Thursday, February 15, 2007

Final Essay; Electronic KnickKnacks '07

My final project for Electronic Knickknacks came in two parts; the "Silent Running" installation and then "The Sound of Form". For a detailed description of "Silent Running" , please read the prior post. It also makes note of my motivation for making it.

As for my analysis for how successful it was, most of it's shortcomings were due to lack of resources and time. While I find that the thrown together quality and the "outside" installation did well at proving my point that man's simulated nature can never truly rival what is organically around us, I wanted some of my Max patches to be more illustrative and some of my footage to be more clean. I had the most problems with my deerskin patch.

While the peacock and the clams were simple equations in Max, the deer fur came out just looking like screen saver lines. It looked contemporary and "hip" as opposed to majestic and foreign like an actual deer. Still, I am happy with my descition to just let it be and continue going on with the project.

I am pleased with Silent Running. I successfully conveyed a theory using programs that were very new to me. While I am not an expert at MAX/MSP by a long shot, I do sense my considerable growth in being fluent in the program and am going to be purchasing the student $50 nine month package form Cycling '74.

I made the Sound of Form because I wanted to work with audio (Silent Running is ... Silent) but still have a final piece that connected with my background as an illustration/2D artist. Seeing that I already had interesting shapes, I did the most logical thing I could think; put the two together.
The Sound of Form makes synthesizer (cycle to be exact) bleeps for each rendered line segment or oval. When the cycle is put on random for one part of a value of a line segment, the notes are random too. I made a clam for one of the sounds and the end result is a frequency constantly getting higher and higher. It sort of sounds like a bomb about to go off.
The end result is fairly comical as the line segments and ovals gain a personality. It is also musical and could be interpreted as two instruments playing in a single song.
I was proud of the Sound of Form as it was a very simply patch that had a interesting visual effect.
Once again, I simply wish I had more time to investigate the program further. The instruments were rather primitive. I want to make shapes and pictures that correspond not randomly, but give a sense of melody.
Although the final piece was primitive, I still find that, conceptually, it was successful.

Class Essay:

Learning new "languages" has never been easy for me. In fact, I have almost always been pretty downright awful at learning foreign languages. Had I stayed back one more year in French class, I would have been in the same class as my little sister. It's because of dyslexia and hearing problems.
So when I came into one of the first classes of Electronic Knickknacks and realized I was going to have to memorize patterns, symbols and their meanings and code, I was intimidated. From the start I knew I wasn't going to make a groundbreaking, earth shattering Max patch. Then again, who can in six weeks?
With this in mind, I really, really enjoyed this class. As we got more into it, I learned that Max was a lot more forgiving then something like French. There was the max window who would always let you know if something was wrong, there was audio and visual that would always let you know if something wasn't working and there were never snobby advanced placement students who would snicker at my Max "pronunciation". And the help menus are a godsend! Overall, I found Max/MSP to be very user friendly.
I was never once frustrated. Well, maybe that's not true. I was frustrated on occasion, but I never lost hope. I felt like I could always make things work as long as I didn't bite off more then I could chew.
I think what I got mostly out of the class was to be patient with process when making art. In max, you can make incredibly beautiful images and sounds. But it requires patience; patience and failure. You have to take baby steps. My work is always very instant. I crave instant gradification. There is no such thing as instant gradifiation with Max/MSP. Thus, I had to "dig" and make little progress every day. My entire artistic process slowed down as a result.
I might never use Max again (I hope this isn't the case) but I do think I will take more time and be more patient with my illustrations.
The teaching was fantastic. Peter was super patient and was always supportive. He realized that everyone was at a different stage with the program and everyone had different goals. I really do hope he pursues teaching as he is a person people want to be around. He is calm, funny, intelligent and warm hearted.
His teaching could improve, but considering how little time he had, I can't really complain. I would have loved to just continuously see more and more artists who use max. I cannot stress how important exposure is enough. Perhaps if each class opened with an artist who uses Max?

I'm going to miss the Digital Media department ... onto the final semester of RISD.

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