End User

Cameron Harris

End User is a program designed to confound anyone who dares to use it. The User must create audio by finding his/her way in and out of each scene. When the program closes, the User will be left with an audio file on their desktop of their creation which will be individual to the manner in which the game has been played. The idea, then, takes a different slant from a traditional video game where music accompanies action as the User tries to succeed in certain tasks. Here the task is to create interesting audio; the game exists in order to foster this creation and is subordinate to this aim. Once the User has their audio file, I hope they will find some cool sounds when they dip into it, which, if the User is so motivated, can be further worked with and form raw material for more creations. Power and control is thus given to the End User!

The frustrations inherent in the program are a homage to some well-known games from the past. However, without access to your own babel fish dispenser it is possible you may eventually decide to look at the ‘spoilers’ and back doors that I have provided here. In such cases — shame on you!

– CH, June 2015.

Instructions: To run the application, download the disk image using the link above then mount the disk image by double-clicking it. Inside the disk image, open the folder entitled EndUser and then click and drag (or copy and paste) the application to the Applications folder of your Mac.

Disclaimer: The program will only work on Apple computers (no PCs/Windows computers). The Apple computers must have a built in microphone and camera (as for example on a MacBook Pro or iMac) and these must be functional – the program will crash if it can’t see and gain access to the camera.

The program was designed for MacBook Pro laptop computers and has been tested on MacBook Pro models dating from 2010 to 2015 (Yosemite). It has also been tested on an iMac (21.5 inch, late 2012 running OSX 10.9.5).

Feel like cheating? Read the End User Spoilers.

Artist’s Bio

Cameron Harris

Cameron Harris is a British composer and oboist who has lived in South Africa since 2006. He is the chair of NewMusicSA, the South African section of the International Society for Contemporary Music and from 2007-2009 he coordinated the New Music Indaba festival, which combines workshops for emerging composers with performances of South African and international contemporary music. (www.newmusicsa.org.za)

Cameron studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and Pennsylvania with composers including Nigel Osborne, John Casken, James Primosch and Jay Reise. In America he was the recipient of a Thouron and a Benjamin Franklin fellowship. He also won the Network for New Music Composition Competition in Philadelphia and the David Halstead Composition Prize. In 2007 he performed at the Ostrava festival (Czech Republic), which included works by Stockhausen and Ustvolskaya and the premiere of Quodlibet by Christian Wolf. His orchestral work, Three Night Pieces, was also read at the festival.

Cameron coordinates the first and second-year Music Literacies and Skills courses, and teaches music theory and a fourth-year module on electro-acoustic composition.

Peer Review

 

Ulrich Süsse
Cameron Harris: End User

Having been confronted with and participated in the astonishing media-composition of „End User“, I would like to adjust my comment to the complexity of the occasion, meaning to not write a straightforward comment/evaluation/review about (-it), but to juggle with various levels in strict sequence and non strict sequence.

I will start with the contemplation of three different levels and will call them

  1. historical (hi)
  2. aesthetical (ae)
  3. technical (te)

To go ahead in the following sequence doesn’t mean anything, the order could be contrary to similar to same.

(hi) I see one of the most valuable criteria of art in „End User“: the desire of expression and more clearly the desire of expression of freedom (- which could thus also be listed under (ae) -) in recent times connected with the name of John Cage (1912 – 1992)

(te) the only weak point of „End User“ is, shared with any artifact using electronic sounds, the fact that the end product comes through a loudspeaker or a headphone – but – excellence is, if one has excellent loudspeakers (or headphone(s))

(ae) „End User“ changes the normality of the sequence: production – consumption and reaches different levels where creativity, exchange, intuition are equally required

(hi) there exist a number of similar occurrences in former times, where chance, freedom, permutation is involved, but to my knowledge they are quite scarce: at the moment I just can think of three:

