Iris: A Circular Polyrhythmic Music Sequencer

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Degree Programme in New Media
Uuden median maisteriohjelma
Iris is a conceptual circular music sequencer, with a working touchscreen interface prototype developed as a proof of concept. It seeks for a contemporary and explorative, yet intuitive way of visualizing and manipulating musical rhythms. The Iris interface consists of several concentric rings, representing step pattens. A playhead constantly rotates around the rings, playing turned-on steps as it comes across them. Each ring is assigned a midi note, and each active step plays a note on message. The number of steps on each ring can range from 2 to 64. The user can change the resolution of each ring individually: as a result, during one playhead cycle, the playhead can pass 16 steps on one ring, and 12 steps on another one, as an example. This allows the user to create complex polyrhythms. Each ring can be separately rotated in an arbitrary position with a two-finger swipe gesture. This causes the orientation of a single rhythm layer to change in relation to other layers as well as with the playhead. With minor shifts, phenomenons like swing or shuffle can also be produced. This thesis describes the Iris concept in detail, including the design decisions on the interface and architecture. It provides a contextual framework for the production: I explore the methods of creating rhythms in different music genres. I also look at the history of sequencing and looping music, and benchmark existing products and productions related to the concept. The outcomes of the project are reviewed from my personal perspective as a musician and designer. Initial user feedback received from the prototype is also presented. The source codes for the implementations on the iPad and Max 4 Live environment are released as a part of this thesis.
Ikonen, Antti
Thesis advisor
Reunanen, Markku
electronic music, sequencer, polyrhythms, user interface, concept design, Iris
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