The Crosses (2016)

A hyperinstrument based on tension sensors.

Platforms: Arduino, Teensy, SuperCollider, PureData

The Crosses are a custom-made musical instrument created during my undergraduate studies at the Université de Montréal, under the supervision of Patrick Saint-Denis. The Crosses were used to create PUPPETS, a live performance first presented on January 12th 2017 at the Salle Claude-Champagne (Université de Montréal) as part of the Ultrasons concert series.

Teaser for the PUPPETS premiere at Ultrasons 2017 (Video: Francis Lecavalier, 2017)

Physically, it consists of 2 wooden crosses each augmented with a joystick, pressure sensor and 9DoF chip. Each cross was also attached to 4 stretch sensors that connected to a board placed under the performer. Microcontrollers are used to transfer the data over to a computer using WiFi.

Live setup of The Crosses
Full live setup of the Crosses used for PUPPETS (Photo: Francis Lecavalier, 2017)

On the software side, the OSC messages sent by each cross are massaged by a PureData patch, before being forwarded to a SuperCollider instrument. Using the joysticks, the performer can switch between one of 4 play modes for each cross: granular synthesis, FM synthesis, algorithmically-generated melodies and sample playback. The stretch sensors control various sound parameters for each play mode.

The Crosses being built. (Photo: Francis Lecavalier, 2016)

The Crosses were designed with live performance and interactivity in mind. I wanted to design something that was intuitive to play and also provided some kind of haptic feedback to the user, much like Martin Marier’s sponge. The stretch sensors fulfilled this role perfectly, and inspired me to explore the tension-release, dominant-dominated and slave-master relationships featured in PUPPETS.