Checkerboard Step Sequencer V2 from Josh Silverman on Vimeo.

Shall we play a game?

Have your checkers chops ready, because Josh Silverman’s Checkerboard Step Sequencer, a tangible interface for music, will test both your game mettle and your grooves.

Built with the open source coding tool OpenFrameworks and Ableton Live as sound source, the checkerboard fuses computer vision technology and … well, some beats.

This video should make obvious the relationship between the position of the checkers pieces and the noises they represent and trigger. It’s still a work in progress, but for now I won’t subject you to the cacophony that is the sound of an actual game of checkers.

Aside from the kick drum, which just keeps pace on every beat, all other drum samples are triggered off the board.

In this version, I’ve implemented a Mute Region that surrounds the board. When the application sees activity in the mute region, it disables the updating of the sequencer. This way, my hand doesn’t trigger a cacophony when I move the pieces.

More technical explanation on Josh’s blog:

How it works [prettyextreme]

As it happens, you can meet this project in person if you’re in the NYC area. We’ll be hosting Josh on Sunday night at Handmade Music, at Culturefix’s Lower East Side. 4:30-6p is an open lab, a chance to check out this project and others (including MeeBlip!), followed by cacophonous demos and raucous music starting at 7p.

Detailed Lineup; Handmade Music site
Event on Facebook

Historical precedent: It’s fairly hard to top John Cage and Marcel Duchamp playing chess, with or without sonification, but apparently sonified they were:
John Cage Playing Chess [Uncertain Times]

No information on what the chess game sounded like, however. Backgammon, anyone? Thanks, SkyRon, for the tip! Also, from 1997, a grid game with Toshio Iwai and Ryuichi Sakamoto; thanks, Ctrlsave. (Interesting to reflect on how much easier this is to do in 2010, thanks to more accessible software and greater, cheaper horsepower.)