What we are up to

Evolution Control Committee

by Nick Holloway

Today I was ready to slag off the new Optical Finger Mouse (left), mainly as an excuse to post a video of the real Fingermouse and the other members of the Fingerbobs universe. Technology reviews are outside of my remit, however, and giving in to talking about favourite childhood television programmes is one of those all-too-obvious things ailing conversations tend to come round to. (It's a bit like Godwin's Law: "As a discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the Nazis approaches one". Except with Wizbit as Hitler.)

Still, the Finger Mouse got me thinking about a man from Cleveland, Ohio, I met in Liverpool many years ago, a man who - albeit only for the purposes of creating music - had pioneered his own form of hand-mounted computer interface. He looked like a cross between Doc Emmett Brown and The Man In The Horn-Rimmed Glasses, and his name - according to his business card - was TradeMark Gunderson. He still performs under the name Evolution Control Committee, and his invention is the Thimbletron:

E.C.C.'s latest project centres on Microsoft's new Songsmith program. Songsmith generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. You just choose a musical style, sing into the PC’s microphone, and Songsmith creates backing music for you. "It's the cool new thing," according to the advert:

Even the guy with the earring is getting his groove on! So it must be cool. Well, it is cool, at least in the way E.C.C. has used it. Instead of singing his own melodies into Songsmith, TradeMark has taken the vocal track from an existing song and run it through the program. Public Enemy's Rebel Without A Pause, for example:

I think that's rather good, in a Chuck D meets Sex And The City kind of way. There are dozens of these mash ups out there - E.C.C. is by no means alone in using Songsmith for something other than it's intended purpose - as a quick Google search reveals. Here's another, this time by Mocksession, to finish on. (If you've been waiting for Hayseed Dixie to cover the work of a certain 1980s bottle blond rocker, this is for you.)