Trimpin is a kinetic sculptor and sound artist who visited the ATLAS Black Box theater last semester (Trimpin’s Website).
He installs exhibits where embedded microcontrollers around the room and within different components send MIDI data back to his computer and digitally produce sound. Some of the components produce live sound as well, as a reaction and response to both physically-controlled and electronically-controlled signals.
For example, one of his works called “Liquid Percussion” used computer-controlled valves on the ceiling to release specific drops of water that would then fall and strike instruments below. You can hear what it sounded like here: Liquid Percussion.
Another example of his is called Seismophon, where he interprets seismic data from around the world using patterns played on xylophones and marimbas. Depending on what kind of seismic activity is happening and where it is happening, the rhythm of the patterns and on which instrument they are played will be different.
I’m also inspired by the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia. This is an architectural feature which plays haunting music produced live by the funneling of waves and wind through tubes located within the shoreside marble steps.
I love the idea of taking a natural feature such as the dripping of water or the movement of the ocean and turning it into music. In the re-imagination and audible exaggeration of these natural occurrences, the existences of these organic motions are elevated in order to be heard as well as seen or felt. It’s kind of like adding a new dimension to an everyday experience, and in the process that everyday experience becomes art. People are then invited to contemplate and appreciate that piece of reality, as they normally wouldn’t, lending more thought to its presence, function, and form.
Following this trail of inspiration, I would like to create a similar type of sound-based experience, except brought down to a very personal level. Utilizing a single person’s movements, I would like to create a wearable instrument that would be controlled individually, allowing a person to become more “in tune” with their own actions and physical form.
I would like for there to be separate components each controlled by a different movement, whether that be speed, pressure, angle, etc. I would also like for this music to be produced live, as in it would be created as an immediate response to the wearer’s motions. I’m not quite sure about an aesthetic, as I think the form of the instrument would have first be determined by the function, but I would like to involve lots of visual, artistic aspects in the configuration of the project as well.
Recently I came across an art installation project called Waterlight Graffiti, where Antonin Fourneau creates large walls of LEDs which can be essentially “painted” with water. What happens is this: water is sprayed or poured onto the LED board, where the water itself completes the circuit between the arrays of LEDs, temporarily lighting up those regions before the water evaporates or drips away.
I love the unconventional way he approached this water-based switch for his project, and it inspires me to think more out of the box when it comes to creating the switches that will generate responses in my own project. I’m interested in taking something as simple as a tilt switch, for example, and re-imagining it in a new and interactive way, in order to expand my understanding of how it’s working as well as the understanding of those who wear/interact with my project.
This project will be entirely based on interaction with the wearer, therefore the first impression should be grounded in the experience it generates for that person as they try it out for the first time. I want all of the responses to be based on action by the user, specifically hoping that as a person experiments with the instrumentation, they will gradually move from initial discovery to more intentional management. I’d expect someone first to find and test out responses at random, and then start to make more deliberate motions to re-create some particular responses.
AESTHETIC AND FUNCTIONAL GOALS:
Functionally, I want the piece to be wearable, but not really in a practical way. More of in a stop what you were doing, hold on, experiment with this thing kind of way. I think as well as being an interactive art/sound experience, it could also be a learning tool. If people can see what is happening with the electronics (the switches, the microcontroller, the circuit, etc.) then it might prove to be a kind of visual teaching component. I’m hoping for it to be, since it will be a learning process for me as I go along creating it as well.
Based on its function then, the form of the project will be mostly based on a larger-scale representation of the function in a very visual/auditory way. I want the components to be neatly constructed and effectively implemented within the overall design, but at the same time I want them to be transparent in function and visible, literally and sonically, so that interaction and observation can occur during use.
I want the piece to be a cohesive system, however with all my varying ideas for components I am worried that the project will end up more like 15 little projects rather than a large, collaborative one.
In this way, it will be tricky to achieve a completely functional, reasonable, and wearable project that is also artistically, interactively, and educationally successful.
I have to start somewhere, though, so one step at a time.
Speaking of which, I plan on using a Lilypad Arduino to program in the responses I have in mind from the readings of different sensors, probably some sort of tilt or flex sensor, or a more extensive 3-axis accelerometer. The challenge with the accelerometer is that I want the reaction to be visible, so I would want some sort of physical or audio output to indicate what was happening. The Lilypad has some sound-producing accessories and some slim speakers which I have ordered. I already have the other items, including the Lilypad and accelerometer.
Just because I am so fascinated by using water as a conductive agent and switch for a circuit, I am really interested now in attempting to make one which someone could interact with by adding water. I am not sure how that would end up being wearable. We’ll see.
The general idea here is that this is a device you put on, and you play with it. Your motions, such as the movement of hands or fingers or upper torso will incite sounds/lights that will allow the wearer to be transformed into a human sort of instrument or a walking, breathing art installation. It will remain mostly transparent about what is making the components work, and in that way will hopefully cause the wearer to feel more informed about their role in the experience.
The cost of the components so far has been about $50, and I plan on keeping it reasonably low by utilizing some recycled material and building some of my own switches, etc.
Before Spring Break:
–> Brainstorm design elements separately
–> Brainstorm design elements together as a system
–> Build individual components, put them together in a system
–> Test, test, re-make, test again
–> Slim down device implementation, make it neater
–> Hopefully have a final product that does what I would like
After Spring Break:
–>Everything that didn’t get done, everything that went wrong, etc.