multi-touch the storm – interactive sound visuals – subcycle labs from christian bannister on Vimeo.

What if you could mash, mangle, mush, and morph sounds with your fingers on a screen, watching the waveforms dance in response in three dimensions? That “what if” is expressed beautifully in a project by musician-developer Christian Bannister of Portland, Oregon, who works as Subcycle Labs.

The result is like being able to touch sound directly.

Three-dimensional forms morph and vibrate using visuals programmed in Processing, making architectural-organic shapes and spaces that really begin to “look” like sound. These forms can represent synthesis and effects parameters (Christian has done some work with the Massive synth from Native Instruments), or can allow navigation through loops using touch. Gestures remap offsets and duration for audio, scrub and slice, and apply granular resynthesis.

Controls use multiple touch points on a screen (apparently via Community Core Vision and reacTIVision), with sound from Logic, Reaktor, and Max/MSP, and auxiliary control with a joystick array and KORG KAOSS Pad.

Here’s what happens with a Massive bass line:

low frequency entity – subcycle labs from christian bannister on Vimeo.

It’s spectacular, gorgeous work, and I can’t wait to see more. It’s well worth reading through the whole description on the blog for more details, technical, musical, and artistic:

  • would love to see this mobile

  • low resolution sunse

    Wow. Just wow. It looks like science fiction.

  • cool and inspiring!

  • Orubasarot

    it looks and sounds like 1999, but the interactive bit is fantastic

  • Bipolart

    I think it could be dangerous for the eyes, no??

  • adam

    this is superior to anything i've seen so far in the world of multitouch-music. what you see is what you hear. in 1999 live music didn't sound like this at all

  • pussyface

    holy crap me likey!! when can i buy one? and where?

  • Orubasarot

    What do you mean live music? Because Jega, Accelera Deck, Phonem, etc did perform live.

    Not hatin' but this is a new way of doing old things.

  • Well, it's also the first iteration of this… in 1999 as in 2009 you have access to a common set of audio loop manipulations, granular resynthesis, etc., and there hasn't been anything radically new introduced in software DSP. I guess it's then a matter of refining some of the back-end sound, etc., which is what would make it *sound* different.

  • Orubasarot

    Yeah I just think a bitcrusher is doing a disservice to what is under the hood here. Kaoss pad sort of DSP always makes me think of an IDM equivalent of ponytails with 6 string basses.

    The massive bass wobble example is great though, I was fantasizing earlier this year about a tangible DAW or sampler that was like a block of clay in your hands that you would just mold into sounds. I didn't expect to see something so close so soon.

  • I suppose it's reminiscent of Squarepusher's "The Exploding Psychology" video, except that it's live.

    Which is totally badass, quite frankly. I don't see why people are hating on it. Sound wise? Perhaps it's a little 'throwback'-ish to Warp era '97-'04, but it's more dubstep than anything else. I'd rather see dubstep appropriate older IDM glitch styles than continue on it's wonky path.

    The point of the video is that it's a stylized multitouch musical environment. You could just as easily make it more "2009" for your tastes (whatever that is anyways…). What's on display here is the power of the platform. He just decided to go all Minority Report on it, stylistically. Personally, I'm loving it.

    Chris- I'm in PDX, too. It'd be great to see this live some time!

  • griotspeak

    seriously? man.

    and how much practice must he have had? there were quite a few gestures there.

  • dArAzAc

    Sorry, I'm only commenting because I have an undying need to hype this video as much as possible. I really appreciate the post; maybe one day I'll get to play with one.

  • this is dope! i wonder if it could make shapes with smells too?

  • Keats

    Yeah that is nothing short of amazing.

    As for as the 1999 comment- its about the process not the result.

  • mishima

    amazing! i imagine 4 of those on the star trek enterprise and space-glitch-jams.

    it's interesting that giving sound processes and events a visual interface layer is what's needed to unlock some of the expressive potential of electronic music.

