Andrew Johnston > Reaching in…

I spent a week at STEIM attending an orientation workshop.  I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly but I knew of the activities STEIM over the years and was keen to find out more.  In particular I’m interested in how musical interaction with technology can be made more tangible in order to create a more physically conversational experience for musicians and audiences.

So far I’ve been exploring ways to make ‘virtual’ instruments more physical.  I’ve been doing this by using simple simulated mass-spring models as mediating structures between live sound and computer-generated sound and visuals.  The simulated physical model acts as a kind of ‘virtual sound sculpture’ which both responds to acoustic sounds and generates its own sounds.

During my time at STEIM I was able to experiment with using Junxion to link Wii controllers to my psuedo-physical interfaces.  This was fun and has lead me to think about new approaches to my work.

So far I’ve essentially set up my ‘sound sculptures’ and then left them alone for musicians to interact with via their acoustic sounds.  This was deliberate because I wanted to retain clear links between what the musician played and the response of the sculpture.  I felt that if I was doing too much technical mumo-jumbo at the same time the link would be broken and we’d end up with yet another ‘musician accompanied by seemingly unrelated computer noise’ performance.

However, if I could interact with the sculpture in a more naturally gestural way (eg. Wii, touchscreens…?) then I can imagine that the link between my gestures, the sonic ‘gestures’ of the acoustic musician and the resulting sounds and visuals will remain strong and also provide additional avenues for musical exploration.

The challenge is to find ways to interact with these simulated physical models in physical ways.  Haptic controllers would be one, very expensive, path but apart from the cost I’m not sure how effective they’d be in a performance.

Anyway, the time I spent at STEIM was inspiring, of immediate practical benefit and stimulated me to think in new ways about my work..  Thanks everyone!

Partial Reflections

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