PD Workshops preadvice

To all participants in the Prague Shakuhachi Festival 2013, who wish to take part in workshops with Jim Franklin on shakuhachi and live electronics.

Two levels of participation in the workshop are possible:

Listener

Listener-participants are welcome to sit in on all sessions, without any special requirements. This level is a kind of gathering of ideas, without putting them into practice directly in the workshops.

Performer

Performer-participants will actively take part in exercises and music-making with shakuhachi and live electronics (computer-based). To do this, any level of shakuhachi playing beyond “just starting” is ok, but there are certain requirements concerning the technology.

a) The workshops will be based around the (free and totally legal) programme Pure Data (PD). Active participants will need their own laptops, ideally with PD installed and checked before the workshops.

b) PD can be found here:

http://puredata.info/downloads/

We will be using the “vanilla” distribution – the simplest form, without operating system-specific extras. The version at the time of writing is 0.44.0. This or any later version is acceptable. I do _not_ recommend downloading PD-extended, as this has compatibility issues with some computers.

Please also note that PD 0.44.0 is still at a fairly early stage, and has been known (in its test versions) to have had some problems with MacOSX v.10.8 and later. It seems to be stable under the last versions of 10.7, so if you are using a Mac, and have not upgraded to 10.8, it may be worth wiring until after the workshop before doing so.

c) PD exists in builds for Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. I will bring installer CD-ROMs with me for all systems, but (I reiterate) it will be better to have PD installed and working on your computer before the workshops start. Although I have had no problems, some users report that PD can be tricky to get operating on some computers, so please don’t leave installing it until the day before the workshop.

d) To make use of PD with the shakuhachi, the laptop will need a way of connecting a microphone, and getting an audio signal out to a set of loudspeakers or mixing console. The minimum requirement would be an external microphone input (often present as a small socket on the front or side of a laptop), and a headphone output. If these are working (e.g. with a sound recording programme), then it should be possible to work with PD.

A better level of sound quality can be achieved with an external audio interface (USB, FireWire etc.), so if you have some kind of small external interface, please bring it as well.

e) The minimum requirement for a microphone is that it can be connected to the computer or interface (i.e. it has the right connectors – minijack in the minimal system using the computer’s built-in connectors), and that it can be attached to the shakuhachi. For professional microphones, the sky is the limit. (I you’re feeling like spending a lot of money, check out the series of miniature microphones by danish pro audio – dpa.) If your budget is tight, a workable microphone is a small, lapel-style microphone available cheaply from most electronics stores, or a small stereo microphone such as often used to be supplied with portable cassette recorders. These can also often be found in electronics shops. If you are buying a microphone, be careful about its power requirements. Many small microphones need power from the device into which they are being plugged, and your computer must supply this. (Many laptops can do this, but the option must be turned on in a control panel somewhere.) Also, be aware that a cheap microphone is adequate for learning about PD and experimenting. For serious performing, something better is needed.

f) I will provide velcro strips for attaching simple, small microphones to the shakuhachi.

g) Once you have PD installed and a microphone connected, there is a test routine in PD (in the “Media” menu in the MacOSX version) which will tell you if you really are getting something from the microphone, and which gives you a test tone to check whether it can output an audio signal correctly.

h) For you to practice and experiment without your electronics disturbing other people, a set of headphones (or bud-style earphones) is recommended. Cheap ones will do the job, but more expensive ones give better sound quality.

i) Other technical facilities (e.g. mixing console or amplifier to which the laptop will be connected) will be provided by the Festival. Teaching material (.pdf- or PD-files) will be provided in Prague from CD-ROM or USB stick.

PD is a very powerful yet inexpensive (=free) way of working with live electronics as a performance tool. I look forward to exploring it with you.

Jim Franklin