Monday, May 17, 2010

Finishing touches to the patch and website

I've pretty much finished the website now. I've put on it pretty much everything that you need to know to do this project yourself and a lot of links to books, kit and software to help get ideas for other projects etc.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Making the box functional

How the project is presented is key to creating the kind of atmosphere and sense of occasion I'm looking for, and as such I have been spending a bit of time lately making sure the inside of the box is as clean cut, simple and functional as the outside. This is in part for trouble shooting purposes and as a way of keeping the computer cool enough, but also is a continuation of the key ideas behind Wabi-Sabi that I am keen to display in every aspect of Sonic-Cha, from the tea set itself to the Max/Msp patch that makes everything work. Keeping the cables, and there is a lot of them, organized and discreet as well as using 'velcro' on certain parts of the circuitry to keep them in place in the box has made the assembly time far quicker, which is something one must consider when moving the installation from venue to venue.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finalizing the patch

The patch has been getting more and more complicated and confusing but I think I'm nearly there. Part of the problem is that I haven't used sub-patching very much so most of the main workings of the patch are on the one page. If I have the time I will revise this aspect but for now I'm just trying to get the patch running how I would like it too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Documenting and showcasing the teaset

I have been working on a few different ways to get my project out there and here the ideas I've had and am working on at the moment.

- A website. I have bought and have started building a very simple website to show the installation through a number of different media and group everything (including this blog) under one URL that I can send to prospective galleries or people who might want to put it on for a few days.

- Picture collections. I have been documenting some parts of the building of the teaset and will be taking a great deal of high quality photos of the final piece. These will be being displayed both as slide shows on the website, and as a printed hardback book that will sit next to the teaset when it is on show to let users see the different places it has been put on.

- Videos. I have been taking some videos of the teaset which I will be compiling into a very simple, short promotional that will be viewable on the website. I will also be filming the teaset when it is use in the various venues I have lined up over the next few months to allow people to get a better sense of the way people interact with it and whether it will work in their venuewithout necessarily having to try it out in person first.

- Prints. I have been working on a simple image that is essentially a collage of different elements of the teaset and things that symbolise what the teaset is about. I am having this printed onto a canvas that will hang on a wall close to the installation when it is use in much the same way the teamasters in Japan and China would have a carefully selected print hanging in their tea room which exemplified their values and ideas.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contextual Ideas and re-drilling

By changing of the microphones I'm using I had to re-drill the holes in all the teacups and in the box which they will sit on as the new capsules are larger and belong to my university so I won't be able to cut the wire, pass it through and re solder it on the other side. This was particularly challenging in the teacups because they already had a smaller hole in them and are so fragile, my advice is go very very slowly!

On another note I have continued my reading of and around the subject of tea and sound installation work of this kind and have been developing my ideas behind what my project will symbolise and convey to the user. These can be found in the 'About' section on the website I am building for the project at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A test run of everything

I've been adding some more elements to my main patch and have been some tests with everything linked together, as opposed to working on individual elements in isolation. This has helped me get a handle on the way things are working together and has thrown up a few things that need to be addressed, such as my gain structure. There is a low hum coming from somewhere and I can't find out where or why! But I'm sure I'll sort it out soon. For now though I am just doing some initial test with the tea set.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Further Arduino work

I am now working getting the five Light Dependent Resistors powered by the Arduino (which is powered by usb) and then taking each of the five individual readings from them into a different analog input on the Arduino to enable differentiation between cups once in Max/Msp. This is proving slightly confusing at the moment because the I need to make a 'series circuit' connected to both the 5v and ground pin on the Arduino, but powering five different LDR's with different readings.

Should all be sorted out soon though after a few hours of fiddling with it. I think getting a larger breadboard would help make things clearer and easier to see whats going on so I'm going to buy one this afternoon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Problems with mics and preamps

I have been working at getting these mics and preamps working for a week now and have been having no success, I'm sure the solution is something obvious to a professional electrician type, but I have had the help of two technicians and a friend that works in an electronics store but we can't find the problem. Having soldered the mics and built several preamps I have decided to call it quits with this aspect of the project and look for an alternative.

Fortunately, I have acquired four AKG 417's which look like they might do the job. Although I own't be able to use the experience and time I have spent on my own solution in the final project piece I am satisfied that this solution will work and allow me more time to focus on some other factors.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Microphone and Preamp completion

I have successfully got the microphones soldered well and ready to be used with the preamps I am just finishing making. With the help of a more experienced solderer and a soldering iron with a very fine point and variable temperature the mics are now connected up to the necessary wires and are ready to use once the preamps are fully working and powered.

I will be testing for how well the mics pickup the sounds I expect people to be making into the teacups, their overall sound quality and directionality. I will also be checking the preamps for noise levels that they may introduce to the signal.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arduino Success and mic faliures

I've now managed to get the Arduino chip sending Light and toggle switch data to my Max/Msp patch. This is a crucial step to have achieved and I can now move on to trying to solder the mic capsules which have been proving quite tricky.

I am altering a patch called 'Sensor Box' by Andrew Benson to make it more useful for my project.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Patch development

The main patcher is coming along now, I'm just in the stages of refining it for simplicity purposes and adding the elements that will alter the recordings on playback when the tea cup lids are lifted. Once the Arduino element is fully up and running I will have to make a few more adjustments I'm fairly sure, like parsing data etc to create a smoother more workable data stream with which to work.