Thursday, September 20, 2012

AudioCubes Provide Intriguing Possibilities for Music/Sound Production

Have you seen or tried AudioCubes?  If not, you are in for a treat. I was recently contacted by Bert Schiettecatte, founder of Percussa BVBA who asked me to take a look.  Though my schedule was busy, I was intrigued by what I saw and heard.  As a Music Educator who teaches in a middle school music technology lab, I saw potential for these sound/music making devices immediately.  Here are Bert's responses to questions I asked about AudioCubes.  I encourage anyone working in music, music education and/or electronic music to check these out.

Do  you see Audiocubes being used in schools as part of music education programs? How so?
BS: Yes, sure. In fact, there are already several schools who are using
the AudioCubes, at several levels. In higher education, Full Sail
University, the University of New Mexico and Berklee college of music
are just some examples of schools who have been using AudioCubes since
the beginning. Student artists use AudioCubes for sound design,
composition, live performance .... but also for research and teaching
/ education.

In lower education, and specifically in STEM education, kids as young
as 10 years old are using the AudioCubes
, to experiment with sound and
music and learn about technology and science at the same time. Check

Why use Audiocubes over another music/sound production app?
What is compelling about your product?
BS: AudioCubes are unique in that they allow you to directly interact with
a piece of data or behaviour directly through a physical object
without pointing or clicking. The data or function is already there in
your working or living environment, because it is represented by a
physical object. This is apparent in these two software applications
which I developed the past year, called Improvisor and Evolvor: and

For live performers, AudioCubes are great because they make a
performance instantly visual, and gestural, and allow for audience
interaction. If you bring your live laptop setup and AudioCubes, you
don't need to bring a VJ necessarily. If it's a small performance, the
audience understands what you do through AudioCubes, and if it's a
large performance, you can put a camera on what you're doing with the
AudioCubes and you instantly have impressive visuals.

For sound designers, you can easily create and shape sounds simply
using your hands and fingers and one or two AudioCubes. You can learn
more about that at
for example. The cubes can be easily connected via MIDI to your
favourite effects or instruments, hardware or software. Each cube
senses distances in 4 directions, so you can easily control up to 8
parameters simultaneously, even if you have just 2 hands, using the

For composers, we've created a generative music application, which I
already mentioned: Improvisor. The app lets you play back different
loops of notes and velocity patterns, and each loop is connected to a
cube automatically. Putting cubes next to each other will apply
transformations to the loops (such as adding loops from 2 cubes) so
you get totally new music. You can then send the notes via MIDI where
you want.

This is just scratching the surface - there are so many ways to use
AudioCubes, and we try to show this each week on our blog at

Why would music students like this?
BS: Because new human computer interfaces allow new ways to interact with
computers, software and data, which gives rise to new sound and new
kinds of music, and makes the whole process feel less like "work" and
more like "play".

What's in line for the future?
BS: I'm working on more software which lets you use AudioCubes without
necessarily having to do MIDI or OSC mapping, and which generates
sound by itself. The most recent app I have been working on is a free
and open source FM synthesizer for audiocubes and Max4Live (the
development environment in Ableton Live, using Max/MSP by Cycling74).
We're also starting a mailing list which will be a great way for the
community to have more regular discussions about AudioCubes.

Very cool stuff!  I believe that Bert and Percussa are on to something-especially since the way one interacts with the cubes adds a dimension to the sound creation process.  

Prediction:  In the future, schools will not only have regular Concert and Marching Bands, they will have "iBands" that will include app-driven sound creation devices like AudioCubes, iPads and the like.  That's a cool future.

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