Pribusin Process Controls & Telemetry, located in Muskegon, MI agreed to develop and construct the radio telemetry equipment for the distance organ. Mike Gertsweiler, president of Pribusin, is personally interested in this project’s success and has generously provided the project with an affordable price. He will offset costs of our radios by not starting from scratch, but rather, making modifications to equipment he already supplies to industry. He will also involve Muskegon high school interns from the Michigan State Champion MARS robotics club that Mr. Gertsweiler created and actively supports. The devices will have a range of at least one mile, even through wooded terrain and have a response time of 10 ms or less. The distance organ can be expanded with additional train horns with the purchase of more Remote devices.
Horn Control Data
The MAX software, residing on a MacBook Pro, receives MIDI from DAW software running a MIDI sequence. The beauty of employing on a DAW is that Audio Tracks can be added to the same sequence as is the MIDI data that is sent to the horns. Even though the horns will not respond to the audio tracks, they can be used to send a synchronized audio click to the conductors and musicians on the site. In the Lake Eola piece, two audio tracks were created, one for each ensemble conductor across the lake. The presence of the click ensured that the two brass choirs were exactly timed for their sounds to meet on the southern shore. Furthermore, I added my voice announcing the rehearsal letters to ensure the conductors were in the right place (since the train horns may not matching them metrically).
The Master Radio sends a constant series of 8 words each containing a Synch fit, MIDI note number bit, an off or on command bit, and status bit, Checksum bit and a CR bit. MAX software converts the MIDI output of the sequencer into a serial data stream, which is sent to the broadcast unit via USB.
Each receiver unit is told what MIDI numbers’ data to respond to by selecting the MIDI note number with the set of DIP switches, allowing for the total of 255 separate receivers. The green light indicates that it is synchronized with the distant master radio. The Yellow light indicates that the horn is activated and all nearby need to be wearing their ear protection. The Blue light indicates a note-on for that particular horn. This allows for silent testing for signal before an actual performance begins. A bright red safety toggle switch will be required to be flipped on to activate the horn. There is also room in the new design to send DC voltage to trigger a lighting system.
Michael Gerstweiler is also a leader in education, the founder and supporter of MARS, the Muskegon Area Robotics Student non-profit organization. Here is Michaels recent TEDx talk “We’re Running Out of Steam” in which he describes the importance of the Arts in STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).
As soon as the Telemetry is paid for, tested and delivered I will begin creating Distance Music events.