About Jig-Arteroids

f you're new to Jig-Arteroids, have a look at Video Tutorial 1. It shows how to play with the interactive piece. Then try Jig-Arteroids itself. Of course, you'll do it your own way. Some will skip this writing and the video and jump into the interactive piece and discover it for themselves. That's generally the approach I like to take, personally, with interactive art. If it needs a manual or a video to explain it, it's too much like work. The interface and the functionality, the concept(s) and the nuance—the dialog should unfold like a poem or a story. One thing should lead to another. As in any good read.

I hope that's true of Jig-Arteroids. I feel it is. But you have to be interested to 'read' or play with the interface. Some machines are daunting in their interface. This one is meant to be inviting. Inviting of you into reading it like an entertainment or a piece of art.

Other people will skip the video and the interactive piece and just read this. Ya I know you guys. If there's a kid in the house, invite him/her to try the interactive piece. You'll enjoy the interaction with the child.

Jig-Arteroids contains a heap of sounds made from sounds in Arteroids, a shoot-em-up online poem-game I wrote. The heap of sounds is in an online interactive audio app I'm working on called Jig-Sound in which you sequence and layer the (synchronized) sounds as you please.

A heap is a disorganized pile of stuff. Well, relatively disorganized in Jig-Sound. Relative to a heap of vegetable waste it's a paragon of order, I suppose, though it could depend on the vegetables.

I made the Jig-Arteroids sounds by tapping on the keyboard percussively in the opening screen of Arteroids (where you're asked to type in an ID). I put one finger on a letter key and one finger on the Delete key and tapped rhythmically. And recorded it. Then I opened the recording in a sound-editing program and took 1.795 second samples. I kept the ones that had some energy to them and didn't sound too much like the others.

I didn't know if the resulting heap of sounds would be interesting to play with in Jig-Sound. And certainly not everything sounds good with everything else. But there are some interesting possibilities, as it turns out—to my ear, anyway—you may hear possibilities I didn't, and others may not find it of any interest.

They're all voice sounds (my voice). In Arteroids, they're randomly pitch-shifted (by semi-tones) in a four-octave range. And they're all rhythmic by virtue both of tapping percussively in Arteroids and by being short samples which, when looped, are bound to be rhythmic. So it isn't too surprising that there are musical possibilities.

In any case, part of the idea of Jig-Arteroids was to explore the notion of a heap and what's interesting in a heap. Each of the sounds should be interesting and there should be some musical possibilities (however you think of that) in sequencing and layering them. Hopefully toward engaging music that one has not heard before—I am one with J.M. Coetzee who, when asked what sort of music he liked to listen to, said "Music I haven't heard before." A heap should also provide an interesting experience in exploring and sequencing the sounds. A different musical/sonic experience that travels between composition, listening, playing the thing like a sort of instrument, and meditation on structure and the nature of music. I do my best reading when I'm mucking about with the writing; and my best listening to music when I'm using it in a composition.

The previous heaps I've made were more carefully constructed to be 'musical'. They were all sung, for instance. Whereas the Arteroids sounds are not sung but simply vocalized. And the previous heaps were carefully constructed so that most of the sounds layer nicely with the other sounds. Whereas only a few of the Jig-Arteroids sounds layer nicely with other sounds in the heap. So the Jig-Arteroids heap is more work to play with in a musically satisfying way, it seems.

Jig-Arteroids is being published at aslongasittakes.org, which is a sound-poetry site. Sound poetry is, typically, voice-based work by poets. There's a whole history of sound poetry that is quite experimental with both voice and, sometimes, technology. To the point where Jig-Arteroids can be contextualized within sound poetry without being particularly out-of-place.

Jig-Sound is not meant simply as a tool for musicians, but as something anyone can play with. Like building blocks. Let's qualify that a bit further. Like building blocks that are, say, lettered, and some of them work better with others when you put them beside one another or on top of one another. Like a jig-saw that way, only there are many ways to put them together.

I'm primarily a writer. Or that's how I think of myself, anyway. Jig-Sound is related to writing in the way it sets up sound icons that are sequenceable like letters or words or phrases. The sounds themselves are not notes but phrases. Musical composition on the level of the phrase rather than the note. That sort of language. That sort of poetry.

I've been working on interactive audio projects since 1999 when I started using Director for just that. Pretty much all that work is available at vispo.com/vismu. If you look at Nio, you can see Jig-Sound as the next step. Nio was in a grid. Jig-Sound breaks out of the grid. You couldn't copy sound icons in Nio. You can, in Jig-Sound. But both have sound icons. And both are sequencers (at least verse 2 of Nio is a sequencer) in that you can sequence and layer audio interactively so that it's well-synchronized.

The synchronization engine for Jig-Sound is more flexible than that of Nio, which required all sounds to be the same length. You wouldn't know it in Jig-Arteroids, because all those sounds are the same length, but the Jig-Sound synchronization engine can deal nicely with sounds of different lengths. I'll write a more technical thing about the synchronization engine in Jig-Sound, eventually. The 'Tune' button in Jig-Arteroids will eventually open a window that will let users adjust the synchronization and duration of green-linked sounds.


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