Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Muppet of the Night

I don't know that I need to offer too many words to present this bit of silliness, but I do like tracing a journey that ends so unexpectedly. Indeed, a few days ago I had no reason to imagine any of this would happen.

Our story begins this past summer when 1) I twice heard a legendary piece of music performed and I became somewhat obsessed with it. I won't reveal the piece in question now, but I will say that 2) I've devised a situation in which my violinist daughter will be performing this music. It has some tricky, high-flying passages, and she was playfully complaining about one by 3) singing it in a high, silly voice that sounded like Elmo from Sesame Street. 4) I mentioned this in an online chat with some friends and expressed my regret that I had not recorded the Elmo-style violin singing. 5) One of the friends, knowing me all too well, then suggested that I could probably generate my own Elmo-style singing.

6) Of course, this set off all sorts of ideas in my brain, and soon I was sampling the world of sampling (fairly new to me) and had created a little set-up which "sings" MIDI notation a la Elmo. 7) When I played this for my daughter, she suggested Elmo should sing the "Queen of the Night" aria, and that just about brings us up to date because 8) of course I couldn't resist that challenge. 9) Once the audio was generated, I also started thinking about creating an animation to go along with it. 10) Using some techniques I'd developed with this Barber Violin Concerto project, I found a way to convert the MIDI data (basically, information about pitches and durations) to be used as variables to control a crudely animated Singing Elmo.

And that's pretty much it, but I'll just add a few quick comments. I actually think Mozart's original is rather ridiculous and he might be amused that we take it so seriously. It is effective within the also ridiculous story it inhabits, but I don't think it's so far from the spirit of this music to present it this way. That alone is hardly reason enough to have done this, but the project enabled me to "play" both with the concept of sampling audio to make a virtual instrument and to use math and coding to marry animation to music notation. As with many of my projects, I'm presenting this more or less at the "proof of concept" phase as all elements could be significantly improved if I were willing to put in exponentially more work. But I think this does the job.

NOTE: Better synced version uploaded on 11/17.