M E T R O N O M E

Abulm: Metronome

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About

A metronome is a device that produces a regulated audible pulse, used by musicians to maintain a steady tempo. This work investigates using the ‘click’ noise generated from a traditional wind-up model as a way to generate new music.

In developing the controllers for the sonic washing machine, I discovered that conventional electronic drumkits responded to volume as opposed to pressure, using embedded piezo microphones that convert the noise of the pads being struck into velocity sensitive messages that trigger the drum sounds. Tests proved that these sounds could also be activated by attaching regular microphones to the inputs on the drum brain instead of pads, providing there was enough noise to generate a response.

By creating a circle of microphones I was able to trigger multiple drum sounds just by clicking my fingers, though I really needed something that created noise independently in order to free up my hands to adjust controls. Using a metronome was an obvious choice as not only did it generate sound, it also produces a consistent rhythm to a specified tempo. Having successfully communicated with the drum brain, MIDI messages could also be sent to a computer where the choice of sound became limitless.

Although a metronome is only capable of producing a single noise, it can be used in this way to build a complex arrangement. Rhythmic patterns can vary due to intentional and incidental change. Altering the distance between the mics and the metronome will have a significant impact on the result. Sensitivity levels can be adjusted to make some sounds less likely to activate. If the threshold is set on the edge of response inconsistencies are produced just by the slight variations of the ‘click’. Effects can also be used to add delayed notes that reshape the rhythm.

‘metronome’ is different to my other instruments as the sounds heard are not recorded from the original device, but activated using the only noise it can produce. In the live performance you still hear the original ‘click’ that is generated.

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