Next up is another 5 Minutes and it’s a great pleasure to present the work from Yann Seznec, maybe better known as “The amazing Rolo”. He is one of the first who did a real music application for the Nintendo Wiimote controller, the Wii Loop Machine. Besides the pure application he got special awareness, because he definately brought a special flavor in using this controller interface. Check out his almost famous video upon that.
Hello Yann. Please something about yourself and what you do.
My name is Yann Seznec and I am a Franco-American musician and sound designer. I currently work with my brother Cory Seznec in Paris on music and sound design for a play at a 13th century abbey. Later this summer I’ll be finishing a masters degree in Sound Design at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Besides I do music and try to make as many different types of music and sound as possible – from Appalachian folk music to interactive sound installations. I also keep weblogging.
Why did you made this tool for the Wiimote?
I learned about the Wiimote in December of last year, and the motion detection aspect of it really appealed to me and so it seems to like most other people, too. I always felt that electronic music creation and performance is missing a gestural interface. Still this is one of the major things that separates computer-based music from non computer-based music. I’m heavily influenced by some of the concepts in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which teaches that music and movement are intricately linked. Making music with computers is amazing and powerful and fun, but I wanted to add an aspect of movement to that. The Wiimote seemed like a cheap and easy way to do so, since it works mostly over bluetooth standard and has a vibrant independent developer community with people like Masayuki Akamatsu making a max/msp object for this. This software is also part of my Masters of Science in Sound Design at the University of Edinburgh.
What was the basic design concept of the Wii Loop Machine?
Essentially I just wanted to design a piece of software that made it easy to make music. It doesn’t give the user that much leeway, in that the effects and syncing and all of that are pretty much unchangeable, but that’s kind of the point. I wanted to keep it basic enough for anyone to open it up and start making music right away – even for someone with no programming or musical knowledge.
The biggest influence was certainly Ableton Live in terms of composition and performance based on loops. It is arguable whether one can actually “compose” in the Wii Loop Machine, but that’s not all that important to me – it is far more important that someone has fun making music and making that music their own. I included some loops but I hope that people use their own in order to make the experience much more personal.
Ideally someone using this software, who does not necessarily have much musical background will still be able to have fun in making music. While making their own sound they will recognize the link between their movements and the sonic effects they are producing.
How did you make it and what are the requirements?
I made it in Max/MSP with the aka.wiiremote object by Masayuki Akamatsu. At the moment it only runs on Mac OS X (10.4.8 or 10.4.9 recommended), but I’m hoping to get a windows version running sometime in the next few months.
Do you know if you were the first who made a complete application on the Wiimote?
I have no idea…it’s so hard to keep track of all of the stuff that people have done with the wiimote. It would scare me to make any proclamation on that.
What are the next step in the development of your tool?
Most importantly I would like to make a windows version. From there I would just like to tight up the software to make it run as smoothly as possible. I have gotten hundreds of suggestions, from adding ReWire and MIDI support to stuff as simple as a battery meter. I’m looking at all the options and trying to figure out which ones to do for now.
What is your personal philosophy upon software, networks and sharing?
This is a tough one. I’ve taken some heat from people who think I should just have the source on my website for anyone to download. A lot of people meanwhile get upset when software is not entirely open source and free. While I like the idea of open source, I don’t find that it always leads to great results, and I don’t think that someone who works for hundreds of hours on a piece of software should feel obligated to pass that code along willy-nilly. I know there are creative commons licences, but I’m not entirely convinced that they are as legally watertight as old-fashioned – and horrendously flawed – oldscool copyright to say it in my humble opinion.
Basically, the way I do it now is like it is written on my website “if you would like to see the code, send me an email”. Most of the time, if the people are motivated enough to send me an email, they want to see the code for a good reason and not because they want to steal my ideas. Although I received some emails from electronic music students who were clearly trying to find some shortcuts for their final term projects around the end of April! On the other hand, if I had demanded money for my software from the start I would never have gotten the publicity that I now have.
Now you got the chance to say something more on your surroundings, people nearby or worth mentioning.
Well, as I mentioned I’m now doing a Master in Sound Design at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a great program with great people that’s worth looking at if you’re into this kind of thing. I’ve learned so much in the past year from my classmates. They helped me loads on this project.
Thanks for this Interview!
Text and Interview: Martin Wisniowski, June 2007