Dance-Controlled Music via MAX/MSP

After months of research, we've found a new direction for the future: motion controlled music!

When Cycling'74 discontinued VST support in favor of Ableton Live! integration, we realized we'd have to find a new avenue for development. We looked through thousands of sensor control systems. We were swamped. Then we were delighted to discover Yann Seznec, the Amazing Rolo, who has developed a Wii-based remote control for music looping. Here he is, showing the remote control unit:

Oh sure, there are lots of breadboard remote-control gizmos around for music synthesis. Very few make it to stage. They fall apart. They break. They are difficult to calibrate. They are not simple. They require geeky programming with computers. And often, all told, they cost many hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.

But the Wii remote control provides buttons and motion control in a standard consumer device costing $60. Programmers have developed demonstration interfaces for multiple Wii controllers working in tandem. A whole dance troop could control an orchestra, each moving in different ways to control different instruments!

Towards this end we are planning to integrate Yann's Wii-Looper software with my Husserl metasequencer. With Wii Husserl, dancers will be able to play music by motion! Here is a screenshot of Husserl's professional interface in its premiere version, Husserl Sapphire Edition:

Husserl is the most sophisticated, integrated step sequencer ever made. Not only does it step through loops, but also plays layers, and fugues multiple patterns, all of which can trigger and modulate each other. It supports up to 16 independent input channels and can play 512-note polyphony on up to 20 different instruments. It can filter, transpose, scale, invert, and flip rhythms and melodies. It can remap any note to any other note across all 16 channels, or separately for each channel.

Husserl has now been available from Heavens*onEarth ( for almost a year. Heavens*onEarth clients include professional musicians performing for bands such as Shpongle and Younger Brother, Movie Studios including Sony Classics, and TV serials including Kings and 30 Rock.

Now with the Amazing Rolo's contributions, it will also be possible to play Husserl when dancing! Yann has already created software for controlling sound loops. You can see Yann in a movie clip demonstrating the Wii Looper here:

We are also looking towards some stage performances in Sacramento. Please let us know at Heavens*onEarth if you are a dancer interested in controlling music by your movements too.

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  • Hehe, I don't really see it as either...or. I really enjoy the stuff we do now but I would like to learn what you're doing to. We don't actually need the entire pavilion for our projects. We bring camera and computor, and usually borrow speakers. We've set it up at several festivals, both indoors and outdoors. I'd say it's very flexible. I'm glad you liked it, and thank you for your compliments! :)
  • Well thank you. I really enjoyed the video of your Dresden performance. Your students are very lucky to have such a gifted teacher. So, I hope I can help Christian set up a Wii -> Reaktor environment for you, so that your performances don't need a sophisticated AV interactive pavilion, but can be enjoyed anywhere you wish to dance.
  • Christian works with Reaktor too, so that shouldn't be too much trouble. He's working in Stockholm at the moment but will join me in Växjö in november. I'll send you a privat message with his e-mail adress.
  • It wouldn't really require any work for the performer, except to show the tech what rhythms, sounds, and melodies her movements are to create. Perhaps humming while moving would help.

    From a software perspective, I will be start on the Wii-to-Husserl interface in a few weeks. Husserl currently runs in the Reaktor environment. So your tech would need Reaktor until I raise funds to create a binary version that does not require Reaktor.

    But a binarey version isn't necessary if you already have access to Reaktor. Then your dance movements would trigger, transpose, and layer drumsets, loops, riffs, and fugues via the wireless Wii controller. If you are so kind to message me the contact information for Christian Björklund, I'll set up downloads for him so he can access the software components directly.
  • Oh, cool! Then I'm definitely interested! How much work does it require? I'm teaching full time but nights, so I have spare time in the mornings.
  • HI Emelie - No, it does not require that you be in the USA. It will require owning a Wii remote control and a computer/laptop with a bluetooth interface (there is no need to buy an Xbox or Max/Msp. I plan to provide binaries for the integration). I just need to find a local performer interested in stage demonstrations of dance-controlled music, so I can tailor the sound to her performance. I am in Sacramento, CA.
  • I am very interested! I guess you need to be in the US to do it, though, right? Anyway, I find what you're doing very interesting. I'm fond of motion controlled music too but from a dancer's point of view. I work continously with the project CCTV music together with sound designer and musician Christian Björklund. We work with motion sensing through CCTV camera, and the software Eyecon (made by Frieder Weiss). Please, have a look at our website if you feel like it: I'm also involved in the international project European Tele-Plateaus wich is working with the same sort of technique.

    I'm looking forward to reading about what you guys will come up with in the future!
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