My name is Onyx Ashanti. I am an artist/invetor living in Berlin. I have spent the last few years working on a new way to combine improvisation, dance and sound design and i call it Beatjazz. I did my first crowdfunding campaign back in january to, as we put it, "Create the most amazing live music performance system, ever!". And with that campaign, the beatjazz controller was born and it has gone caused a bit of a buzz by way of a fortuitous TED talk presentation and an upcoming feature in MAKE magazine to present it to the world as an open source project.
The project excited the imaginations of thousands of people who shared this vision of "A" future of electronic music. and along the way much was learned! for instance, I only discovered after the controller was built, that the system was so ammenable to performance from the dance floor, within the crowd! further, i have discovered that when a performer has the narrative capacity of their body to make use of, it changes the conveyed message instantly and profoundly.
So, armed with this newfound knowledge from having played the prototype controller for the past 5 months, I feel it is time to build the system properly and fully.
A complete live performance architecture designed to enable completely immersive live electronic performance. it represents the intersection of hardware, software and concept.
HardwareThe hardware consists of of the two wireless hand interfaces and either the "jawbone" headset (built specifically for contributors to this campaign) or,my "afro" helmet (my personal system). the jawbone is a headset breath interface that is entirely headmounted. the mouthpiece is sits on the chin and provides a stable place for the lip sensor to be positioned. This is what it will look like its design ensures that it will stay exactly where it is supposed to be, even through performances with lots of frenetic motion. I will be creating this using a combination of 3d printed parts and carbon fiber with the masterful assistance of Uli Maier (here, he explains carbon fiber and its usage in this project) which will allow me to create high quality parts that will be extremely durable.
The helmet has the same mouth piece configuration with the addition of a complete immersive interface. all sensor parameters show up in goggles i have designed to allow me to see relevant parameters without having to look "at" it. i look "through" it. the helmet has its own computer running pure data on linux and makes the augmented HUD (heads up display) possible as well as surround sound processing so i can use its integrated gyroscope to position my sounds exactly where i want them. It even has an arduino-based "Transcrannial Direct Current Stimulation" system which is a series of electrodes that send very slight voltage through the scalp, to the brain! this is a major burgeoning field of interest in neuro-sciences (full explanation here)
Another discovery is that it is very much easier to control multple parameters simultaneously with this system, so i have been working on a concept called "gestural synthesis". This is a natural progression of the gestural control i designed for my current controller incarnation and will allow me to not simply control sounds, but to create and manipulate sound, from scratch, in performance! it will form the basis of the software system, which will be completely self-built and, open source.
From early in the project, i used my iphone as a HUD to relay information about sensors, parameters and positional data. i discovered that this data was not only important for me, but would be of great interest to audiences wondering what and how i was creating the music, so i have begun integrating visual output from ALL sensors and parameters. my helmet will have a simple overview but the audience will see a more fully realized interpretation of the data.
Online "How to" videos
I have been taken aback by the outpouring of interest in this project. so in addition to the open source project (which kicks off officially with the MAKE Magazine Buildnotes article, released in Oct2011), i plan to use this campaign to fund an online resource that goes through all of the steps i know so far, from assembling the open source version of the control system, to the methodology of how to play it. this should help with the proliferation of beatjazz as an artfrom.
The Busking system
I have used the freedom of "busking" to advance the concept of Beatjazz, for years. I need to practice constantly but There is only so much at home/in studio "rehearsal" one can do before one goes nuts. and you can not experiment with sensor settings at a show that you've been contracted to come play at. when its "show" time, there are expectations that you are bringing a system capable of performing, error free. Busking allows me to play for hours and hours and work out bugs, while still having the energy of people around me. nothing replaces performing for an audience. I have even written a book on the subject. "The 21st Century Musicians Guide to Busking"
the busking rig will allow me to utilize all aspects of the beatjazz system and is, itself, a crucial aspect of the system. it will resemble a Princeton laptop orchestra speaker system, on wheels, for attachement to my bike. it will have a small laser projector and be completely self contained. with this system, i can create, say, a new synthesis algorithm, and drag this system to one of my busking spots behind my bike to a local busking/art space and test it in a quick performance to see and hear how it sounds! (also open source)
I want to enroll in intensive training to train my body to do things it doesnt do yet, in hopes of abstracting the data and creating something beautiful and musically useful. weight training is a must but i am investigating Tai Chi for its flow and symmetry as well as capoeira for it's rhythm and balance. I plan to train in these arts, wearing sensors and in front of cameras so i can abstract the motion data and turn it into musically relevant gestural data. Ballet is not off the table either...the goal is to create a hybrid form of movement/dance that is ammenable to parameterization. to create a form that is FOR data manipulation yet has a parallel narrative possibilty.