  • YETI

    The layout and effects remind me of protein DS. Looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

  • adam

    @ Orubasarot:

    what i meant was that the live manipulation of sound was not that complex and intuitive back then. to me that makes it sound different even if sounds and fx are outdated because you can hear him "playing" his instrument. i think a new way of doing old things leads to new sound. but to be honest i havent been to a photek gig in 99 so i cant judge

  • @Keats I don't get it, if process is more important than results, why don't we have a video of this guy typing code into a computer?

  • I can imagine this burning into my eyes after hours of use. Still seeing it in bed with my eyes closed. I can imagine this because I've played a lot of Rez

  • This is actually one of the rare tangible/modern interfaces that actually seems something else than just for show and useable from a musicians point of view.


  • Danny P

    This looks great. I remember doing some stuff in Max/MSP/Jitter with Scanned Synthesis where you have a 3D model of the waveform. The range of timbre's you could get was astonishing, all with only a single oscillator!

  • niccoffman

    I've been waiting for something like this for a year. Even the free standing "Minority Report" sort of transparent touch screen. Both devestated and elated someone beat me to it (not that I would have the programing know how, but you know).

    I hope it's creative and inspiring installations like this that can really bring electronic music to the forefront of live music performance.

  • This would be really neat to build and use as a performance tool.

    I can see a lot of variations of this concept manifesting in different ways.

  • Keats

    @birds use stars

    Perhaps I was unclear. I meant whats awesome about this video is not the song he is making (the result) but how it is being made (the process).

    You can make whatever result you want, but this unique visual way of doing it is whats important.

    It was kind of a captain obvious statement, I guess.

  • what a fuzz !!!

    I prefer Electric Sheep screensaver instead…better graphics and I got my hands free to roll a joint too….

    I mean….those movements on the screen do not really show what he is doing….

    ye…sure…glitching, reversing the sound….oooohhhh…what a marvel 😀

    I rather still use knobs and sliders…very RETRO…I am sure one day a japanese midi controller will become vintage….

    the other day I saw a guy who was moving his fingers over 6 metal strings connected to a piece of wood that costed 5000$ (it was made in the 70ies you know)…and the sound that was coming out was incredible.

  • @Birds Use Stars

    <blockquote cite="I don't get it, if process is more important than results, why don't we have a video of this guy typing code into a computer?">

    sooo true…infact probably this is not the guy who wrote the code…the coder has big thick glasses and he is too busy typing on a dusty keyboard to go around and be cool on a multitouch sexy bitch….

    I prefer the aurduino in bikini one…

    ye…well said…soooo 1999

  • oopps….I got the quoting code wrong….ahahahahahah…

  • i was distracted by the amazing visuals 😛

  • chiefcyclonechafe

    cool device: really poor performance.

  • I do see the point: Midicontroller… ok, got it; Effektprocessor… ok, in too; GUI… ok, some eyecandy; interface… hm, something fancy à la Scifi, yep got it. What do I do with that… dunno. The only real, and that even isn´t one really, musical innovation paired with graphics is d.v.d.

  • Just, plain, cool.

  • LeMel

    I was as amazed as everyone else while watching this, but it took some to time to figure out what was bothering me about it. The interface and programming are clearly in a league above (this is Reactable territory, here). But it was sort of like watching someone click open and closed a bunch of OS windows really quickly: The motions of the performer where very abstracted from the sound being made. This is not a criticism of the tech or technique or creator, just part of a running commentary in my mind regarding electronic performance, and how to make it connect to an audience.

  • I feel quite humbled… nothing but huge admiration for the incredible amount of creativity and work that must have gone into this. Really very inspiring.

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  • R3z0n8r

    Looks to me like he's primarily slicing, bit crushing & reversing pre-recorded loops rather than producing live sounds. Although I saw reference to a NI Massive synth in one of the vids, so it looks like the potential is in there.

    Might be awesome to see a vid of a complete vibe built from nothing to get a real sense of the process.

    Irrespective, I'd love to know how Processing, MAX/MSP and some DAW were integrated to create that slick interface.