The Day – Using the Color Spectrum to Create Music
It was in high school that Andrew Little first developed a passion – and a problem – to discover instruments and try to play them.
Little participated in the New London Talent Show as a junior and senior at Williams School.
“It really opened my eyes,” Little said.
Fast forward a few years and Little, now a double major in music and creative writing at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, was recently reading on a Lumatone, an electronic instrument that produces notes based on a color microtonal scale.
It was the price – around $ 4,500 – that drove him to do a double take and gave him some inspiration.
“It went from ‘I want this instrument’ to getting down to business trying to figure it out,” said Little, a senior at Noank.
Earlier this summer, Little started a project to create his own instrument, based on a Lumatone, but using the full spectrum of colors.
He started out by using a MIDI keyboard, which needs to be plugged into a computer or synthesizer, and used the eight drum pads on the side of the keyboard to match the ROY G BIV colors of the rainbow, adding cyan between green and blue to make eight colors for easier work with the eight drum pads.
Then came the hard part.
Little and Ryan Carter, assistant music teacher in Hamilton and the project’s educational advisor, programmed everything on the MIDI keyboard using Max, software that Little described as a “visual programming environment for music and sounds.” “.
Little said Carter was an integral part of the project.
“Once the programming was done, the work was a lot less intensive and a lot more trial and error,” Little said.
Now Little has a fully functioning instrument, along with two completed pieces and a third that he hopes to finish soon.
“It works very differently (from a Lumatone),” Little said. “The way of playing is definitely different. It’s like a synthesizer with more notes.
Little describes the sounds as dissonant and ambient. He commissioned another Hamilton student, Charlie Guterman, to create three different works of art centered on different color palettes, which will determine the notes Little can use to create compositions.
Little hopes to exhibit his work at the Kennedy Center for Theater and the Studio Arts in Hamilton.
In the meantime, he will spend a lot of time in the studio tinkering with his creation. Then he moved on to a senior project – producing an album for some of his peers with the help of an Emerson Foundation grant he received.
“What I’ve learned in my music career so far is that whenever you can, limit yourself in some way that pushes you to do more with what you have,” said Little.
Some information was provided by Hamilton College.