Building and learning about electronics remains one of my favorite pastimes. When I can connect it to music, so much the better.
I’m building a new preamp – this one with a microcontroller and a pile of digital hardware to provide remote control and switching. The best place for this kind of project is www.diyaudio.com – a huge set of forums for people involved in building their own equipment. I’ve been involved in the forum for almost ten years, building speakers and amplifiers.
My build thread is here: all the information about what I’m building and why. The goal is both to stimulate discussion (not much yet), and to document the process so others can benefit. And to take some pleasure in explaining myself – always a good thing. Continue reading More hi-fi – a remote controlled preamp→
As I’m coming to the end of my M.Arch, I’m ready to start doing design work. I’ve created a new website at http://www.tim-barnes.com which describes my design credentials. Because of this, I’ve moved my business / consulting website to http://www.timbarnes.info — same information, new URL.
It’s been a busy few months in the publishing business: I’ve co-written a technical book with the founder of Runtime Design Automation, Andrea Casotto. This book explains the key issues associated with managing complex sequences of programs, required for software and semiconductor development (among other disciplines).
Modern computational environments require hundreds or thousands of machines, many software licenses, and the ability to schedule jobs in the correct order across all the available resources. The goal is to complete the required tasks, and only the required tasks, in the most cost-effective manner possible.
This book illustrates and compares three approaches: scripting, makefiles, and Runtime Design Automation’s FlowTracer product.
Digital morphology is the study of form using computer tools. We did a project last semester to explore the creation of new forms that might have architectural uses, with Autodesk’s 3dsMax software as the basic tool.
My exploration started with the way sails move in a wind field as boats tack into the wind. The movement of the sails was the starting point, and then we looked at ways of perturbing the surface, based on the characteristics of parts of the surface. I think this is still an early exploration, but I learned enough that with a suitable project I think I could use these tools to create something interesting and relevant.
After many, many years away from architecture, I’ve enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for a M.Arch degree, with the intention of practicing architecture in a couple of years. It’s a tough schedule, with classes three days a week and work two days a week, but it seems to be sustainable.
The school is a bit unusual in that all the academic staff are practicing professionals. This give the school a very down-to-earth flavour, although there is still room for theory. It’s interesting and fairly challenging from a time perspective. So far it’s a lot of fun.
I’m taking three classes: a design studio, a theory class looking at what architecture is and how architects work, and a class called “Computer Generated Morphology” that looks at using examples from nature, coded in a 3-D modelling environment, to generate architectural forms. These kinds of ideas are behind some of the things we’ve seen recently, for example the Beijing athletic stadium (the bird’s nest) and the Beijing Aquatic Center (the water cube). Both of these buildings used computer models to generate the actual structure of the buildings.
As time goes by, I’m hoping to post a bit about the classes and what I’m learning, but time is short with this schedule!
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design—it’s a community and a conference, held in Monterey each year. Their tag line is “ideas worth spreading”, and they publish videos of many of the short (under 20 minute) talks from the conference each year. This one is about music, and shows some work from MIT’s Media Lab that makes music much more accessible to everyone.
I came across this (thanks, Stephanie!) this afternoon: it’s a group of people who get together to explore home-made musical instruments, many of them combinations of mechanical and electrical or electronic components. Some of them are played in conventional ways, some make music under computer control, and some combine multiple techniques.
What’s nice about this is that it describes a group of people who get together to share their ideas, and to have a good time together. It’s a long way from a conventional concert, but just as rewarding, and perhaps more so.
There’s a lot going on in electronic music—tonight the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (that’s right) is playing and I’m hoping to go. There’s also a group in the Bay Area that get together regularly to learn about electronics, computing and music. A week ago I went to a talk at UC Santa Cruz that presented some algorithmic music—I’ll try to post separately about that.
We’re back from our whirlwind trip to Seattle. Today we went to the Boeing museum close to the Sea-Tac airport, which has an old Air Force One (707), and a BA Concorde. Also a great exhibition of first world war planes, the Blackbird, and a simulator that the boys enjoyed (twice!).
Yesterday I met a friend at Amazon and had the chance to see one of their buildings – beautiful art deco exterior, with amazing views of the mountains all around. We were pretty lucky with the weather – one rainy day and three fine, with two blue and clear. At one point I could see Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, and the Olympic mountains, all clear and cloud-free.
We did go to the Experience Music Project yesterday – the building is famously by Frank Gehry and the project funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Lots of great interactive displays (recording studio, instruments etc.), and we all had a good time. I was disappointed by the building – it seemed a bit arbitrary on the outside, and frankly dingy and rough on the inside. I think the passion and intensity of the music it houses and describes could have been more effectively expressed. But still, it was the first Gehry building I’ve seen close up, and it was interesting to see how he used the power of CAD to create shapes and textures that would have been too difficult previously.
I didn’t take any pictures of the EMP – there are enough out there already and I had a camera-free day, just enjoying the sights.