Tin Men and the Telephone: You Have One New Message


    It's always interesting to stumble upon something novel. Not just because novelty entertains and distracts us, but also because it occasionally inspires us to imagine new times. In the Max world, the ability to prototype and design real-time software that lets us extend our own instrumental practice, to transcode information, connect with other kinds of software, and to extend what we think of as "ways of working" tends to have us all on the lookout for interesting new things to enjoy and to make the stuff of contemplation. Allow me to introduce you to a group of people who've gotten me thinking.
    Tin Men and the Telephone - a trio composed of Bobby Petrov on drums, Pat Cleaver on Bass, and Tony Roe on piano and electronics - have gathered an interesting group of programmers and extended the standard Jazz piano trio in what can only be described as "some interesting new directions" (written in 15-foot day-glow neon letters).
    Here's an elegant little summary that I doubt I could improve upon from this review:
    What Tin Men and The Telephone do, brilliantly, is incorporate technology in a truly innovative way that makes the audience part of the set, and therefore create something enjoyable to be part of, rather than sit back and watch. The idea is you download their app, Tinmendo, before the show, login and then throughout the performance there are opportunities to join in.
    So, what forms does crowdsourcing part of your program and extending the performance paradigm to include the audience actually take, anyway? In the case of Tin Men, it takes a couple of interesting forms (and there are more of them in the pipeline. More on this later):
    • The audience votes for how the band should play - style, tempo, etc.
    • The keyboardist chats with the audience in a whatsapp-like interface (his piano keys trigger letters).
    • One member of the audience is selected to control the stage lighting during a tune, and the band plays according to the lights.
    • The audience is divided into two teams, which compete in a camel race by shaking their phones. The name of the fastest shakers and how fast their camel ran are displayed on the screen, along with video of a real camel race.
    • To provide feedback, the audience can throw tomatoes, underwear, flowers, or eggs at the band.
    • People can leave a voicemail message which becomes the basis for a tune composed live on stage.
    • The audience can also create beats, chords and melodies which the band uses to compose a new tune live.
    • As the keyboardist plays notes on the piano, each phone lights up and plays along with him.
    Sound interesting? Yeah, I thought so, too. Before we get a peek at the software, here are some examples of what I'm talking about.

    The Men Behind The Curtain

    The Tin Men have an astounding team of talented programmers who create the behind-the-scenes software that intermingles with the band’s virtuosity with various kinds of audience participation.
    It breaks down into two parts the Tinmendo mobile apps the users bring with them to a performance and the Max. Mark Marijnissen handles the mobile app development and Stijn van de Pol works the interface design end of things there (This video will give you a good look at the Tinmendo’s various interfaces) and the Max patching (created by Marcel Wierckx) that collects the data, lets Tony interact with it onstage, and handles the visuals. The “men behind the curtain” were kind enough to give us a little peep at the software end of things.

    Getting Voicemail

    A portion of the downloadable mobile patch allow you to send voicemail. Incoming voicemails from the patch get saved to Tin Men’s website as an .m4a file. Marcel’s written a Max patch that uses jit.uldl object in combination with the importreplace message to buffer~ so that Tony can use the audio during the show.
    A companion patch Marcel built lets Tony define cue points in the audio and couple them to keys on the piano quickly – he’s using a Moog Piano Bar to get MIDI notes from an acoustic piano:

    The Next Big Thing

    Tin Men and the team aren’t just phoning it in (Oh come on – you knew I was going to use that phrase at some point, didn’t you?) – here’s a sneak peek at some mobile/Max work for an upcoming performance with the Metropole Orchestra this week….
    This time out, there are three sections in the mobile app where users can create melodies, chords and beats using a circular interface. During the show, they can tap the upload button and their creation is sent as an OSC message to the Max patch on Tony's computer. The patch then converts the OSC messages into music on a staff which is projected for the orchestra to play. Here’s a look at the three bits of the mobile interface that Mark and Stijn have created:
    Here’s Marcel's Max patch that Tony uses on stage:
    And here’s what the Metropole Orchestra is going to play from:

    How Do You End A Piece Like This?

    This is the kind of writing that’s very difficult to end, as such – the inspiring ideas tucked away inside fly off in readers’ heads in countless unpredictable directions, and it’s pretty difficult to guess their trajectories and provide a neat closing summary. But I have a better idea.
    When you’ve got a few spare minutes, grab yourself a festive libation of your choice, arrange your screen for easy viewing (if you haven’t done so already), assume a position of chillage, and watch this. You're welcome.

    jazzahead! 2014 - Tin Men & The Telephone