• 2006
  • Sculpture, Software, Sound
  • Description

    Proposed to the Exploratorium, this work is an interactive sound installation. The aim is to provide a rich exploratory sonic environment that allows the user to control the sound generation as well as the manner of listening. The installation is comprised of a group of listening stations. At each station there is

    1) a “cage” filled with small remote-controlled moving objects
    2) a gesture-sensing touch pad
    3) a built-in contact microphone and loudspeaker
    4) a stethoscope for listening
    5) a number of connections for output to and input from a computer.

    Specialized real-time software is used to translate the hand gestures of the user to electro-mechanical movements of the remote-controlled objects. In response to hand gestures from the user, the objects play the cage like a percussion instrument, they collide with, scrape against and bounce off its walls. The real-time software generates additional musical layers that are amplified onto the cage by a coupled loud-speaker driver. While playing the cage with one hand, the user listens to the cage with a stethoscope in the other hand.

    During my week long resiency at the Exploratorium in October 2005, I constructed a prototype of one of these cages. The video above shows a demonstration of this prototype using Sukandar Kartadinata's excellent Gluion interface.

    Motivating ideas for the installation are:
    1) Intimate and tactile real-time control of performance and listening: Both the act of playing and of listening is done with the hands; while one hand's gestures play the instrument, the stethoscope in the other hand allows one to choose where and how one listens.
    2) A force applied from a distance: I am inspired by the ability to control the physical movement of an object from afar and to experience the consequences of that action immediately. An iGesutre pad (a device made by Fingerworks Inc.) is used to capture a great deal of information about complex multi-finger gestures; the information is then analyzed and mapped to orchestrated movements of some sculptures. This intelligent mapping layer places a distance between the user's actions and their results; this distance provides an interesting context for working with gesture, expectation and musical interactivity.
    3) The stethoscope as the key to exploration: Thanks to the widely-shared early experience of visits to the doctor, the stethoscope is represents a familiar, intimate, tactile and ideally beneficial manner of listening. It bears authority (as a symbol of the medical profession), power (as a tool to hear what those around you can not) and fun (who hasn't ever played doctor?). It also serves as a tool for active listening-a particularly alert, involved and participatory manner of experiencing a sound. An aim of this installation is to show how these qualities make the stethoscope the perfect tool for an exploratory listening experience.

    Finally, the stethoscope allows the listener to move freely from one installation to another, listening to or joining another user's musings on a different instrument. The layout of the installation as well as the design of certain cages encourage simultaneous play by multiple users.

  • Acknowledgements