Meet the man using cybernetic sound to showcase Detroit's energy

DETROIT – Meet Onyx Ashanti. He's not an android - but if you glanced at him quickly, you may think otherwise.

Onyx Ashanti has created what he calls sono cybernetic sound to bring Detroit's energy to life.

Here's more about Onyx from his website:

Since being introduced on the worldstage by way of a fortuitous TED talk he did in 2011 entitled “This is Beatjazz”, Mississippi native, Onyx Ashanti, has been evolving at a pace that surprises even him. Musician, Programmer, 3d print-designer, writer, performer, inventor...a self described child of the internet, and disciple of the open source philosophy, Onyx has spent the last few years creating a multidimensional expression concept called beatjazz.

Beatjazz is “beats” and “jazz”, or more specifically. Beats are electronically derived rhythm and jazz as improvisational sonic investigation create an improvisational sonic construct for investigating rhythm, harmony and melody interactively. This is expressed as sound and performance but also as projected visualization, light color sequencing, robotic parameter feedback and CAD design-multiple dimensions of a singular expression. A hyper expression.

The path from playing saxophone in a small town marching band to multidimensional expressionism has snaked through the autonomous lands of street busking, the hedonistic zones of nightclubs in london along side the likes of Soul II Soul and Basement jaxx and the spiritual pilgrimages of the late 90's rave culture, where many of the ideas Onyx expresses, first found fertile soil. Before this time, many of his ideas would have “made good movies” because they were too unbelievable for real life expression. It was through exponential advances in technology and many psychedelic experiences that he realized that this IS the movie and his ideas could exist on this plane.

By 2011the convergence of of cheap technology, crowd funding, internet based learning resources, open source hardware and software and online shopping and research allowed Onyx to create the first beatjazz controller-a body-worn 3-way wireless network (two hand units and a mouth unit) that was played like a saxophone except that the head and hands were free to move in any direction. All the movement and playing is sent to a computer running custom software, which translated it into musically relevant information. By 2012 he had integrated 3d printing into the process. And by 2013, the software became fractal, which means that each thing that gets added, evolves. Nothing stays the same. Beatjazz modelled on biological process.

The next “evolution” of beatjazz is in the direction of “Sonomorphology”-the creation of form from sound.  Onyx has deprecated the term “sonic fractal” in favor of calling his sonic investigations “Sonomorphs”.  the idea is that sound creates space and things within space.  it promises to be an exceedingly interesting year.


About the Authors: