Concerto for Duck and Orchestra

As part of my master’s I built an instrument into a duck. Not a real duck of course. My plan was to create a standalone instrument with an Arduino board (so not using the Arduino to send e. g. sensor data to a computer which does the sound synthesis). Amazingly enough I found a nice way to do sound synthesis on the Arduino: Mozzi.

The next thing was how to smoothen the PWM output of the Arduino. A solution for that was to build a low pass filter as described here. Last thing was to attenuate the output a bit, for that I used the simple amplifier as described in Nicolas Collins’ book “Handmade Electronic Music”. Now just shove that all into a cheap bathroom radio in duck form, add some sensors and a mini jack output, and I’m all set.

For the piece I wanted to use video material as accompaniment. I searched for videos of orchestras I could use and found some nice little news snippets from the Netherlands which are CC-BY-SA licensed on Open Beelden. As I wanted to play the videos in a granular fashion, I wanted to have something that would just skip to any possible point instantaneously. After trying to achieve that task with Processing and failing miserably as at least Processing 1.x had a pretty slow video performance, I built a simple video player with Cinder that reacted to osc messages I sent from SuperCollider.

I used SuperCollider to do the actual sequencing of events with some random elements in it and for the reverb, filtering, compressing and spatialisation of the duck’s sound. The finished piece was premiered at the Studiokonzert 2013 in ZKM Kubus in Karlsruhe and I also performed it at the second concert of the MuSA Symposium.

Here is a video of the premiere:

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Extempore setup on Mac OS X 10.8

These are some instructions on how to get extempore and some external libraries running with Mac OS X 10.8.


Get a binary from the github page. Also clone the project and place the extracted binary in the root directory of the cloned repository. Just execute the binary in a terminal.


Clone my version and build with cmake.

Horde3d rendering engine

Get svn version as the last version (1.0.0-beta5) won’t build in Mac OS 10.8:

svn co horde3d

Build with cmake:

cd horde3d
mkdir build; cd build
cmake ..
# no make install, so just copy frameworks to the appropriate places
sudo cp -R Horde3D/Source/Horde3DEngine/Horde3D.framework /Library/Frameworks/
sudo cp -R Horde3D/Source/Horde3DUtils/Horde3DUtils.framework /Library/Frameworks/

Set new-horde to #t in libs/external/horde3d.xtm.

In the horde3d_knight.xtm example, the horde resources_path should point to

(bind-val resources_path i8* "/path/to/svn/repo/Horde3D/Binaries/Content")

Also you have to replace the h3dAdvanceEmitterTime function by h3dUpdateEmitter and you have to add a call to h3dUpdateModel in the mainLoop function, e. g. here:

(h3dSetModelAnimParams _knight 0 (* (dtof (* 0.5 _at)) 24.0) 24.0)
(h3dUpdateModel _knight 1) ;; make the knight move

Then happy knighting 🙂

Bullet physics engine

Install it with brew, but make sure you build the shared libraries:

brew install bullet --shared --build-extra

Set _extended_bullet to #f in libs/external/bullet.xtm. The example currently doesn’t work without the _extended_bullet functions.


Just follow the instructions in the library file ( libs/externals/fft.xtm ).


Install with brew.

Cleaning up (I): PD Minesweeper

As part of a stupid bet, 2.5 years ago cappel:nord, a max user and me tried to clone minesweeper in our then-weapon of choice (supercollider, max and pd). cappel:nord/supercollider was fastest, but I managed to get a 10×10-version together… As I wasted some hours on this, I want to document it here to ensure, that if in the future someone claims to be the first to implement minesweeper in pd, I can point to this blog post 😀

There are still some bugs and the code could probably be better, but it was fun 🙂

You need pd+zexy or pd-extended for it. Here is the code: pd-minesweeper.pd

Revisiting pd and…: something changed!

Never saw that one coming: pd 0.43 has support for gui plugins written in tcl. You can find them in an extra category on the homepage and can install them like normal externals and helpfiles!

A recent addition to this is an auto-complete plugin… this was done in DesireData, an alternative gui for pd, but the project somehow never went anywhere as far as I could tell.

I’m really happy that such additions are finally possible in the main distribution and hope that some exciting plugins will be created, perhaps making pd a more pleasant experience to use without so much mouse wiggling.

What I also found in my search for effective pd livecoding techniques (i found nothing…) was a performance by jeraman named “Ada 2.0”, which is visually really nice and sounds better than I imagined from the concept. He uses a library called pyata, which he wrote, to manipulate pd objects from within python. I haven’t tested it, but it sure looks interesting and it’s nice to know that something like this exists 🙂