As humans, our actions have a profound impact on our surroundings. Even the smallest act can have a large consequence on the scenery. No other time than now, is it apparent how human beings will physically change and attempt to orchestrate our environment, without a full grasp on the eventual ramifications. We often think about ‘the environment’ or our environment as a kind of detached, amorphous concept and don’t often get a direct link to how our collective action interact with our surroundings. This project will seek to bridge that gap, and create an experience of a full feedback loop between human action and environmental reaction, linking again back to human emotion through light and music. Regardless of race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation, every human understands music and color. The color we see and the music we hear impacts our understanding of every situation. These are primal forms of communication programmed into us.
What it does
Mora is a collaborative, interactive composition. it is built to emulate that exploration in audio. The installation is an immersive soundscape. The low hum and colorful lights drawing you inside. Upon entry, you are confronted with two unlabeled panel of buttons and knobs. Mora invites you to explore the soundscape by interacting with the textures and instruments in the soundscape through its unknown control system.
How we built it
The two panels and base are built from plywood. We used jigsaws, drills, and sanders to sculpt the structure of Mora. We incorporated several methods for the user to apply input in the music creation process. The input sensors were rotary potentiometers, slider potentiometers, toggles switches, momentary push buttons, and pressure sensitive Velostat pads. The light interface was implemented through the WS2818 standard index-able RGB LED strip. There were, in total, 19 analog input devices and 7 digital input devices, so we had to use two Arduinos. They were arranged in a master-slave set up where the Arduino 101 acted as the master and the Arduino Mega acted as the slave.
Challenges we ran into
Cutting the wood to the perfect dimensions proved to be difficult when we started out. Though, after getting accustomed to it, we figured out the best method to cut each hole (this is shown in the video link). Converting the analog input signal into midi data that was used to control Ableton was never done before. It took many days of research to figure out how to create midi messages from scratch in Arduino, spoof a faux internal midi line, and port the messages to control Ableton Live.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
There are two primary accomplishments that make us the most proud. The first is mention above in the challenges section. Creating a system to control Ableton via Arduino was the first incredible accomplishment that proved to us that Mora was possible. The second accomplishment was achieved right at the very end. It was the last bug that kept us from completing the project. It problem we overcame was securing the integrity of the data from analog or digital user input, to midi message, through the SDA and SCL ports, through the Serial port, through the faux internal midi port, and finally into Ableton. There were so many points of failure that troubleshooting every issue was nearly impossible. Yet we were able to overcome these issues and create a fully functioning interactive synthesizer.
What we learned
We learned how to construct midi message from scratch, read and write over the SDA and SCL port, control Ableton via midi, and that synthesizers phenomenal machines.
What's next for Mora
This project is planned to be installed and displayed at the University of Maryland, College Park’s performing arts center, the Clarice, during their local music and arts festival in September.