5.1.18

Scott Joplin "Magnetic Rag" Animation


Here's a neat bit of conceptual art for you. I was really fascinated by the fact that Scott Joplin and many other Ragtime composers composed for piano rolls. Let's face it, this is Techno! Especially when you consider that those piano rolls have now been converted into MIDI information by enthusiasts like Walter Trachtman and Robert at Pianola.co.nz.

I remember interviewing Andy from Plaid and him explaining to me how he used an old bit of MIDI to score a (then) new track for an ART compilation which I was writing the linernotes for. I took one of the old Joplin MIDI files, the suitably entitled "Magnetic Rag" a "haunting" rag whose title references hypnotism and the parapsychological, which eerily was the last rag Joplin composed before his death. "Magnetic Rag" makes perfect sense too for a digital rendition and the magnetic environment of hard drives. I loaded it in to the MPC 4000 and chained that to my Yamaha SY99. I recorded the output through an Eventide H9 pedal.

Then I imported the MIDI file itself into After Effects using an almost antique plug-in from the Omino website. It still works extremely well and produced six streams of data (Pitch, Velocity and Duration for the left and right hands). Using a simple expression I hooked these up to some scaling circles.

And because Joplin died in 1917 this is safely in the public domain...phew!