Another PRISMM capture

Synesthesia is the transference of one sense to another, such as seeing sounds.  I have a theory, that has been provisionally working out, that during times of flux in the senses, such as when the possibilities of a new medium are first being fully explored, synesthesia becomes more prevalent.  If you can see what I am saying, you have one version of it, though cogsci types try to seperate metaphors from the actual “affliction.” For some reason, it usually maps sound onto vision, but I have instead mapped vision onto sound with PRISMM.

Here is another video of PRISMM, this time it is just me.  If you missed out last time, this is a max/msp/jitter patch I wrote  that makes music from motion.  Up and down is pitch, left and right changes the mix of the two synths.  Let me know what you think!

Synesthesia is a favorite topic of mine.  It is the transference of one sense to another

the people’s revolutionary insurrectionist synesthetic music machine

Arrived in Kolkata after 35 hrs of flying and waiting in airports…spent most of the day watching web pages load letter by letter on my thrilling 56k web connection.  Aah, longing for the good old internet of the 90s. Monisha got back about half an hour ago with a 1mbps modem to replace the other one, so I am a bit cheerier.

As promised the other day, here is a very poor quality video of the people’s revolutionary insurrectionist synesthetic music machine, or PRISMM for short. Everyone at the Revolution Books  show had a grand time with it.  This section is set to a whole tone scale (a spacy thing with no tonal center that Claude DeBussy favored) and uses the piano sound only. Moving the green blobs up makes higher notes, down for lower. The bigger the green blobs, the louder they are. Moving them left and right moves them in the stereo field. And here is a music clip that I made with it using a pentatonic scale and a more complex mix of synth sounds. If I get time, I’ll spring it on some folks in Kol, try to record the output, and post that.

I’ve been thinking about a name for it for a long time, thus:


Whereas it takes people moving, sometimes as little as an eyebrow, for it to work, and it works whether they want it to or not, thus preventing wallflowerism and related ways of  non-participation, and

Whereas it got its public debut on the 12th at Revolution Books, and

Whereas adding “insurrectionist” to the name adds to the general gist of of the thing, and

Whereas adding said word causes the acronym to be nearly meaningful, and

Whereas it is a vision-to-sound sensory translator (i.e. a machine that performs synesthesia), and

tokyo public transit map

Whereas all the possible names with variants of synesthesia in them sound hopelessly lame, and

Whereas the results sound vaguely musical, and

Whereas computers and max patches are basically machines, and

Whereas the resulting acronym nearly makes sense in the context,


Be it resolved that henceforth the max patch I spent a semester working on instead of writing like a good historian be so named: the People’s Revolutionary Insurrectionist Synesthetic Music Machine, or PRISMM for short. I figured I better let it out of the bag because pretty soon MS Kinect and the like will be all over this idea, but I’ve had this working since 2007, so remember where you saw it first!

PRISMM works on an object oriented music and vision platform called Max/MSP/Jitter. The patch, as max constructions are called, is only slightly more complex that the Tokyo public transportation system.

I’d love to compile a version of PRISMM to distribute, and in theory it is easy, but the patch relies on some non-standard jitter parts that no one is maintaining anymore on a PC platform, and so I have been unable to package it up as a standalone yet. There are surmountable technical problems, so if anyone knows how to compile (not write) a max extension in C++ so that it will run as a dll under windows, please let me know in the comments or else contact me.

Rich at Revolution Books this Sunday

I’ll be playing at Revolution Books for their open house some time between 3 and 5 Sunday Dec. 12. Hope you can make it for some revolutionary muzak!

Rev Bks map

2626 S King St # 201
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