What have you made?I have made a stand-alone instrument and sequencer for live electronic music performance.
LightSeq consists of 3 main parts. First, we have the main board with a raspberry Pi computer running Linux, this is kind of a ‘brain’ of the whole system. On Raspberry Pi we are running Pure Data software, which is responsible for communication with Arduinos and generating and manipulating sound. On the main board there are 26 potentiometers, 18 buttons, 3 rotary switches and 3 regular switches. Their values are read by Arduino and sent to Pure Data. All the controllers are divided into 3 sections: audio mixer and master, sequencer control, and assignable controllers for sound manipulation. You can think of this main box as of a computer + sound card + midi controller (made with Arduino) in one box, which is dedicated to live music performance. There is one big difference though – there is no screen, which forces the user to memorize what parameters are controlled by which controller and makes it more of an instrument then a regular laptop. Just this part could work on its own as a stand-alone electronic music instrument, but there are two other parts that make it more unique. Apart from regular controllers (knobs, buttons and switches) on the main box there is another box that contains 32 light sensors. Their values are read by Arduino board and also sent to Pure Data. These values are then used for generating and manipulating the sound. Finally we have a sequencer, but it’s not your regular sequencer, it is a light sequencer. It consists of 16 rgb LED lights that are controlled by Pure Data (via Arduino), which in turn influences the light sensors values and thus resulting music. The sequencer can run very fast (update time is less then 10 ms), each LED can generate any color and there are infinite ways in which it can be programmed. At the moment, there are 5 different sequencer modes (regular, random, polyphonic, manual and out of phase sequence) but new ones can be added easily. Each light is controlled individually, so we can have any number of LEDs on at any given time.
What gave you the initial inspiration?LightSeq was strongly influenced and inspired by my previous project: Lightefface, which is an Arduino - based interface that uses light sensors to translate the amount of light into control signal which is used for sound control and manipulation in a life performance.
After developing Lightefface, I was playing with it a lot and noticed that all the light sources that I used were irregular, out of sync or just on all the time. This resulted in irregular, out of sync or sustained sound. I don’t think it’s a bad thing (I like irregular rhythms), but I though it would be nice to open a possibility of sequencing events in more structured way. This is how I came up with the idea and then developed a prototype of the LightSeq. It was just a simple led sequencer built with an Arduino board. It didn’t generate any sound. It had 12 steps, various modes of operation, 1 to 6 polyphony, amount of randomness and other features. I liked the result and decided to develop it further. In the meantime, I’ve learned about the Raspberry Pi and its possibilities, and I decided to use it for my project which also allowed me to add sound to the whole system, making it a stand-alone system for live electronic music, which it is now.