„Micrologus“ by Guido of/from Arezzo, „missa prolationum“ by Ockeghem and the „dice waltz“ by Mozart, KV 516f

(te) the concept of a random sound generator had been integrated into the Synthesizers of the first generation: Moog, ARP, Buchla, EMS, Firelight = also (hi) and thus connected to Cage’s ideas of choice, chance, freedom = also (ae)

(hi) in recent times the concept of the „open form“ should be mentioned, starting from the scratch form of choice, chance, freedom (ae) with „frame notation“ (Berio: Circles) going to the 3rd piano sonata by Boulez to Stockhausen’s „Klavierstueck XI“

(ae) the (audience-) participation aspect of art has been a very critical and dicey issue in/at various time periods (1960s and 70s) but with globalization it has reached another understanding which „End User“ makes excellent use of (i.e. the dynamic of computer games and communication with „strangers“)

(te) the use of the various possibilities of a keyboard is exquisite in „End User“ and stretches from „being in command“ to be commanded to achieve (the second part of this sentence comes close to (ae)) – and it’s not limited to sounds but stretches out to the visual arts (ae) and is even (hi) related to „Dada“ …

(hi) my own concept of „music plus one“ since 1998 makes musicians (but also visual artists or poets or anybody) to act responsibly but free and included in an aura where „….plus one“ is represented by electronic sounds (originally originated from the interpreter“s recorded sounds) >>> (ae/te)

(te/ae) the possibility to use the sounds for one’s own purposes is a technical offer which is directed to apply one’s own field of competence/creativity/craft, = actually an aesthetic Selfie

(hi) flashbacks to Erhard Karkoschka’s publication of „mit/gegen sich selbst“ (with/against oneself), 1969 (compare „Selfie“ today), a call for the possibility to use the sounds for one’s own purposes (te/ae) goes into the direction of a beautiful solution

which can be (hi/te/ae) the concept of Art ZERO (originated in Duesseldorf 1957) with Piene, Mack and lots of others where permutations (like in Ockeghem) reach a level which is totally tautological or drives towards tautology … and it reveals all the dimensions between zero and eternal

but „End User“ is a concept and reality, closer to earth than the last paragraph and incorporates a huge carpet of true fun originated in a web of competence with applied fantasy which deserves the attribute fan t a s t i c

Theo Herbst
Cameron Harris: End User

Introduction

The opportunity to reflect on and review a new software application rarely presents itself. Particularly heartening in the case of EndUser is the fact that the application hails from a local tertiary institution. Put simply, this is what universities ought to be doing, and WSOA deserves warm praise and encouragement for leading the way in the field of interactive software application design. Furthermore, the fact that the creator evidently pursues a predominantly non-commercial agenda, is commendable. It follows that EndUser is not a game. It is also not intended to belittle the skill displayed by commercial “console virtuosi” or the craft and aesthetic associated with their virtual worlds. EndUser can best be described as a musical composition and improvising platform, following an idiosyncratic narrative accompanied by strains of modern, improvisatory electro-acoustic sound palates. Against this background, this review attempts to provide a future user with an overview of the operation of EndUser. Interwoven into all of this are, hopefully relevant, comments and suggestions.

Discussion

For the purpose of this review, EndUser was installed twice. First, the application’s Apple disc image was downloaded and its EndUserPPT folder copied to the reviewer’s “Applications” folder. From here, EndUser was opened by clicking on the Max “EndUserEndVersion” Application icon. For the second installation, the content of the “EndUserEndVersion” application-folder was copied into, and accessed from the reviewer’s Max 7 “Packages” folder. Following this installation EndUser initially appeared relatively stable under OS X Yosemite 10.10.5 on a 2010 Macbook Pro with Max 7.0.6 and 4 MB of RAM. Headphone monitoring (Beyerdynamic DT250 in the case of this review) is recommended, as is a high quality microphone (this review relies on the internal laptop microphone).

