qi last night

I ran Qi again last night on the walls of Kennedy Theater at UH Manoa as part of the preliminaries to the fiftieth anniversary celebration/performance of the dance program. Here is a short video of a few of the people who used it. Don’t miss the little person at about 2:40. I didn’t ask permission from the people in here and don’t know who they are, so if you see this and you are in it and don’t want to be, let me know and I’ll edit you out.

Performance can take some interesting turns. Performativity comes from the idea that your performances and utterances do not just say something but do something in the world. The past two Friday nights, as part of the preliminaries for the fiftieth anniversary dance concert at UH Manoa’s Kennedy Theater, dance professor Kara Miller invited History professor Richard Rath to set up his interactive motion-to-music installation “Qi” projected on an outside wall of the theater before the show on two of the Fridays of the show.

In it, dancers, cars, and passers by “do something” with their motions, namely make music. The results were projected on the side of Kennedy theater and music made by the audience filled the air outside the theater the two nights of the installation. A couple of ideas are at work in the installation in conjunction with performativity. One is that music is often synesthetic, transforming actions in one sense modality, say vision — as in sheet music — or touch, as in the fingers on a guitar, into another, hearing. In this case the transformation is somewhat direct, as music gets made by moving the balls of green energy, the “qi,”around the screen with one’s motions in order to make music. The installation is also meant to break down the distinction between audience and performer, as often times people discover the instrument through being in the picture on the wall that they are looking at and hearing their motions come out as music. In other times and places, especially before the advent of recorded music, music making was something that everyone participated in, without the formal distinction between audience and performer. Qi points to the artificial nature of that divide while looking forward in new ways rather than back to some romanticized version of the past.

Two highlights that I did not capture were a little girl about age ten who just had a blast with it, and an older couple who did Tai Chi, which worked really well. I did not get video of either though.

There has been a great series of articles on motion to music controllers the past week or so over at Create Digital Music. All of them are cool, but they require some extra piece of hardware like an iPhone attached to your wrist or a Leap Motion, or a kinect. Qi is a max/msp patch that I wrote using the cv.jit computer vision modules. the only hardware is the video camera that comes with the laptop (ok, I used a cheapy USB cam so I could aim it away from me, but the onboard cam works too).  People seem to get the idea immediately and have fun doing it, although the occasional detached arm waving in the picture is me giving the two second tutorial: “up for higher notes, down for lower, different synths on left and right sides, bigger circles=louder.”

 

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