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for Sound Voltex controller and MAX/MSP


VVD21 represents a unique fusion of arcade game controllers and electronic music. I've created a MAX/MSP patch tailored for the Sound Voltex controller, specifically the FacueTwo model in this case. Sound Voltex, a rhythm game, demands virtuosic play on complex charts with four buttons and two knobs. Rhythm games have always been a significant part of my life, and I had achieved a top-ten ranking in Asia as the best player in Taiwan for the game 'BeatStream.'


Through my experiences with these arcade games, I've identified potential elements within their simple input sources, such as buttons and touch screens, that have a connection to instrument practices and composition. By connecting the Sound Voltex controller to MAX MSP, I can transpose input signals using regular buttons, effects buttons, and knobs, enabling live processing effects. This approach envisions the arcade's input system as an instrument that incorporates improvisation, transforming game play gestures into a musical output, rather than merely inputting pre-designed information.

Input sources: button and touch screen

In the initial stages of designing the button controller, the process began with inputting data derived from human interactions and motions. This involved creating a sketch that considered various factors, including button sizes, quantities, and their positions. The aim was to accommodate different hand gestures, akin to the approach taken when designing musical instruments. The key question was, 'How do human gestures conform to this design, and how can we effectively interact with it?'

Similarly, the design process for touch screens followed a comparable approach but offered more freedom in terms of motion. Touch screens expanded the range of sensing areas, as essentially the entire screen could be utilized in various ways. What sets touch screens apart is their ability to incorporate visual content into the act of playing instruments. Whether it's using arrows, curves, lines, shapes, or even freeform drawing, touch screens allow for the inclusion of visual elements within the performance

Charting systems - composition

The charting systems of rhythm games serve as their compositional methods. They notate inputs either according to individual buttons or by motion gestures, enabling players to use specific techniques or execute directional gestures. So, the first topic to explore is, 'How do we notate for these instruments?' Before delving into this, let's consider the concept of incorporating this notation approach into contemporary music, where inputs are notated graphically or gesturally instead of traditional pitches and notes.

As one example and reference, I delved into notating sound inputs in my project 'MA,' utilizing techniques and motions. However, I'll provide specific details about 'MA' in its dedicated page.

Returning to the charting systems of rhythm games, whether using button or touchscreen interfaces, the primary element involves determining what and where to play or hit on the instrument. This results in the notation of notes assigned to each button. It's akin to having a musical staff with pitches, but instead, the pitches are notated as hits or inputs using graphics that correspond to the buttons or knobs we interact with (see pic1). The chart is based on a Sound Voltex controller, with techniques specific to its range and gestures that’s being performed, much like traditional musical instruments.

In VVD21, I utilized the Sound Voltex controller (the chart in pic1) featuring four main buttons, two effect buttons, a start button, two knobs, and an extra button. I used these as MIDI inputs to send signals into MAX/MSP, incorporating sound samples and live processing effects, effectively treating the controller as a musical instrument.

pic 1

Variation of charting systems

Rhythm games offer a wide range of charting methods, and the judgment line plays a crucial role in indicating where and when players should hit the notes as they meet this line. Essentially, from a viewing perspective where the notes move from top to bottom or vice versa and from left to right in either direction (see pic2), players follow this guidance. Additionally, the judgment system can take on various geometric shapes (as seen in pic3). It may involve a circle where notes meet from outside to inside or vice versa. Furthermore, it can be customized with visual aspects wherever it's desired.

pic2 tag.png
p3 tag.png

VVD21 MAX/MSP patch

As a percussive instrument, it features four buttons (A-D) that control the samples being played. The R-knob is responsible for filtering folders and changing the samples that the A-D buttons will trigger, while the L-knob sets the playback speed for each sample.

In terms of processing, the Fx-L knob determines whether the samples pass through spectral filters. If not, the samples remain unaltered and proceed to the next phase. The Fx-R knob controls which speakers play the sounds. I've configured three speakers: stereo (right and left) and a center speaker.

For recording playback, this function is exclusively available on the stereo speakers. It allows real-time recording with unprocessed samples, which can then be post-processed using the right and left knobs.

max approach.png

In conclusion, there exist numerous possibilities for advancing musical instrument design, whether in the realm of electronic or acoustic instruments. What sets this project apart is the emphasis on 'customized' musical approaches, which yield specific outcomes for individual instruments. From a compositional perspective, custom charts serve as effective tools for elucidating an instrument's underlying mechanics and facilitating the development of techniques. From a performance standpoint, customized instruments introduce distinct limitations, encompassing specific gestures and approaches, resulting in the creation of individualized sound gestures.

Moreover, by embracing contemporary technological practices, a wealth of unexplored sources and research avenues come to the fore. This includes the exploration of the potential in personal living experiences especially gesturally, particularly through gestures, effectively transforming ordinary experiences into sources of unique soundscapes.

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