Todd is boundless in his energy as an artist and educator, and he’s putting Patch to use in exploring that energy with both. Cacophony is Todd’s stock in trade - you can see it in his school classroom.
But Todd has become a hero to the Patchworld community, too. His classes have become an absolute must-attend; go once, and you’ll soon be returning each week. He’s helped build the Patch community by sharing his boundless enthusiasm and knowledge. He’s not only a star of the community but a virtual rockstar, too. “I started out imitating radio singers like George Michael and Bono, but now I put on old man characters or monster voices to make the performance stand out,” he says. “I go vocally where the context demands. The worlds and beats I’ve made in Patchworld seem to have an ethereal rock side, so I donned a Thom Yorke vocal outfit.”
The addiction started in 1992, he says, with a Technics KN750 keyboard and “its amazing ability to write original background loops.” Those led to demos for his touring indie band. In 2011, he jumped into an iPod touch, Bluetooth MIDI, daisy-chained iPads, and controllers - even a roll-up floor piano and Omnichord. For extra mayhem, there were 15 individual signals routed into a single phone.
After a music education degree, Todd kept chronicling his tech discoveries on his YouTube channel “Mr. Todd’s Cacophony” - and landed a dream job teaching 4- to 11-year-old kids in a neighborhood elementary school.
Now, we all get in on the fun. That appetite for the bleeding edge of musical technology has led Todd straight to Patchworld, and he’s not only using VR as a teaching tool but also sharing the learning experience with the rest of us. We got to talk to Todd about his journey down the rabbit hole of sound.
Patch: How did you get into mixing teaching music and Patch?
Todd: Right when I started, I had an eye for the growing world of VR. I used Donor’s Choose’s crowd-funding site to get our first two headsets and figured out how to connect it all together.
Then I read that Patchworld had plans to do beta testing of multiplayer. This was the engagement I was looking for in the classroom. I envisioned groups of students making music and building environments within this new format. As I learned more about the community of Patchworld developers and users, I found a kind, like-minded collective of artful mistfits like me. I made new friends who would become my collaborators, and in March of this year, I threw caution to the wind and elbowed my way to working the Patchworld booth at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The performance aspect of Patchworld allowed me to showcase my goofy stage persona that I’d been honing for 20 years. And in the months after, I’ve been fortunate to facilitate our weekly workshops where we come together to share our findings.
How are you working with the kids; how do you introduce them to all this material?
We had seven Meta Quest 2 headsets donated to the music room, and I break classes up into small teams that rotate through stations, and the headsets only run Patch on them. I set up a simple tutorial in the app that shows them how to move around, bring objects into a space, and save their creations. I also had them draw pictures of what they’d like to make in the app - envisioning their worlds before they learn.
How are they receiving it? Do you find their approach is different at all from yours using Patch?
Each group can do different things and is fascinated by various aspects of the app. Some just like the way they can move around. Some love bringing objects in and stacking them or combining items in funny ways – I found a saved world with pumpkins having a party! Their approach shows me they find it novel but not quite useful yet. I’m planning a more in-depth unit with a series of challenges that get them problem-solving, and the solution is a creative output.
How is multiplayer working with the kids?
Multiplayer has been fun, but they have yet to build something together. That’s the next step. I’ve been in there with them a couple of times and it’s wild. I’ve turned on passthrough so we can actually move around the room without running into each other. I can spawn items and show the music they can make or just generate things they ask for. We laugh a lot together.
How are you using it on your side? How do you play, or how do you adapt your stage persona to Patch?
My dual foundational fascinations are puppetry and animation. But my musical upbringing has woven itself into my play. So, much of what I do carries with it an alter ego - voices that are exaggerated versions of me. My style leans on the more scribbly/messy side and my worlds reflect that. I’ve been a performer nearly all of my life, and that experience has transferred quite nicely into my teaching. Patch is almost instantly a puppet show/cartoon - so I fell in love with it without much trouble.
Play puts us in self-perpetuated crises. We form bonds as collaborators in that space. As one of my favorite artists, Lyndra Barry, puts it - we learn how “to be able to stand not knowing long enough for something alive to take shape.”
For more of what Todd offers, check his full playlist of Patchworld tutorials:
Here’s more of his work, too:
This is the first in a new series on our users, as we highlight all the amazing stuff you’re doing in the Patch community. See our recent news item for more on our expanded community updates - and how the last update fits in. And don’t be shy - if you’ve got stuff you want featured, let us know!