An Interview With Tim Place
I tend to look at larger bodies of work — novels, recordings – even things like software, I suppose — and wonder if there’s a single point at which everything began. Where did Hipno “come from?”
Hipno actually started out life as a really unfocused effort to leverage a bunch of 3rd-party Max work (Tap.Tools, GTK, etc.) into plug-ins. After an initial surge, the artist in me couldn’t handle the diffuseness of this as a vision, so in going back to square one I started pulling things apart and reflecting on a vision for the package. Once I sat back, it didn’t take long to define the problems I wanted to tackle in Hipno, namely how plug-ins are controlled in realtime — from within the plug-ins themselves.
I have an obsession with how things are controlled and structured, so I had a fair number of resources to pull from. This included my own work with video as a control source, developing the Teabox sensor interface with Jesse Allison, as well as some work I had done with implementing Jitter-based preset interpolation from a paper by Ali Momeni presented at the 2003 NIME in Montreal. Once the concept and structure of the Hipnoscope was in place, I felt like I had something around which to anchor the entire package.
The Hipnoscope was really the Idée Fixe for the whole plug-in collection — and it represents my neurosis in a way, because in my mind it is like the embodiment of every plug-in within that one element which is shared by the various plug-ins. The “scope” become the Magic 8 Ball that determined what each plug-in would be.
What was the “first” Hipno plug-in you (guys) did?
Though others had been started earlier, Spuntorrt was finished first. It was actually done a couple of years before the whole package shipped. It was a good plug-in to do first because at the time it only had 4 parameters at the time, and none of them operated in a linear or logical manner. This was the test to see if the Hipnoscope could actually make such a plug-in usable.
If the plug-in collection was a collaborative activity, did its development kind of reflect your own interests as composers/performers, or was it a question of extending ideas that appeared as you worked?
It definitely grew out of our areas of interest. Nathan’s plug-ins all grew out of his research and development on granular synthesis for the GTK. Jesse’s plug-ins largely grew out of his interest trying to mangle FFT processing in unusual ways. Many of my plug-ins are based on the Tap.Tools or grew out of my preoccupation with how to control parameters in a plug-in host in realtime.
For me, one of the interesting things about working on things in series is the idea of “emergence” — ideas or whole themes that more or less pop-up unexpectedly in the course of working that you might not have had in mind at the start. Did you find that happening?
There is one case in particular where it happened. You might recall when it came time to flesh out and make presets for the plug-ins?
There just seemed to be no easy way to make presets in our hosts of choice and then get them to the plug-in developer. To remedy this, we tried a series of strategies which ultimately ended up being Hipno’s XML import/export feature.
One of the obvious things that makes the Hipno collection different from other plug-ins is the Hipnoscope. Where did that idea come from, initially?
The Hipnoscope does something that I’m quite proud of, which is that it allows you to quickly audition a plug-in and some of its possibilities. But at the same time it really rewards those who are patient explorers that spend time really focusing on subtleties offers. I still find myself surprised at the results I get sometimes – the Hipnoscope creates this palette where there is an almost infinite range of subtlety with some of the plug-ins.
Many plug-ins would not exist without the scope, because without it they really aren’t anything new. For example, the CrackVerb plug-in is basically a reverb. No one needs another reverb.
Though most reverbs don’t contain sample-rate reduction or other distortion controls as a feature, it really isn’t the reverb algorithm that makes it interesting to me as an artist. It’s the morphing and exploration of a terrain that bring a kind of special life to sound produced by the plug-in.
Was it a visual idea first, or was the visual part of the scope the *solution* to a problem?
I don’t know, to be honest. It was a solution to a technical problem, yes, but it was also a solution to an artistic problem — how to make 40 something plug-ins seem to be a cohesive whole. So the visual aspect is at least part of the problem with which I was struggling.
One interesting feature of our life with pluggo has been that no one seems to use *all* the plug-ins in a given collection, but rather gravitate toward individual ones. It’s as if everyone only uses something like 7 (plus or minus 2?) plug-ins. Is that the case with you?
I think I use most of them occasionally. There are only a handful that I use consistently. There are too many plug-ins to really dig deep into them all on a regular basis. I think this makes the Hipnoscope all the more important, because it enables you to audition the plug-ins more rapidly to determine which handful you are going to use on a given project.
Do you think that’s different from people who *use* rather than *create* the plug-ins?
Probably not. Most people are crunched for time and probably gravitate toward a few choice effects or instruments.
Just out of curiosity, which Hipno plug-ins can you not live without? How about your collaborators?
I typically use the plug-in in combinations. One of my favorite combinations is Greequaincer feeding a Sphylterbank. I also like combining Spuntorrt, Morphulescence, and DrunkenSailor in various ways quite a lot.
(Note: We also put this question to Nathan Wolek, one of the other members of the shadowy Hipno cabal. Here’s what he said:)
Greequaincer. My personal style is heavily dependent on textures and pulses. This plug-in delivers both. Granular textures typically oscillate between a single pulse and totally randomized. By giving the grains a pattern to follow, you can give some subtle organization. Add in the echo generators and this plug-in can produce some really beautiful textures.
When you make things and send them into the world, you can’t always judge what people will find interesting. Do you think that there are “secrets” about Hipno that people you meet don’t seem to have figured out?
People seem to have grasped onto most of it pretty well — even the XML import and export.
The one trick that is a favorite of mine, and possibly for you too, is exporting an XML preset from one plug-in and then loading it into a completely different plug-in. This is a bit nerdy, but if you edit the XML manually then you can do some neat stuff like load the Hipnoscope color arrangements from plug-in into another plug-in. I think you have used this approach with the Hipno presets, yes?
Do you think that there are “secret” Hipno plug-ins that are relatively unknown but really interesting?
Because I am so close to the plug-ins, I have a hard time gauging what would be unknown.
Perhaps I didn’t phrase the question that well… Uh, do you have the sense that there are “undiscovered” or “less well-known” plug-ins in the Hipno collection?
It’s like I said about the Hipnoscope — it rewards the patient listener who spends time focusing on subtleties. It’s not so much that there are “secret” plug-ins as it is that each plug-in has secrets of its own.