Iowa State designer turns sound into graphics in partnership with Maestro Guitar Pedals


Newswise – AMES, Iowa – Keith Richards’ opening guitar riff on ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ has sent Rolling Stones crowds of crowds into fits of screams since the song debuted almost 60 years ago. The riff introduced something else: the Maestro fuzz-tone guitar pedal.

Decades later, an Iowa State University designer has expanded his research – creating visuals from sound – in a new partnership with pedal brand Gibson Guitar Maestro.

To launch a new family of Maestro guitar pedalsthe D/CAL agency contacted Alex Braidwood, associate professor of graphic design. Maestro invented the first guitar pedal, which exploded onto the rock scene in the 60s and 70s. A pedal connects the guitar and the amplifier, shaping the sound through distortion, chorus tones, delays, tones fuzz and overdrive.

Maestro has been inactive for the past two decades, but relaunched in January with the “Shape Your Sound” campaign.

While discussing the new campaign, D/CAL co-founder Adam J. Wilson recalled one of Braidwood’s recent Instagram posts, in which he performed a DJ set in front of projected visuals that translated live from the sounds he created.

“I was beside myself with excitement,” Braidwood said. “I grew up in a classic rock family, so there’s a certain nostalgia to that. I grew up with Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana in my CD player.

Braidwood experimented with guitar pedals and prototyped different algorithms that would input the sound of a pedal and produce graphs reflecting the characteristics of each pedal.

“You’ve seen that in the responsive screensavers or the equalizer bouncing around with different numbers for different pitches,” he said. “That’s what I do, I just connect that to visual graphics.”

The company now uses the visuals online, on social media and in print ads. Their goal is to turn the experience into a live, in-person event.

Turn sound into visual

Braidwood is a sound artist. He is the director of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Artist-in-Residence Program, in which artists, designers and scientists learn to use sound equipment, study the prairies, wetlands and woodlands of northwest Iowa and examine the impact of human sound on nature. the environment and the benefits of natural sound to people.

This spring, he’s teaching students how to write sound-based code in a course called “Creative Technology: Sight, Sound and Touch,” taught alongside assistant graphic design professors Taekyeom Lee and Maurice Meilleur.

“They get a whole different skill set related to messaging development where they can learn to incorporate sound into their work in a different way,” Braidwood said.

Last fall, one of Braidwood’s classes developed code to project winter-themed graphic animations at Reiman Gardens as part of its Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show.

Throughout the pandemic, Braidwood has been live-streaming his Meditative #NatureSound DJ set every Sunday for months. He used previously recorded sounds from his research and fieldwork, as well as self-improvement hypnosis vinyl records, spoken word poetry, and hi-fi test tones. His sets were inspired by a day’s transition from dawn chorus to sunrise. This eventually evolved into him developing an algorithm to translate his backgrounds into graphics projected behind him.

“We are a very visual culture and we are good at protecting the visual. We’re good at protecting natural spaces that look beautiful that we want to see, but we’re not the best at protecting the soundscape,” he said. “We are better at adjusting the sound, putting on noise canceling headphones or turning up the volume.

“The premise of my live streams is to really inspire people to breathe and slow down. If we actively engage in trying to protect the soundscape, we will also save and preserve a lot of other things along the way.

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