Seven “scenes” form the backbone of EndUser and the intention is for a participant to navigate through all of them. Scene 1 sets the sedated overall pace with the help of dark, high-pitched minimal musical tones. A red rectangle appears into which is typed the word “Listen,” launching Scene 2. Ergonomically speaking, EndUser fares well up to this point. However, scene launch and transitions appear a little “clunky.” Also, a participant not reading the EndUser spoilers could potentially be left in the cold considering the odds against guessing that “listen” is the password to Scene 2. Another possibility is that, despite trying random words,  this reviewer missed out on some “magic” key word.

In Scene 2, onscreen typed text is triggered into auto-completing sentences while ignoring participant’s typed input. The participant is welcomed and invited to explore. Things start to unravel a little from this point onwards – probably intentionally so. Horizontal cursor placement does not control typing speed and audio frequency as advertised. The purpose of Pods appearing in the left and right margins is unclear, ditto the four vertically scrolling symbol columns. Keystroke-clicking in the text changes the register, timbre and rhythm of the Karplus-Strong-like accompaniment. However, by this time the participant is in need of a “pause” or “escape” option in order to contemplate the purpose of all of this, including the absence of a black and green “banner” described in the Spoilers.

Scene 3a is launched when the mouse has moved left-screen five times, this according to the Spoilers. However, it is not clear what is meant by this instruction. This reviewer has been left hanging here many times, necessitating repeated re-launches of EndUser. Perhaps some form of mouse-over help text box or escape option could be considered. Furthermore, there is talk of “whistling” or a command to “whistle” in the Spoilers. However, it is unclear to what purpose. At this point, the Max window has positively lit up with error messages. A reason for this could be that EndUser is being run in Max 7 so this issue may be ignored. A more serious problem is the fact that EndUser crashes continuously at this point, restarts are followed by repeated crashes over a period of weeks. A reason for this could be the fact that Scene 2 refuses to close, remaining open in the background, along with Scene 3a and 3b. Regarding windows, it is also not clear what the purpose of the black EndUserVersion console window that is accessible from the Max drop-down menu, could be. It remains blank throughout, and does not accept text or mouse input. However, if EndUser remains open, the backdoor key can now be used to move to Scene 3b.

This scene consists of a black and green Windows desktop snapshot. This graphic systematically disintegrates into what can be described as a “Klee meets Mondrian” scenario accompanied by repeated percussive “hits.” During all of this, a dynamic filter graph, plotting the frequency response of undefined audio, is located in the middle of the screen. It is not clear whether the frequency response of a form of “summed” stereophonic, monophonic, or a left or right stereophonic audio channel is plotted.  A timer prompts the participant to remain in, or exit the scene.

Vertically dropping “alien” figures despite, Scene 5 appears to not function. In this reviewer’s system, EndUser becomes inoperative from this point onwards. The aliens cannot be eliminated with a “ball” figure, as stated in the Application’s Spoilers. A ball does appear to be activated by pressing the space bar. However, it does not behave at all as advertised. In addition, It appears that audio drones are created in the background, the purpose is unknown.

Conclusion

Despite repeated, extended and very intense efforts to do so over a period of approximately two weeks, it is not possible to get EndUser to function smoothly. This cannot be ascribed to a lack of willingness or commitment on the side of this reviewer. And he, for one, would like to congratulate and encourage the creator of EndUser to pursue its development vigorously.

The following pointers, listed in telegram-style could be kept in mind – namely whether it makes sense to:

1) default Max to  “Overdrive” mode

2) implement non-haptic camera tracking for example using http://www.maxology.club/starter-kit-info/2015/4/27/starter-kit-1

3) incorporate some form of timeline reference

4) allow the participant to change the order of scenes

5) include help files

6) allow graphic score (Lilypond??) output

7) expand the synth sound selection, particularly towards the lower frequency range

8) guide a participant with pop-ups and/or mouse-over buttons

9) allow pause / escape / replay actions