A philosopher by training, Sylvain Poitras explores circularity and self-reference in the fields of video, comics and electroacoustic music: that he uses images, words or sounds, he seeks, primarily, to blur the boundaries between the object and its designation. Software designer and trombonist, it was only natural that he invented the "meta-trombone", a sophisticated processing system which curiously leads him on a path to the origins of free jazz.
From his roots as a big band trombonist, Sylvain has evolved into an experimental musician by combining his love of the trombone and his natural aptitude for computer programming.
Sylvain has had an interest in comic books since childhood. After taking a few courses at l'Université du Québec en Outaouais, Sylvain's amateur efforts have found publication. His current project stretches his skills in a number of new areas including: puppet-making, miniature set building and photography.
A collection of trombone solo's. Nineteen of the most innovating, experimenting, cutting edge and contemporary but also traditionalistic and classical trombonists of the world. For some this the first solo recording out there, for others a new one in a long line.
In the words of Philip Corner:
So-many trombones in-the-world! They made-me learn-it in HighSchool i wanted the fremchhorn but they needed long-arms. As fate woud hav-it, a blessing. (Howmany newmusic horn players do-yu-know?) But o the trombonists! I knew ther wer a-lot but i did not know them, all-ov-them. Now i know-more. Manymore. And i am there---here!--- among many of my good-old-frends “bonys”. And since i do-not hav any mor old recordings--- Hilary and Jim hav used-up all my music and i am not playing anymore I write a new score for my new-frend Rutger, and he iz playing.it. (ths iz goood) -----
Trombilation on Bandcamp
All sounds recorded live in Paris and Cologne (July 2013).
The meta-trombone is a performance system designed for solo trombonist implemented in custom and off-the-shelf software and hardware that can analyse the musical performance to extract relevant data. At the performer's choice, the musical note can be musical material as usual or become control signals to manipulate live recordings of the performance. The trombonist's gestures not only produce the expected sounds, but also trigger algorithms that modify those sounds to allow new possibilities on the instrument while retaining the same "interface". Since 2012, the meta-trombone has been presented at festivals and concert series in San Jose, Santa Cruz, Toronto, New York City, Paris, Cologne, Ottawa and Providence.
Meta-trombone vol. 2 on Bandcamp
Sylvain Poitras contributed the track Friends (old and new) to this recent release from the Chain-Tape Collective.
Sylvain Poitras contributed the track Ruined Gong to Matt Davignon's anniversary remix album celebrating 10 years of his unique approach to drum machines.
This album was produced by a collective of artists, wanting to mark the last consecutive day in our lifetimes 12.12.12. So, on this day or around this day we came up with a piece, a lot of them 12 minutes long, with the theme 12.
All tracks recorded live in San Jose and Santa Cruz during the Y2KX+2 Livelooping festival in 2012. Sylvain Poitras play trombone and algorithms on this live recording.
Sylvain Poitras wishes to thank the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for its financial support of his travel to California.
Sylvain Poitras contributed two tracks to this Chain Tape Collective project: the longing for repetition and twice through the looking glass.
His composition Twice through the looking glass was subsequently selected to be part of the 2012 60x60 Canadian Mix and was heard in concerts in St-John's, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
A collection of experimental electronic music and recent explorations.
This album represents a selection of songs recorded from June 2007 to March 2008. The aesthetic imperatives that unite them were: simplicity of theme and execution, bare-bones instrumentation and a significant debt to Tom Waits and the cookie monster.
Sylvain Poitras plays trombone, plastic containers, frying pans, marimbas, trumpet, melodica, jug, kazoo and attemps to sing like the cookie monster on this album.
Sylvain contributed two stories (10 pages) to this collection of cutting edge graphic narratives published by Éditions Trip.
Sylvain contributed two pages to this collection of cutting edge graphic narratives and academic discussion on comics published by Éditions Trip.
MIDI Looper is an application that I built to fill a very specific need in my rig: loop midi notes. It offers four tracks (loops) and can be controlled by sending MIDI notes.
With OSCNotation, live-coders and computer musicians can integrate instrumentalist into their performance by sending OSC messages to display musical notation on their collaborators' iPhones or iPods. Rhythm and note values are updated independently, so they may easily transpose a pattern while keeping the rhythm intact (or vice-versa)..
OSCNotation is no longer available from the Apple App Store, however its source code can be shared upon request until a public repository is created.
Play a game while making music! Every game event, such as the ball hitting the walls, the bricks or the paddle, can be configured to send OSC messages of your choosing over WIFI. Create your own levels with our level designer. Determine level sequence and number of balls.
BreakOSC! is no longer available from the Apple App Store, however its source code can be shared upon request until a public repository is created.
The meta-trombone is a performance system designed for solo trombonist implemented in custom and off-the-shelf software and hardware that can analyse the musical performance to extract relevant data. At the performer choice, the musical note can be musical material as usual or become control signals to manipulate live recordings of the performance.
The trombonist's gestures not only produce the expected sounds, but also executes algorithms that modify those sounds to allow new possibilities on the instrument while retaining the same "interface". Since late 2012, the meta-trombone has been presented at festivals and concert series in San Jose, Santa Cruz, Toronto, New York City, Paris, and Cologne.
Read about the development of the meta-trombone in these blog posts.
Listen to recordings from live concerts in San Jose and Santa Cruz on Bandcamp
Listen to more recent recordings of the meta-trombone on Soundcloud
Lately, I've been obsessed with the Commodore 64. It all started when I read a fantastic little book that discussed a one line program from a variety of different angles. After spending a couple hours with emulators running on my MacBook, I wanted to get my hands on the real thing.
