Irregular rhythms, that are present for example in ritual music of African tribes have always fascinated me. They confuse the human brain a little; they create a weird experience and slightly alter the state of mind for the person experiencing it.The human brain can decode regularity and regular patterns quite easily (not only sound-wise). But the interesting situation begins when a number of these regular rhythms overlap irregularly. The brain can find and portray its’ own structures and patterns in these newly created polyrhythms. That’s why I’ve decided to create a percussive musical instrument, that allows the exploration and understanding of this particular phenomenon by natural and available measures.
I wanted to create a device, that would feel simple, just as a toy, and will also create a nice acoustic resonance. After trying out how the considered materials sounded with various types of relays, I went for plywood, simply because of the warmth of the resonance the relay was creating, making it sound pleasant to the ear, regardless to the constant repetition. I’ve chosen that five independent voices (relays) is a good number to create a polyrhythm not too complex or chaotic, that would discourage people of exploring the idea and send them away instead. This was a hard decision, but when I made it, the panel was laser-cut and engraved in 3mm plywood.
The brain of CKCK is a Max/MSP patch, controlling an Arduino via Firmata drivers. During the semester before I started to work with Pure Data, but I decided to try a slightly different route by using Max/MSP.
The interface was designed to be as simple as possible, containing only the necessary features and also explaining itself to the user A single voice contains a classical lever switch for switching on/off each realy. Also, a LED near the switch is indicating its state. The rotary switch underneath the switch allows the change of the beat division, according to global BPM, which is set by the silver, largest knob in the middle and indicated by the yellow LED, blinking each 1/4th of the beat. You can tap the tempo by a button in the lower right, which comes handy when jamming with someone. CKCK is able to operate in two modes – synchronised and asynchronous, both providing different results. Synchronous is making all the voices synced to their global metronome, asynchronous lets the user create assymetric, free rhythms by offsetting a voice by the amount spent manipulating the division.
All the electronics are placed inside the box. The Arduino with cables sits at the lowest layer, mounted to bottom; above there is a platform that serves for fixing the rotary switches, so they aren’t wiggly while being used. The top layer is the front panel, that also serves as the membrane / amplifier for the relays – there is no glue or any other fixative material between the relay and the plywood, so it creates the natural amplification of the acoustic sound(making it significantly louder). The front panel is covered by a lid, protecting the controls and relays while the device is not used, useful not only when transporting the device (or as a pseudo low-pass filter if you want)
The project is currently being used for recording samples and various experiments. CKCK is able to output MIDI triggers to external gear, MIDI clock out, specified MIDI notes, all via Max/MSP. I have used it in couple of projects, triggering an analog drum machine, controlling an analog synthesizer and effecting it by various pedals and DSPs.
You can see more about CKCK and other cool stuff at www.filipruisl.com.