4 Oct 2019

micro:bit noise ensemble

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here, as i was using the blog for my MA Education work which I completed in 2017. However, I’ve not decided to use it to post up a few resources from various workshops that i’m doing in my current role managing user support for the Micro:bit Educational Foundation

October 4&5th saw the first ever micro:bit conference, micro:bit Live held at the BBC’s Media City in Salford. It comprised of a range of talks, demonstrations and workshops from micro:bit enthusiasts across the globe.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how the little device could be used for a range of arts and performance activities alongside Computer Science and also for CPD activities in educational technology settings. As a result I submitted a workshop for micro:bit Live, entitled the ‘micro:bit noise ensemble’.

At the time of submission I had a vague idea of running a workshop that focussed on the micro:bit as a musical instrument and performance technology in it’s own right, not connected to things like servos or motors to produce sound via something else eg playing a xylophone/drum. There are some mightily cool projects that do this though, including Cpt. Credible’s micro:bit orchestra that performed live at micro:bit Live!

I iterated on the idea, thinking I could focus solely on noise making in Python using the speech mode and testing out the REPL in the Python Editor Beta as a sort of live coding event a la SonicPi and I also thought about getting the group to draw a score in pencil and ‘play’ it with the micro:bit and in the end I went with both of those ideas (albeit a bit slimmed down) and a whole lot more, but I think you could expand on any of the worksheets to create a longer workshop on each.

The focus of the workshop is primarily on music making, so in the worksheets the code examples are readily provided, rather than starting from scratch. Once the program is running, the students are encouraged to look through it and make alterations that would change the sound output.

Here are the links to the presentation and the associated worksheets. All CC0 Public Domain Licenses. Music Images from Wikimedia, others from Pixabay.

Presentation 50/60 minute workshop

Noisy Gestures Use the micro:bit accelerometer to change the pitch of the sound

Noisy Pots Use a rotary potentiometer to change the pitch of the sound

Noisy Python Use the speech() module in MicroPython to make some weird and wonderful noise.

Noisy Pencils Create a playable graphite score that creates some resistance and uses the returning voltage to alter the pitch.

Noisy Radio Use the micro:bit’s in built radio to send messages from one micro:bit to another and trigger some noise.

And here is the inaugural performance of the **micro:bit noise ensemble! **

Thanks to all those that took part. I look forward to performing with you again soon : )