Saturday, December 8, 2012

Das Blinken Lights!

 Still a work in progress, I have the lights reliably blinking from the DAW. I wrote a little HTML5 that selects colors and sends them to a node.js app that pushes them into the local midi driver. You can play with it if you want, it doesn't do much with out the node.js server. The arduino code is there for you to look at too. I'll eventually include the node.js after I do a little clean up. Programming lights from a keytar is pretty much the coolest way to sequence lights.

The arduino is in a travel soap box ziptied to the back of the wreath. It's the best $1.50 case ever.

And here is a childish drawing that shows the basic hardware setup. I like to do silly drawings. 
I hope to have Wizards in Winter tracked to premier this week!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

GE35 MIDI Arduino stuff.

The nerdy details of my GE35 Midi control build v1. Each bulb is assigned a midi note starting at 0 (C -2 I think) and three CC controls to send Red Green and Blue values. I send the CC value, the controller stores the value for the bulb. When the Note On is received the controller reads the velocity attribute for the note and sends tells the string to turn on the associated bulb with the brightness set to the note velocity and the stored color values.

The DAW has the midi commands synched to the music. I have to put the CC commands in the tracker and then I am sending the notes to control the bulbs.  

For this build I set the power and midi data to go over CAT5 ethernet cable to power the string and an arduino to receive the midi and control the light string.

Here are some instagramed pictures to show that you plug in the midi and power in one box and the bulbs and arduino are at the other end.  Some thoughts on v2 after the pictures.

So, always seeing how things could be different, maybe better but perhaps not is the mind killer. I could fight my self on each decision or wait for a new material or technique I don't know but I would never finish anything. Next time:

Punch the light string directly into the keystone jack.

More lights! Addressable by MIDI channel.

Set the arduino up to connect as an USB MIDI device.

Figue out a better control protocol in midi. I chose what I did because I understood it, but it is laborious to input the control codes in Rosegarden. I need to find if Rosegarden or another DAW might have better options with scene or sequence triggering. Sysex might be easier to send color information or the color values might be packed into the velocity information. It would be nice to send aftertouch and set up a more synth like Attack Decay Sustain Release for brightness.

Make an arduino based hardware controller or use Processing or other software app for programing the DAW.

Replace the arduino with a RaspberryPi and use it to play the sounds and use GPIO directly to control the lights and custom software and app based control.



I'll have code and video up when I have something to show other than me pushing a note on the keyboard and a cat sniffing the bulb that just lit up.

WIP(it), Work in Progress (real good)

I bought a set of GE35 LED Holiday lights. They are nifty color shifting bulbs, individually addressable and relatively cheep and available. The stock controller has some okay programs that impressively blinkey. I of course was interested in making my own controller and making a light display synched to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Wizards In Winter. (Take a minute to look this up on YouTube if you haven't seen these masterpieces of lighting)

I read up on the line protocol Deep Darc reverse engineered. I servered the controller and was able to make some lights turn on and change colors with some clumsy arduino code. Then I set out to make a library. It was on the order of 100 times too slow to work correctly. Then I did something unusual for me. I found someone's CC library, installed it and read the readme.txt and ran the hello world program. It worked. It worked really well and did a better job than I could do in a year of playing with it.

I downloaded a MIDI library and looked at the schematic and ran some sample code and that worked too. I put the two libraries together and made some mistakes, re-factored and that worked too.

Now I have lights that I can control from a DAW, synched to music. I took the prototype of aligator clips and twisted wires and soldered it down. There was a day of learning the digital tool of Rosegarden DAW and setting up the environment. Now all that is left to do is art.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I have 56 pages of music and I don't think I have about half of what is on the set list in that stack. Oh! and some of them don't have titles so I am going to assume that they are the new originals I have never heard and just got the charts for last night.

It should be noted that I am bragging, and not complaining. Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band has always treated me right and I am honored to be tagging along on their coat tails this weekend kicking steam butt at the Steam Punk World's Fair!

Last year I had a great time, I got to hang out with Ego Likeness for the first time in years and the world didn't end as was predicted. I got puked on and then the police shut down our Saturday late night carport set. It was my most punk rock ever.

ETA: All the songs were titled, I had an orphaned page 2 from a song that they don't play anymore and a song titled "Questionmark" abbreviated as ???

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I'm fixing a Casio CZ I traded to a friend for violin lessons. I clearly made out on this deal as it just wouldn't turn on right before a gig. I opened it up and traced the power lines back out to this transistor. The Casio CZ was a weird digital phase distortion synth that came at a time when FM synth was the top of the line, sampling was too expensive and analog synths were not avaunt guard or 'phat'. The sounds are all kind of gritty and unique. What I am loving on the inside of this machine is the circuit board is one layer and has discrete components hand soldered on (with about as much skill as I attack kits with) and actual labels for most components.  Our sad little transistor is anonymous, simply know as T3. Luckily the backside was exploded and I can still read the front of it.

