Angel Harp (is the Weirdest Instrument)

It was a joke, back in September. A goofy idea, amidst a brainstorming session of merely silly ideas. It’s a heavenly harp! And when you turn it upside-down, it becomes a Devil Harp! Ha, ha.

The YouTube trailer would probably look something like this:

I hacked Angel Harp together in my spare time. Four long months! The plan was to finish by Halloween of 2011, but it took considerably longer than expected. The synthesis was completed in one week, the sound effects in another week. Standing on the shoulders of Twang, Angel Harp produces somewhat-realistic tones (like an actual harp! Complex filtering!) And it has 3+ dozen strings, for serious plucking power!

And, the graphics… Let’s talk about that.

Once the Halloween deadline became improbable, I decided to hack each feature until it was “good enough.” If any feature became an eyesore, then I’d revisit it — either for version 1.0, or a future release. The clouds were redone a couple times. I had grand plans for the harp itself, using an (awful, buggy) harp modeling tool; in a future version, you can draw your own harps, and skin them with fancy materials, I think.

Angel Harp! Heaven!

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Twang… in Flash?!

Yep, this is a “Twang Player” prototype, built in Flash. There’s only one embedded song, a groggy rendition of the ditty from the first video:

(click to launch)

The next version of Twang will record & save songs (this is done), and share them in some capacity (a bit more complicated). So that’s where the Twang Player comes in. The Flash version looks like it wants to be touched & strummed. I need to revisit the design and convey that Twang Player is just a music box, you can’t compose anything in the browser! …Yet.

There are performance issues on some of my machines, too. This version uses Vector.<Number> objects to handle data, but it looks like ByteArray or even BitmapData structures are the way to go.

Brakebills, Twang, Stuff!

Oh em gee. So much to report.

First, do you know Lev Grossman? He’s an incredibly talented author who recently toured Portland. If you haven’t read his book The Magicians, then stop whatever you’re doing and procure a copy immediately. Without trying to spoil anything, the major college in the book is named the Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Lev saw the Brakebills T-shirt that I designed for my sweetheart’s birthday present:

Long story short, my Brakebills shirts are now officially endorsed by the author! Please buy twenty of them, or thirty if the spirit moves you. Zazzle’s print quality is great. The colors are vivid, and the ink has survived many washings. Rabid fans are buying and even customizing them! I love the internet.

Lev blogged some of my other work, too (“the guy who does this has the enviably fake-sounding name of Zach Archer”). It’s true, I have an awesome pro wrestler name.

Second, my new iPhone app has landed in the App Store:

Twang is a handheld guitar. It’s easier to play than a real guitar, and is very expressive. Instead of using audio samples, Twang uses physical modelling techniques to create a more natural, dynamic sound. No two plucks are identical. Watch my grainy first video if you disbelieve.

In the next version of Twang, left-handed people will be able to switch Twang’s orientation, and serious musicians can dampen or mute strings with their fingers. And probably more! This version is already in development, and may be submitted in a week or two? Follow Control Z, Inc on Twitter if you have a ravenous thirst for updates!

Here Comes the Metal Mouth

My first iPhone app has been submitted to the app store for review! Metal Mouth is a text-to-speech synthesizer that mimics the talking devices of the 80’s (Speak & Spell, “Wizard needs food, badly”, etc.) The functionality is similar to my Synthetic Speech In Flash demo, but with many new features (male & female voices, auto-tune, pitch & time scratching) and a snappy interface with talking robots.

Hello, Doctor.

I'm inside your phone.

This took about 5 weeks to develop. Meanwhile, I’ve started another app, and I envision releasing Metal Mouth 2.0 in a few months, with more voices, and the ability to record audio.