Between late October and early November, I spent 2 weeks at STEIM working on the electronic part of a composition that’s gonna be released in Switzerland in May 2010 (http://arte-fact.blogspot.com).
This project uses a pre-recorded material: Florence Foster Jenkins singing.
Her recordings are processed by electronics and controlled first by the sound of live instruments (enveloppe follower, centroid-tracking, spectrum analysis) and then also by the gestures of the instrumentalists. That second part (motion tracking) was the center of my residency.
Except a compass, a light sensor and video-tracking that I finally excluded, I used different sensors: pression, distance, accelerometer. The mapping was: sensor->arduino->Junxion->MAX/MSP. Quite easy to set up actually and no troubleshooting.
This composition is about communication in a mediatic world, which most obvious symbol would be Skype, I guess.
The artifacts between two people communicating interest because they create their own space. Artifacts, like this blog on a computer, are part of our social lives.
For a musician, an instrument is an artifact, the way you communicate being widely determined by it. That is even more obviously when you use electronics. There is also something about artifacts in composition. Your choices are mixtures of aesthetics and technology, creating a space of its own. Choosing a microphone or a sensor is a technical as well as an aesthetical matter. This impure way of thinking music is highly stimulating to me.
But only if you keep it impure. Using new technologies doesn’t create new music. You can’t reduce music (or sound art) to some options about technology. Today the big challenge is not really technical. It is more about building your own language and communicating .
That’s something I try to kee in mind all along this long process.
At the moment I am still testing some sensors, particularily in making them wireless (the musicians have to move in this composition).
As an accelerometer, the Wii remote seems to be a practical choice.
First public test on the 5th of february. I will get back to you