Compare the complex model of what a computer can use to control sound and musical pattern in real-time to the visualization. You see knobs, you see faders that resemble mixers, you see grids, you see – bizarrely – representations of old piano rolls. The accumulated ephemera of old hardware, while useful, can be quickly overwhelmed by a complex musical creation, or visually can fail to show the musical ideas that form a larger piece. You can employ notation, derived originally from instructions for plainsong chant and scrawled for individual musicians – and quickly discover how inadequate it is for the language of sound shaping in the computer.

Or, you can enter a wild, three-dimensional world of exploded geometries, navigated with hand gestures.

Welcome to the sci fi-made-real universe of Portland-based Christian Bannister’s subcycle. Combining sophisticated, beautiful visualizations, elegant mode shifts that move from timbre to musical pattern, and two-dimensional and three-dimensional interactions, it’s a complete visualization and interface for live re-composition. A hand gesture can step from one musical section to another, or copy a pattern. Some familiar idioms are here: the grid of notes, a la piano roll, and the light-up array of buttons of the monome. But other ideas are exploded into spatial geometry, so that you can fly through a sound or make a sweeping rectangle or circle represent a filter.

Ingredients, coupling free and open source software with familiar, musician-friendly tools:

Another terrific video, which gets into generating a pattern:

Now, I could say more, but perhaps it’s best to watch the videos. Normally, when you see a demo video with 10 or 11 minutes on the timeline, you might tune out. Here, I predict you’ll be too busy trying to get your jaw off the floor to skip ahead in the timeline.

At the same time, to me this kind of visualization of music opens a very, very wide door to new audiovisual exploration. Christian’s eye-popping work is the result of countless decisions – which visualization to use, which sound to use, which interaction to devise, which combination of interfaces, of instruments – and, most importantly, what kind of music. Any one of those decisions represents a branch that could lead elsewhere. If I’m right – and I dearly hope I am – we’re seeing the first future echoes of a vast, expanding audiovisual universe yet unseen.

Subcycle: Multitouch Sound Crunching with Gestures, 3D Waveforms

And lots more info on the blog for the project:

  • minuek


    wow great stuff.

  • Wow, this is amazing stuff. Wishing to get my hands on this interface 😛

  • Bendish

    Ha Ridikuloid….some future twang raat thurrr.

  • oootini


  • salamanderanagram

    you've posted this before right? i think maybe a couple years ago. 

    looks like it's come quite a ways since then.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yep, you'll find that link from two years ago in the bottom of the story. 😉 And yes, it has!

  • Me

    I want to do drugs and play around with this until all the venom is whashed out of my body – seriously.

    I think we are very fortunate to live in a time where technologies like this are available for and accessible for everyone – well…at least for those of us not living in a country in war or with strict censorship.

  • FCM

    F****in' beautiful!

  • I can watch this all day, stunning!

  • That's some nice work how he got Processing to tie in with Live and the touch screen.  I think the demo from AudioGL (similar project) a while back on CDM was a little more inspiring though.  But this is cool. 

  • experimentaldog

    It looks cool, but I wouldn't go as far as saying it's breaking ground with what's coming out of the speakers.  Also at some level it starts to feel like watching your friend play the coolest video game, except it isn't coop, so you're left watching over their shoulder.  Now if the UI let others play, that would push it into a more interesting area.  In the quest for new performance aesthetics, I don't think there is such a  thing as a controller utopia, due to the varied subjectivity of any audience.  Looks fun though.

  • Cool drum machine. If you look past the wowie-zowie 3D visualizations, most of the real fun stems from the always-on automation recording, and the mapping of parameters to an XY pad. In that way, it has an IDM-centric design.

  • wow. i want to touch it.

  • Absolutely brilliant programming and sonic visualization!

    Absolutely uninspired 'music'! (Will our species ever get beyond 4/4 time?) Just sayin'.

  • LiamD

    Kinect for Windows may provide a slightly easier means to construct these systems.

    Especially with the new 3D ability.

  • J

    Amazing graphics!

  • newmiracle

    Great work.

    Anyone know what type of touchscreen that is? I suppose it's only two point touch so it could be a fairly affordable to get a HP/Dell optical touch monitor.

  • stunning. just. damn. wow.

  • Seriously, incredible. Normally I complain about the music not being interesting along w/others, but this is clearly a technical demonstration (he even says so). Super-inspiring.

  • God, talk about being inside the machine. This really is an incredible visual interface.

  • mdk

    would love to hear more about AudioGL, cant find anything apart from those 2 youtube videos.

  • that … was … awesome ….

  • I love it. And as always, this kind of devices bring me the same thoughts: I'd like to see more innovative music than innovative tools. In the past 10 years there have been huge advances in audio tool craft, but the originality and inventiveness in electronic music y completely stagnated. If people is gonna use this marvelous new tool to make the typical dubstep/electro/house/whatever, they better stick to Cakewalk 6 which can serve as good for those mild purposes.

  • youngcircle

    My mind is blown. The music will get as good as the tech soon enough, walking on water wasn't built in a day