What’s what?

IMG_2891No question about it. It’s getting harder and harder to find a sensible way to present the artifacts and work amassed over the course of my circuitous career path.

Here, in no particular order, is the growing body of work past and present. Call it what you will – episodic content, digital junk drawer, portfolio, resume…

In any case, explore, peruse, and above all – thanks for dropping by.

– Robby

Interactive Audiobook

A closer look at the audio animation engine developed for interactive fiction.
A closer look at the audio animation engine developed for interactive fiction.
Ever wonder what happened to those text adventure games? You know the ones like “Zork” and “A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. A paragraph of text would come up on screen. You type in what you want to do, and then you get to read what happens next. Imagine a mobile device with speech in, and multiple channels of audio out. A hands free, eyes free, audiobook that you can push around with speech.

What follows is a short video of the actual working prototype I coded for iOS. The “story” is nothing special, it’s only intended to illustrate the capabilities of the platform – namely the delivery of interactive fiction through complex audio and narration with speech input. Everything you hear in the demo is made up of hundreds of individual sounds being mixed on-the-fly based around what the player/reader does within the story.

Drum Toy

Drum Toy uses an admittedly weird drum machine architecture and concept. You create basic loops using Drum Toy’s Every and Offset knobs, and then feather in the secret ingredient: Probability!

In a way, Drum Toy ‘thinks’ the way drummers do. Find the pocket, lay down the main groove and sprinkle lightly with a few tasty fills or variations here and there to keep things fresh. Drum Toy is set up to force certain beats while leaving others to just the right amount of chance. This simple mechanism yields a surprising array of personality.

Redesign of the Midi Rotator Hardware


Test harness of the MB1 used for coding and testing the Arduino software.
Test harness of the MB1 used for coding and testing the Arduino software.
I’ve created a number of versions of “The Rotator” over the years. This video details one of the first versions that involved creating custom hardware based on the Arduino micro-controller and several parts scavenged from various bits and pieces I had lying around.

Then a couple of years ago while in Japan I made a field trip to “Electric City” in Akihabara where I was able to buy a bunch of electronics parts that allowed me to start work on yet another version.

Rev 1 of the MB1 rotator board I designed. (shoutout to Dennis Alichwer from Neve for all his help and advice.)
Rev 1 of the MB1 rotator board I designed. (shoutout to Dennis Alichwer from Neve for all his help and advice.)
I wanted to start again with improved hardware and a better layout. I was really excited to find what appeared to be Prophet-V-style gray buttons and some decent push-button rotary encoders. Within a few weeks I was able to get a working breadboard up and running (top left) where I could test the code and work on the software.

Enter the amazing Dennis Alichwer who totally crushed it on laying out a custom circuit board based on my design for the test harness.

MB1 prototype in a makeshift enclosure
MB1 prototype in a makeshift enclosure
The result was the “MB1” (middle left) – which stands for “Midi Box 1” or possibly “Mike Brecker 1” we’re not sure.

Anyway, I have a couple of boxes in use. One is running the latest rotator software, and the other is running an alpha version of a new toy I’m working on called MidiBot.

Harmonic Expansionism

The Rotator: A Realtime Harmonic MIDI Processor

playdemo.jpg“Boure”

Splash1sm.jpgAs a kid, I learned to play folk guitar during the early sixties, and I’d experimented with a number of “open tunings”. Though I knew a couple of standard tunings used for bottleneck blues and such, I didn’t take much notice until I started listening to Joni Mitchell.

So I thought, “What if you could do the same thing on keyboard?” Happily, by retuning certain voices a new set of chords began to emerge. It sounded a bit like Aaron Copland.
Continue reading Harmonic Expansionism

Ambient Sound Toy

Here’s an incarnation of a graphic interface for creating and controlling probability-based ambient audio soundscapes.

WHAT IS THIS?
This is a set of 8 rack units. Each one contains a preset bank with a handful of sounds. You can trigger them as a “single shot”, by pressing the play button. A sound will loop indefinitely when the “Loop” mode button is selected.

RANDOM TRIGGERS
On the left hand side of each unit is a “random trigger generator”. Clicking the button marked RND engages the random trigger for that channel. The frequency knob controls the “rate” at which new random numbers are generated. That is, every time the LED goes on or off, a random number between 0-100 is generated.

If the random number is less than the value of “Amount” then the sound will play. The “Prob” knob adjusts the “amount of probability” or the threshold below which the random number will trigger the sound.

It’s best to test each sound by just playing it once with the play button. Some sounds are quite long. These long sounds are best triggered with either a very slow rate of chance or with a low probability of occurring.

MASTER: NEW, LOAD & SAVE
I’ve added the ability to save configurations for the full rack of eight units. You could tweak an existing patch and click “Save” and it will be updated. Tweak an existing patch but type in a new name is equivalent to “Save As”.

Discography

For a time, I made a living playing keyboard and programming synthesizers on a lots of the records made in NY, LA, and London. I’d forgotten many of them, but thanks to the inter-tubes they’ve been hoovered up into a nice discography. Here’s a listing of some you’ll remember – others, not so much.

Film & Television

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? – Nickelodeon
composer, music video

CHRIS CROSS – Showtime / ITV
composer, theme music, incidental cues

WORKING GIRL – 20th Century Fox
incidental cues, synth programming

WHO’S THAT GIRL? – Miramax
songwriting, sound track album

SIMPLY MAD ABOUT THE MOUSE – Disney
composer, producer, title music, sound track album

WNYE LOGO SERIES – WNYE TV
composer

NOVA “TORNADO” – PBS
incidental cues, synth programming

THE GOONIES – Amblin Entertainment
songwriting, producer, sound track album

JACK’S BACK – New Line Cinema
sound effects, synth programming, incidental cues

THE GUN IN BETTY LOU’S HANDBAG – TriStar
composer, producer, incidental cues

THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET – Miramax
composer, incidental cues

THE LAKE – High End UK
composer

Art | Technology | Design