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In-depth Feature:  Nanoloop
Gameboy Cartridge Synth/Sequencer
Mark Tinley writes: .

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Interview with Nanoloops Creator
Thomas Finegan for Sonic State talks to Oliver Wittchow
the 28-year-old visual communication student who made Mario make tracks.

SS: Although Nanoloop is a niche-product at the moment, we can imagine it as an appealing entry-level music-tool for kids, similar Magix Music Maker or Dance eJay.

OW: I am not sure if Nanoloop could really work as a children's toy, maybe it's not self-explaining enough and too open. I think you need to be familiar with the step sequencer concept and study the manual first to have fun with nanoloop. I would rather see it as a nice tool for didactic purposes, for example the waveform editor could illustrate Fourier synthesis. Anyway, I may underestimate the kids...

SS: We can read how you developed Nanoloop within your study time, and how and why you chose the Game Boy, on your site ( Will you develop other cartridges for the Game Boy?

OW: I am not going to develop for the Game Boy anymore (unless someone asks me to...) because it's not an open platform. It can only communicate with other Game Boys and software must be distributed on expensive cartridges. The complete system belongs to Nintendo, theoretically you need to ask and pay them for a license for anything you do with it.

SS: How about Windows CE and Palm OS? OW: Win CE and Palm OS may become an alternative when there is a free development system for Win CE or a hi-fi extension for Palm Pilot & co.

SS: What about other platforms?

OW: As they are sound devices by definition, cell phones are my choice for future development. The possibiltity of transmitting audio, data and even cash over the air allows whole new types of applications and distribution. Software-wise i am interested in additive synthesis, networking and automatization, so a future application could look like this for example: a server-based mp3-synthesis system of personalized learning algorithms which create a spectral matrix (synth) along with a pattern of predefined samples (sequencer), controlled by a cute little WAP interface. Algorithms could be edited and saved on the phone and exchanged through a PokÈmon-like trading system.

There are prototypes of Smartphone music distribution in Japan and but it will take years till they come to Europe. I'll try to get developer info for "i-mode" & co. But for now such things much too demanding for both, me and the available hardware. On European (Nokia-) handsets the only yet possible sound application is server-based ringtone generation. I like ringing tones for their reduced and fleeting character, so my next project is an automatic online melody generator which will be introduced on a new site soon.

By the way, this has nothing to do with WAP. WAP is absolutely mute, it has not even a little "beep" command, they just totally forgot implementing sound in it!

SS: When will Nanoloop be available?

OW: I just got credit card acceptance, so international sales can go on as soon as the ordering system is installed and activated, I guess that will be in the July.

SS: Are you also making music without your Nanoloop?

OW: Yes! My favourite tool for sampling and sequencing is still Fasttracker. For synthesis I use software synths such as Generator (now Reactor) and javOICe. Standard sounds such as bass drums etc I get from sound collections on CD. Other samples come from TV and sometimes I use atmospheres, recorded with my DAT. The style could be described as 'minimal house'.

I use Fasttracker because to me it's still the fastest way to arrange samples - it has nothing to do with a 'demo scene' style. Sometimes I meet with friends to make music. We use two computers running Seq303 for controlling the soundcard and Generator then, some (Yamaha) QY-somethings and a PowerBook running home made Super-Collider programs [generative sound progamming language/player for Macintosh systems]. We sometimes perform in local clubs and are also planning to release a CD - when we have time. Maybe we will post some mp3 files on a new site.

SS: What is javOICe?

OW: JavOICe is an additive software syntheszier which runs as java applet/application. It was originally made by Peter Meijer to turn images into sound for blind people but it can be used fine as spectral synthesizer, you can freely draw into the spectral image like you do in Arboretum's MetaSynth. It's not much more than a demo but it is great to play around with and gives an idea of what else can be done with software synthesis - beyond hardware emulation. Just have a look at the Peter Meijer's homepage and check out this cute toy. It's the only really useful java application I have ever seen.

SS: Will you buy a "real" synthesizer one day?

OW: I don't have patience to skip through dozens of menues of cryptic abbreviations. As long as there is no really new concept of synthesis/interaction but only hardware that emulates old hardware, I'm fine with software. We just need smaller computers...

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • Nanoloop Site
  • Contact Nanoloop

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