sensors returned ‘garbage’ values when objects were held closer than 5cm (see post below). However, after linking this with software, I realized that this wasn’t accurate enough. Thus, even later another night, I found an alternative solution with two LED’s. This had the added benefit of looking cool.
A PD patch was created using ‘mtr’ objects to store bangs. Numbers were stored at the end of each ‘loop’ to start the ‘mtr’ object again, creating that amazing looping feel.
As the sensors are still ‘dirty’ in that the values vary wildly when triggered, a ‘delay’ object was used to only bang when the trigger is released again.
The PD patch was designed to be somewhat ‘modular’ so extra functionality can be added later.
Obviously, a project such as this is never finished. Due to the modularity of the PD patch, further work can go into the functional aspects of forky.
Forky works as a performance instrument. Kinda. The forker is required to do a lot of work to input a sequence (i.e. remove the previous loop and attach each sample separately). However, it does do what it set out to – create drum (or anything, really) loops using a bicycle wheel.
Paraddidle (the mess of a PD patch):
Working late into the night on visual programming environments isn’t really my thing. Hence the mess of wires. I created an ‘Interface’ sub patch that has everything you need when forking, so that there is no confusion. Colours!
A couple of photos of Forky for your viewing pleasure. Don’t tell the Parti Quebecois that I stole their election sign.