For my piece Study in Space No. 1, and for the pieces that will follow in this series, I built some devices that would remotely play snare drums. You can find out a bit more about the piece in this post. The main hardware I used included Arduino microcontrollers, Xbee radios, and small solenoids. There are some simple electronics involved in getting the Arduino to control the solenoids and regulating the voltage. The Arduinos and solenoids are powered using USB battery packs and rechargeable 9v batteries respectively. I chose to use batteries so that locations of outlets would not be an issue when positioning the snare drums around a performance location.
On my computer I am using a Max patch that I made to control the drum machines. In this patch I set up a couple methods of control. The first method utilizes the Xbox Kinect as means of gestural control of the machines. By moving my hands away from or closer to the center of body I can control the speed at which any of the drums is playing. The x and y position of each hand controls an individual drum. The Kinect was also set up to be able to control single strikes of the drum based on a hand moving a specified distance away from the body.
The second method of control is via a DrumKat. The DrumKat is connected to the computer and the MIDI messages received in Max are used to control the drum machines. Each drum was assigned to a specific pad. Additionally, some pads are assigned to trigger each drum in succession at a variety of speeds and in different orders. The effect is one that imitates a multi-tap digital delay effect.
Future implementations of these “drum machines” will be used to play instruments other than snare drums. Please take a look at the pictures for some more clarification about the parts of the system, and feel free to send any questions or comments my way.