The workshop ‟Mapping Everything Else” held at this year’s NIME conference in Oslo, Norway, focusses on the questions: what do we want from musical instruments in a performance, what behaviour should they have, how can they be intelligent systems, and what does this mean in terms of mapping? These questions are investigated through a hands-on approach. Computers and other technology are purposefully banned from the working spaces: talking and experiencing mapping without technological entanglement is freeing up creative capacities, and was perceived as a very liberating experience by the participants.
The workshop is roughly divided into three parts, which focus on the mapping of gestures to sounds and vice versa, the construction of a system from such simple mappings, and a representation of a system in a topological map.
We started the workshop with a ‟round robin” exercise: gestures are mapped to sound from one participant to another, using nothing but body language and the voice. Standing in a circle, one person makes a gesture, which the person next to him interprets in terms of sound. Then, the sound is passed on to the next participant, who will produce a gesture which they think would be a good way of controlling this particular sound. This gesture is interpreted as sound by the person next in line, and so on.
Then the workshop members were divided into three groups and asked to develop small musical systems based on keywords we gave to them: these instruments were to be performed after some time for brainstorming and practice. The keywords (‟orange”, ‟broken”, ‟elastic”) were selected intentionally so as to have little musical connotations, and leave open more space for interpretation. After the first round, the keywords were rotated, producing new interesting results for instrument mappings.
The next step was for each group to develop their own concept for an instrument, and think of how it was going to be performed. The three concepts that came out of the groups’ discussions were modularity, feedback, and social comfort. These concepts were investigated from the perspective of topology, i.e. a spatial representation of the sound world, the permutations and states of the envisioned instrument. Participants were challenged to capture this topology by means of paper, chalk, crayons, tin foil and tape. Quite surprising two- and threedimensional structures were the outcome of this workshop part.
The workshop finished with the groups’ presentations of the topologies and the performance of their instruments. We were happy to have such an enthusiastic, creative and insightful group of participants, and thoroughly enjoyed the discussions, experiments and interactions we were privileged to initiate.
Berit, Jon and Georgios
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