Bringing an eight-channel drone instrument to life

Tools: PureData, Bela, C++

Octocosm[e] is an ongoing project by artist and composer Vincent Fillion. It is an audiovisual installation designed for drone and generative music performances. It was presented publicly for the first time on February 25th 2023 as part of the Mois Multi festival.

Vincent Fillion showcasing his work at Mois Multi in January 2023 (Photo: Merryl B. Lavoie)

At its core, Octocosm[e] is a musical instrument with eight musical engines and eight audio channels. Each channel is identical and can be assigned to any one of the sound engines. The instrument can be controlled using its physical sliders, buttons and pots, or remotely through OSC. On the visual side, Octocosm[e] allows the user to take control of eight audio-reactive 3D shapes that can be manipulated, distorted and transformed using the physical controls on the instrument.

Prototype of the Octocosm[e] instrument.

Vincent first enlisted my help in the second half of 2022, to help him optimize and debug his main Pure Data patch, which produces all of the instrument’s sound. The goal was to make the patch run more smoothly without audio drops and refactor it to make future maintenance and development easier. All of this was in preparation for an artistic residency at the Charpente des fauves (as part of the JAM 360) in January 2023, during which I was also involved as a programmer. During this residency, I developed a small C++ program on a Bela development board to read, scale and filter the values coming from the various physical inputs of the instrument, which were then transmitted to the network using OSC. The first prototype of the project was unveiled at the Mois Multi on January 25th 2023 to great interest.

Octocosm[e] residency in January 2023.

Work on Octocosm[e] continued in the latter half of 2023, with a pair of artistic residencies: the first one at Artificiel (Montreal) from September 29th to October 1st, and the second one at the Charpente des fauves (Quebec City) in November. During this time, I helped Vincent finish his PureData patch and did ton of fun stuff on the instrument: I programmed an Euclidean drum sequencer, LED patterns, a chord playing machine, a preset system, and lots of other tiny features and bug fixes. It was a very fun and rewarding experience!

The final result will be presented at the Mois Multi 2024 in Quebec City.