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How will it make music?


At this stage, the piano is half-assembled in my office at the moment. I built a system of solenoids for pulling the keys (sort of a reverse vorsetzer), and the electronics to control the solenoids, and a network analyzer to pass information to the controller. The solenoids didn't work out so well. First, they consumed a huge amount of power. Second, they could only pull the key all the way down, or not at all. This meant I didn't have any dynamic range on the notes I wanted to play. Third, they were slow. It took almost three quarters of a second from the time I triggered a note until it played. Unless I wanted to play very slow songs, this wouldn't work.

I've been testing servomotors in place of the solenoids lately. They give me much better control. I have limited dynamic range now, and response time is much faster as well. The servos make a characteristic sound that will have to be incporporated as part of the overall sound of the instrument as well.  

As I started working on the mechanics of the whole thing, other applications of the system came to me. Several people have written algorithms to map network traffic to musical composition, so I know there's a way to get something reasonably concordant out of the mess. But more interesting than turning the instrument over to the network was the idea of a duet with the network. For example, perhaps the pianist at the keyboard has control over what network activity is played back. The activity of the computers in each area of the network might play in a specific key signature. The pianist could use the pedals to "sample" the activity of a given area, , then use the patterns the network plays as themes on which to improvise.