can you imagine what it is like to literally swim in a sea of beats of your own making!? what it feels like to literally "breath" beats and music!? that is what it is like. it is beyond addiction...it is religious! and to collaborate in this space, with others is, to me, a goal of the highest order. i love performance, but i love collaboration even more. i want everyone to try this! but i also feel that open source is a concept that we all need right now, so if people are interested in the concept, i am more than happy to share it as openly as is possible. more importantly, I love what it is and where it is going, so even if no one else wanted to do it, I LOVE it!
Another thing that is cool about the beatjazz system and controller is that the interface can be adapted to just about anything that youd use hands or mouth for; i've entertained ideas from beatboxing to DJing to speech therapy and plan to investigate every one of them. what a sci-fi geeks perspective on what future jazz in an alternative universe will be like.
Consequences of it doesnt happen
Haha...the consequences if it doesnt happen is that I've died, because its too late to even consider that it wont happen. i've got plenty of blood and kidneys to sell. besides, it is already happening so at worst, it just takes longer.
What We Need & What You Get
The goal of this campaign is $25,000. this will go into buying components like;
- Lots of raw materials like Clay, carbon fiber, spools of plastic and
- An unreal amount of electronic components to build the perks BEFORE i begin work on my system..
- Prototyping and research facilities, because i will get evicted if i have to do all this in my flat at all times of the day and night.
- 3D printer to create everything from parts to perks
- Intensive Professional Dance, body, and martial arts training
- commision a designer to create Custom designed Performance athletic stage wear
- Production costs for filming the how to videos
- The busking rig. very important! otherwise i am simply "yodeling into a cave"
- Paying my team (assistant, illustrator, photographer, videographer, electronics tech dude-for all the stuff I really dont know how to do) without whom things would progress much much slower.
- TIME. Creating a new artform and its associated interfaces and visualizations will take an inordinate amount of time. probably even more than now and i already invest 16 hour days into this project! this is my life and this is all i think about and do.
i have designed a super simple interface called a "beatbox" controller. it is one of the hand units, with out the headset, that controls an array of vocal FX gesturally and naturally. With this system, you interface the controller with either your left or your right hand, and hold your mic in the other hand. this will allow you to use the controller hand to create fx and control looping, by merely moving your hand ina natural flowing fashion. I have already designed most of the gestural aspects of this so i expect this to be very popular. Here is a friend of mine taking it through its paces
Contributors can get a configuration that consists of one hand unit or the whole system. The best part is that if you decide to "upgrade" you only have to purchase the units you dont have and download the software! OR make it yourself from the online plans and videos!
Contributor perks, including controller systems, T-shirts, software, etc, will be shipped BEFORE the major work on the primary beatjazz system begins, ie, the afro helmet, busking system, etc.
The other perks include an digital EP of the music that results from the performance of this system. there will also be a DVD that will, like the one from the last campaign, include scans of my hand written notes, video, and photos but this one will have surround sound recordings of the beatjzz performance that will definitely sound unlike anything youve ever heard! every perk will also include a copy of MAKE Magazine oct2011 which has the project notes!
If i do not reach my goal
i will make sure that everyone receives their perks , first and foremost. under-funding doesnt mean it doesnt happen, it just means it happens much more slowly.
Other Ways You Can Help
There is nothing more important to me at this point in my life than this project. i envision "battles" that lie somewhere between beatboxing, b-boying and be-bop! pure comic book stylee!! i want to see this realized as fully as i am capable of with the resources i have access to. I am capable of building every thing i've mentioned, all that is required at this point is funding.
If you have ideas for Perks, feel free to let me know.
If you want to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, take a moment and share this page with anyone that you think would be interested in seeing something amazing, manifest. Share this story with EVERYONE. Let's make the future happen!
Team on This Campaign: