electronic gamelan, 2008

interactive musical installation
dimensions variable
duration 2’

best exhibition of the year award, Alianza Colombo Francesa, Colombia, 2008
part of the high quality cultural portfolio, Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

Is an interactive musical instrument which allows the public to transform the timbral quality of a two-minute piece, sliding the shadows of their hands over a light-emitting table. The work emerges out of the notion of the traditional instrument: a sound projecting object meant to be played by a trained specialist. In this case, the object is significantly enlarged reaching installation proportions, making space a major parameter for the work. At its center, the table is the tangible and visual mediator between the user and the electronics; and surrounding the area, an orchestra of nine speakers delineates with sound the boundaries of this intangible architecture. The projection of sound towards the inside of the instrument makes it work as a magnified resonant box within which visitors gather. They may choose to sit at the table to perform individually or collectively, or they can listen to somebody else’s interpretation standing or walking around the place. People of all ages and educational backgrounds can play this instrument regardless of their skills or specialized training.

The music, greatly influenced by Indonesian Gamelan, treats the nine speakers as individuals in an orchestra hocketing a motor-rhythm that draws precise and intricate trajectories throughout the space. The constant notes from harmonic clusters initially feature one single basic timbre. Discernible musical ideas arise from the filigree of notes by means of the natural human tendency to group prominent elements of like characteristics, such as salient dynamic level or physical location in relation to the listener. As users slide their hands shadows over the table, different timbres are applied to the motor-rhythm, making new identifiable entities come out.   As more timbres are introduced, the texture gradually becomes more complex, to the point in which there are many recognizable groupings simultaneously emerging from notes having similar or prominent timbres, dynamic levels or physical position. Each listener will form ideas subjectively, depending on his/her focus of attention and location in the place.

There is an intangible dimension to this work: The instrument is played with the shadows of the hands, but it is never touched; the space is delineated with sound instead of walls; the object being transformed is a piece of music; and the interaction is about establishing a mental connection through musical expressivity.

 

Special thanks: Rodrigo Facundo, visual design consulting. Luis Fernando Henao, Camilo Sanabria, music programming. Sebastián González, interactive interface development.