New Interfaces for Musical Expression 2014

Seb and I recently attended the 14th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME2014) at Goldsmiths, University of London. This was my third NIME and this year the organisers Atau Tanaka and Rebecca Fiebrink really cranked things up. The week was rammed with fascinating presentations, demos and poster sessions with a beautifully programmed set of evening and lunchtime performances organised by Sarah Nicolls and Adam Parkinson.

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It was a real pleasure to catch up with a number of x-OSC users at the conference, in particular Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes who’s doing lots of interesting work with SuperCollider, and Myriam Bleau who’s using x-OSC within an amazing new piece called Soft Revolvers. Myrium also performed a greatsponge performance called Origami along with Martin Marier. Two other performances that really stood out were by Radical 2 and Leafcutter John the latter of which has made its way onto the tubes already. The keynote performance by Laetitia Sonami with her Lady’s Glove was also outstanding.

Ian Hattwick, Joseph Malloch and Marcelo Wanderley presented a great paper at the conference called “Forming Shapes to Bodies: Design for Manufacturing in the Prosthetic Instruments“, covering the design, manufacture and deployment of instruments for interactive dance performances. Having worked on a few interactive dance performances in the last couple of years, this paper really resonated with me. The authors also found this excellent quote from Bill Buxton‘s essay Artists and the Art of the Luthier:

…in the grand scheme of things, there are three levels of design: standard spec., military spec., and artist spec. Most significantly, I learned that the third was the hardest (and most important), but if you could nail it, then everything else was easy

This year, Seb and I contributed to three papers presented at NIME:

Our main paper was entitled “Making the Most of Wi-Fi: Optimisations for Robust Wireless Live Music Performance“, which has received a bit of press coverage since our presentation, see here, here, here, here and here. The paper presented two main developments. Firstly, a high-gain directional patch antenna, designed and constructed by Simon Rankine, Geoffrey Hilton and Andrew Nix from the University of Bristol’s Communication Systems and Networks group. The general design aims for this antenna are shown below left, intended to amplify signals from a performer while suppressing signals emanating from the audience. The actual measured far-field radiated power pattern for this antenna is shown below right. Simon worked on this project last summer with support from Boadcom; his full report is available here.bothPics

In the second part of our paper, we presented a set of recommended network settings that we have found to be optimal when working with Wi-Fi devices like x-OSC. We had lots of input from Adrian Freed (one of the inventors of OSC) for much of this experimentation. Using these settings with x-OSC, we were able to achieve a latency of <3 ms, and when using 15 devices simultaneously my laptop was able to receive 240 analogue input readings each updating at 320 Hz. If you use x-OSC, or any other Wi-Fi device in performances, we strongly advise following the recommendations set out our paper to reduce the likelihood of communication dropouts, minimise latency and maximise throughput.For anyone interested our presentation slides are available here.