My first computer was a Commodore 64. I remember vividly the happiness I felt that night in December when my father came home with all those boxes. He laid everything on the floor and we spent hours putting everything together. All the manuals and documentation were in English and at that age (eight), I had yet to master the language. This is probably the greatest gift I ever received from anyone. Not only was the Commodore 64 a fun game system, it was my first introduction to computer programming. I spent a lot of time deciphering the codes in the manuals and I made little games in BASIC. Unfortunately, I never figured out how to save anything, so I had to input the code every time I wanted to play one of my games (again, the manuals were in a "foreign" language).
Read about the Commodore 64 project in this blog post.
Listen to some early musical sketches with the Commodore 64 on Soundcloud.
Access my code for the Commodore 64 on GitHub.
This LP project will explore some ideas developped as constributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto call for works.
Captain Dada is a comic book about the very nature of reality and the relation between language and the world. The premise is that of a world in which the traditional mind-body dualism inherited from Descartes is not solved by collapsing the mind to the physical, but rather by explaining physical reality in terms of the mental. This ontological framework explains all magic: that words alone can alter reality.
The story begins in space with an astronaut adrift and tumbling towards the Earth. With nothing physical to help him out of his situation, the astronaut reshapes his reality by thinking thoughts best left unthought.
On Earth, Captain Dada is able to harness the powers of language in untold ways. Since he says things that people would never say, he can do things they could never do. Will he be able to mend the ontological rift created by the unwary astronaut's dangerous thoughts?
The idea of delving into my philosophy training to create a short anthology of philosophical graphic narratives originates with my two contributions to Les fumettos du cyclope
More details on the hardware implementation can be found in this blog post.
A few years ago, I made a guitar pedal to emulate the sustain substitute function from the Echoplex Digital Pro. Should you need a demonstration of this and other EDP functions, Andre Lafosse has been documenting the EDP through excellent and in-depth videos on his YouTube channel. While I've never played with the EDP, I've gotten hooked on sustain substitute by playing with the Mobius looper plugin that implements many of the EDP's features.
My susSub pedal implements sustain substitute with the Pigtronix Infinity looper. While it could, in principle, work with other loopers that allow you to change the loop feedback level while overdubbing, much here depends on the particularities of the looper's implementation.
To work its magic, the pedal does two things at once:
In overdub mode, while the button is pressed, sound is allowed to flow to the Infinity to be recorded into the loop and the loop feedback level changes during the recording. If the "button down" potentiometer is set to 0%, the loop content will be completely replaced with the newly recorded sound. Varying the level of the potentiometer lets the performer retain the previously recorded sounds at a lower level.
While this is pretty close, it is not a completely accurate emulation of the EDP's sustain substitute function as it mutes the dry signal, but this is quite acceptable for my use. A more faithful recreation of the EDP's function would require to split the audio signal in two and blend the dry signal with the loop audio. Something like the Xotic X-Blender would be a good solution, but DIY options abound (for instance the Splitter-Blend pedal could be easily adapted).
More details on the hardware implementation can be found in this blog post.
The Patterner is a modulation generator that is meant to replace an expression pedal for use with guitar pedals that have an expression input.
Instead of the single potentiometer present on a regular expression pedal, the Patterner has four slide potentiometers labelled 00, 01, 10 and 11. The two digit numeric code corresponds to the state (off=0, on=1) of the two left-most buttons (orange and purple). Pressing the buttons select which potentiometer modulates the guitar pedal connected to the Patterner's TRS output. The sliders' LED light up to indicate the currently selected slider.
The Patterner also allows the recording and playback of sequences played on these two buttons. When the status LED above the right-most button is off, pressing the right-most button (black) once will arm the recording (LED turns red). The sequence will begin recording with the next press of the purple or orange buttons and will end with the next press of the black button. Playback of the sequence will start immediately after this second press of the black button (LED turns green). Pressing the black button during playback will pause the playback of the sequence (LED turns black) and pressing it again will restart the sequence. A long press of the black button at any time will clear the recorded sequence (LED turns off).
While a sequence is playing the Patterner's Speed control lets the player vary the playback speed of the recorded sequence.
At its core, the abattoir is a vactrol based VCA with an attack and release envelope generator. In addition to the Attack and Release controls that set the envelope, there’s also a Mod control that affects both parameters at once. When Mod is turned fully counter-clockwise, the values of the Attack and Release knobs are used, but turning the Mod knob clockwise will gradually reduce the length of both the attack and release settings.
Pushing the purple button triggers the attack and releasing it triggers the release (left status LED light purple when the envelope is triggered). This can be used in one of two setting determined by the topmost toggle switch: 1) make (left) a sound or 2) break a sound. In the first setting, the audio sent to the pedal’s input is silenced unless the purple button is pressed, but in the second setting, the input audio is heard unless the button is pressed. In both cases, the envelope settings are used to control the vactrol VCA to make or break the sound. The abattoir’s envelope generator and vactrol VCA make it differ from other kill switch in that it can kill very smoothly. If you like the clicks, look elsewhere… the abattoir will never cause clicks of any kind.
The abattoir also allows the recording and playback of trigger sequences played on the purple button. This is the mechanically perfect repetitive killing action that gives the abattoir its name. When the right status LED is off, pressing the orange button once will arm the recording (LED turns red). The sequence will begin recording with the next press of the purple button and will end with the next press of the orange button. Playback of the sequence will start immediately after this second press of the orange button (LED turns green). Pressing the orange button during playback will pause the playback of the sequence (LED turns orange) and pressing it again will restart the sequence. A long press of the orange button at any time will clear the recorded sequence (LED turns off).
While a sequence is playing, the envelope settings can be manipulated to vary playback, but the abattoir also has a Speed control that makes it possible to vary the playback speed of the recorded sequence. Also, the break/make toggle switch can be used to play the “opposite” of what you recorded (the ground to your figure).