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ICM Final: Post-Modern Poster Child (Musical Typeface Reinvention)

Post-Modern Poster Child (Musical Typewriter Mix) from lee-sean on Vimeo.

[] [YouTube] [Vimeo]

I presented my final project for Intro to Computational Media today.  Building on the work I did with the Musical Typewriter, I ended up making some last minute tweaks to my “musical typeface,” which consists of audio samples corresponding to each letter of the alphabet.  Originally I had used all single-hit percussion sounds, but I reworked the alphabet to include short musical phrases or gestures, and brought in wind and string instrument samples for greater musicality and richness.  The final version of my Processing program reads a text file and “translates” the text into music by playing back the samples corresponding to the letters of the words as musical phrase “cluster.”

While playing back a text as a song, the Processing sketch also simultaneously displays the word corresponding to the musical sample cluster being played and visualizes the frequency waves of the music on the screen.  Refer to the screenshot above.

For my in-class performance, I used the lyrics to the HEPNOVA track Post-Modern Poster Child and reinterpreted words through the Musical Typewriter.  [MP3] [AIFF]

During my presentation, I also Rick Rolled the class with Rick Astley’s immortal lyrics played through my program.

Source code after the jump.

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ICM Final in Progress: Musical Typewriter

I have completed phase 1 of my ICM final project, Text2Drum,  which involves me creating a new “percussion alphabet”, perhaps another way to describe it is “a musical Morse code.”  I have assigned a unique percussion sample to each letter of the alphabet.  I have assigned ‘A’ through ‘G’ pitched percussion hits that correspond to the white keys on a piano, but voiced at different octaves.  All of the other letters are un-pitched percussion sounds.  I have not assigned sounds to punctuation marks or numbers (yet).  I’m not sure if I want to or if this is necessary for my new language.

I have written a Processing sketch, with the help of the Minim library, that that plays back the “percussion letters” when the user types on the keyboard.  There is a bit of latency and audio “crackle” that still needs to be worked out, but for the most part, the musical typewriter works.  The next step is to build a related program that can read a text file as a musical score, translate the letters into percussion alphabet, play back the results, and save the audio playback as a file.

For more info, refer to my previous post about Text2Drum, or see my source code for the musical typewriter after the jump.

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ICM Final Project Proposal: Text2Drum

For my ICM final project, which I am calling Text2Drum, I seek to explore the rhythmic qualities of language.  Text2Drum will read text from a file, and convert each letter of the text to a drum/percussion that I will assign to correspond to each letter of the alphabet.  Spaces and punctuation marks will be interpreted as a musical rest, that is to say a period of silence.  The program will also display the text on screen while playing back the drum samples.  In using Text2Drum to generate percussion patterns, I aim to translate text into a new musical language and seek to reclaim the rhythmic nature of language found in oral communication that is lost in written language.

I also hope to make a second version of Text2Drum which will be interactive, which will have an interface that will allow a user to type in text that Text2Drum will then convert into a rhythmic pattern.


ICM Midterm: Portrait of Mao

UPDATE 22 Feb 2009:
I have written a new concise description of the Portrait of Mao:

The Portrait of Mao is a 42 inch by 42 inch color print on archival paper. The image was generated by a Processing sketch I wrote, which reads pixel color data from an image file and replaces each pixel with a text character with the same color as the original pixel. In the case of the Portrait of Mao, the source image was obtained from a Cultural Revolution-era LP cover of revolutionary songs featuring Chinese leader Mao Zedong and a bright, motley array of proletarian workers, representing different ethnic groups in China. My Processing sketch used this source image and replaced the pixels with the Chinese-language text of The Little Red Book AKA Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, a required text for every Chinese citizen during the Cultural Revolution.

In creating the Portrait, I wished to explore how text and images play a role in political propaganda and how they serve to construct a cult of personality around a paternal and pop-cultural icon. We know that words and images have persuasive and seductive powers, but how, and why? In reappropriating the propagandistic images and text and by depicting the controversial leader in an irreverently kitsch, Pop-Art way (Andy Warhol’s Mao paintings are an obvious point of reference), I sought to deconstruct the aura surrounding such a well-known figure who is still revered by millions in China.

The fusing of words and images also plays on the pictographic and ideographic nature of the graphemes used in the Chinese language. Chinese characters are simultaneously words, images, and symbols. In the Portrait of Mao they become both semantic and graphic building blocks of a text, an image, and an ideology.

Original blog post from 29 Oct 2008:

I presented my ICM midterm project yesterday.  I wanted to explore how text and images play a role in political propaganda and how they serve to construct a cult of personality.

The image above is just a scaled-down version, the real version is a 42 inch x 42 inch poster.  The poster consists of a text mosaic derived from a scan of a Cultural Revolution era LP cover of propaganda songs.  My Processing program reads the color information in the pixels of the source JPG and replaces it with characters from the Chinese version of The Little Red Book.

Here is a close up of the text mosaic, taken from the Technicolor Dream Coat guy on the bottom right.

I hope to one day present the poster in an over-the-top kitsch setting.  I want to frame it with red Christmas lights and build a “shrine” to the Chairman, with flowers and Tsing Dao beer bottles.  I also have another poster in the works featuring the Dear Leader composed out of the Korean-language text of his On the Juche Idea.  Ultimately, I want to create a triptych, but I haven’t decided on a third subject yet.  Uncle Ho?  Or maybe Grandpa Marx?

Here is a snapshot of me presenting the piece to my class.  Photo credit: Catherine White.


ICM Midterm Proposal

For my midterm project, I want to escape from the computer screen and work in a medium that has the potential to be larger format, more tactile, and less ethereal.  Using the text mirror example from Learning Processing as a departure point, I am working on a Processing program that will allow me to create high resolution image files that will allow me to print a series large format posters.  Perhaps it is easier to show than to tell, so here is an example of a work in progress.

I started with the iconic image of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square.  Then I redrew the image using the text of the The Little Red Book.

Here is a close up:

I still have some work to do to address the spacing issues around the punctuation marks, which creates too much black space.  Ultimately, I intend to provoke a dialogue about the relationship between text and images, especially in the Chinese ideographic writing system, as well as explore the the roles that text and images play in political propaganda and the construction of ideology.