Cryptoguitar 2019

plucking guitar strings to produce both music and text

Cryptoguitar - Edited tests, 2019

Background and aims
The previous works How we communicate and Live coding a cajón used voice and hands to explore the rhythmic properties of binary serial patterns. Having gained some familiarity with the rhythmic phrases required to produce ASCII text I became interested in how the rhythms could be applied to pitched instruments to add melodic interest to the music. This approach had two motivations: Firstly, to act as form of rhythmic constraint to compose with and secondly, to offer a possible musical approach to live coding. Each letter or combination of letters can execute computer processes creating a musical call and response.

The work was influenced my study of flamenco guitar with contemporary guitarists such as Jose Manuel Leon. Flamenco music and dance is underpinned by distinct rhythmic cycles known as compas. These cycles act as a shared rhythmic language for singers, guitarists, dancers and percussionists, and act as constraints within which to compose and improvise. In Cryptoguitar I set myself the task of composing within the constraints of binary patterns.

I began by using the same protocol as Live Coding a Cajon, a slowed down serial connection. This rhythmic structure is based on a 10-bit serial sequence which can be interpreted in a 5/4 feel. The 10-bit protocol allows for a start bit and a stop bit and 8 bits that can be translated into all 128 ASCII characters and an additional 128 (extended ASCII) characters.

Cryptoguitar, Sound & Music Computing Conference, Malaga 2019

The project exclusively explored how the right hand fingers could execute rhythmic binary patterns, leaving the left hand free to change notes and chords. This approach allowed me to combine the rhythmic constraints of binary ASCII patterns with changes in melody with the left hand. Flamenco guitar music frequently takes advantage of this separation between right hand (rhythm) and left hand (melody). Often a particular right hand movement or rhythmic motifs will be reused in different styles with different chords to make completely new variations, such as a repeated arpeggio pattern played with different chords or an extended rhythmic phase applied to different chords.

Video presentation Hybrid Live Coding Interfaces 2020


Examples of the some of the words and phrases I composed for this system are available to download below.
music words code
when we’re gone