SBASS -- sensor bass

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The Sbass is a gestural interface I designed for a 5 string electric upright string bass built for me by luthier Bill Merchant. To the basic instrument an array of pickups has been added, including a contact microphone mounted under the hair of the tip of the bow. A small mouse touch-pad is mounted under the fingerboard offering two axes of continuous control in performance, and several extra buttons.

Since much of my playing is pizzicato, rather then focusing on the bow as the primary dynamic interface as in Dan Trueman's "Rbow," sensors are mounted to the body of the instrument itself. These include several slide sensors, force sensitive resistors, turn "pots," and, a biaxial accelerometer. The tactile sensors are placed in such a way that they can be easily manipulated while playing, the accelerometer allows slight movement and tilt of the bass to control dynamic aspects of the sound. Using a micro-controller mounted on the side of the bass, the signals from these sensors are scaled into MIDI continuous control data affecting performance parameters of the MAX/MSP performance patch running on the main performance computer.

My MAX/MSP "patch" makes extensive use of the PeRColate toolkit emlpoying numerous delay and granulation routines, physical modeling instruments, several different kinds of filtering, many palettes of sampled sounds, a mixing/routing console, and an algorithmic mixing routine drawing upon a large collection of composed sounds grouped in textural categories. The interactive computer environment is designed to maximize flexibility in performance to generate, layer and route musical material with the same improvisational freedom as he has developed with his string bass. An aim in creating this interface is to enable me to take my electro-acoustic music out of the studio and into a wide range of performance contexts.

The configuration of the sensors and the computer performance interface is constantly changing and developing in a way analogous to the musical development of an improviser from performance to performance. I play the Sbass in "interface," with Dan Trueman and in many other situations. I've just release a new CD named "r!g," which is a set of live solo "Sbass" improvisations.