Lauren E. Simonutti (1968 - 2012)

I met Lauren E. Simonutti when Ego Likeness went out for a photo shoot for the Water to the Dead album. We walked over to her house from Angel Fall Studios (now home to Charm City Cakes of Ace of Cakes). Hidden in a little Baltimore row home was an amazing installation of art. Walls covered in news print and pages from books, cracked plaster and remnants of wallpaper lovingly stenciled with vines, mirrors and pictures arranged obsessively in small corners. It was like a movie set piece from a great art director. Lauren was one of the last of the film photographers and had a 4 minute exposure on a large plate antique camera. She playfully made fun of me for ruining a shot because I keep reading the brand name of the lens over and over again making my eyes spiral and blurry. Later on as the rest of the band faded away I had a solo shoot with her. I have an outtake shot of me against a brick wall. It's an over done band trope but she suggested it and she had a brilliant way with composition that we trusted her instinct to make something of it. This is the shot I choose because Steve told me to, and because I was more engaging with the puppet than I was with the camera. The other shot lives on the fireplace mantle.
Lauren was diagnosed with "rapid cycling, mixed state bipolar with schizoaffective disorder" about that time. There were very obvious episodes in the past but this time it manifested suddenly with hearing voices while listing to a new recording. She was honest, upfront and very funny about this and I remember her joking about lithium springs and batteries as a source for what was keeping her grounded at the moment.
She had episodes, as everyone does, but at greater amplitude. I left the band, and moved out of the neighborhood. Every so often I would drive by her house and wonder if she was still there. I found an answer this week and I think the 500 Photographers blog said in a most simple and correct way: "Lauren E. Simonutti, 1968, USA, passed away last week due to complications from her illness."
This is incredibly sad, but not unexpected. It was plain to see that this might happen the same way a weak heart might stop or a cancer might have spread. It was the result of being overtaken, not of giving in.
This is on the heals of someone else I knew loosing the same battle. I didn't even know that she was anything but amazing and full of life. I was shocked and surprised, and then kind of mad, angry that I would never get to know her and that so many of my friends were deeply hurting. The same sort of un-resolved feelings are still present for a death much closer to me of one of my campers who I greatly admired and seemed to follow in my footsteps. When it happened I briefly went to the memorial, which I left fairly quickly instead of letting it all out with friends. I numbed my self that night and went to work hurting the next day to finish a project. After mentioning missing the burial for what was scheduled to be a long and crappy day of work my coworker none the wiser said "sometimes someone isn't meant for this world". I thanked him for the intent of his comment instead of decking him.
Lauren did leave me with a gift through what as far as I know was her last project. I have a better understanding of others mental illness and forgiveness. Lauren Simonutti , Tasha Kniep, and Walter Carpenter, I can see the peace that you sought and I feel sad once again, but with an acceptance or at least an understanding that has been missing.
Here is a link to the 500photographers tribute to Lauren Simonutti. It is a honest and straight look in to who she was at that time.
Please everyone, take care of your self physically, spiritually (what ever that means to you), emotionally and mentally. There is always someone who loves you and there will be happiness, trust me on this.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hells yeh

I played the most amazing helicon the other day. Don Godwin was kind enough to let me pick up his helicon for a few minutes after Raya Brass Band's set at Fifth Dimension. I could hit each note straight on and have it just hang in the air like a soap bubble. My helicon is more of a collaborative effort between me and the horn trying to find which octave I'm playing in and sort of sliding into something close to the note I want to hit. I was close to gather all the mediocre instruments I own and getting a down payment on just one good tuba.

Having a good horn would help some, but it won't make me a good player. To be a good player I need to keep exploring and learning about music. I still don't reliably know the bass parts to a lot of the songs BBO plays, I often just go with my euphonium and play the melody because it is easy. I need to start looking at the songs musically and figure out what I can play that will support or best expand the song to what the band needs. I need to put the time in both playing and sitting down with a pencil and the charts marking it up.

For now, I'm trying to find a better matched mouthpiece for my horn. I'm playing the only mouthpiece in the shop that had a stem that fits and the cup is too shallow and too big around I think.

Blah blah blah

Hi Blog! 

I'm directing a scene in the water ballet again. We are still in development so trying to talk about it is like holding a tigers tail. At home my latest proclamation about the change in direction was met with hostile indifference. My creative process has lots of me just making announcements about my ideas with out warning or context. On the list of eye rolling subjects are brass instruments, and pretty much anything involving my day job. But that is what a blog is for right?