A guide to the Constellation app (video)

Now I want to show you a brand new app. It’s called Constellation. You’ll be able to experiment with it between now and the beginning of January. It was designed and written by Media Lab graduate student Akito van Troyer. I’ve taken some of the music I’ve composed for A Toronto Symphony, as well as many of the recorded sounds you’ve sent in. Constellation allows us to put those sounds up on the screen and mix them into your own collages, textures and pieces, just by experimenting with moving the mouse and combining these things. I’d love it if you’d go out and try it. Your collages and textures will give me new ideas about how to combine all the musical elements of the piece, and what you do might very well become a part of “A Toronto Symphony”…..which I am composing and collating at this very moment.

When you go into Constellation, there are three different types of sounds you can play with: Toronto Samples, Chords and Launch Music.

  1. Samples. Each dot is one sound. Akito’s software takes masses of sound recorded throughout Toronto and breaks them up and organizes them based on which ones are most similar. If you drag the mouse around, you not only hear different sounds, but different parts of the city. So as you explore this, you can try to imagine where the sounds are from. There are five different ways that Akito’s analysis organizes these sounds: quality of sound, change over time, how loud they are, etc.You can record sounds by going to the Draw tool, clicking on it, and then dragging it around the field of dots. If you move the mouse very slowly, you can hone in on one sound. The faster you move, the more different sounds open up. That’s easy to control. Then you “upload” your score. It asks you to sign your masterpiece, and then it uploads it. It’s then available for me and anyone else in the community to listen to. I invite you to explore the sounds, try the five different ways you can look at them, and make your own version.
  2. Chords – Contains all the main chord progressions. All these chords were recorded by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. Akito’s analysis has put them into bead-like rows. You can listen to the chords one at a time or blur them together. And you can make a totally different kind of harmonic piece and decide the kind of story that’s being told. It’s amazing how chords – even strange ones like mine – can give a sense of direction, of continuity, of “journey.”
  3. Launch Music – This is based on the first finished bit of music I wrote for A Toronto Symphony. Musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra joined with me at the Idea City conference to perform this. We fed the six minutes into Akito’s system, and it broke it that music up into little fragments. I am particularly enjoying  how these very diverse chunks and tidbits of sound can convey multiple feelings and meanings depending on how the intertwine one with the other.

I am finding this app kind of addictive. Hope you do too, and I’d love it if you’d give it a try. You can make your own pieces, send them into the community, remix other people’s music, and so on. And tell your family and friends about it over the holiday. The more the merrier!

Happy Holidays, and have fun making, mixing and mashing this music.

– Tod Machover, Composer/Collaborator – A Toronto Symphony

Try Constellation now!

Read our first blog post and learn more about A Toronto Symphony here.
Find news stories and press coverage of A Toronto Symphony here.

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