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Sound Sites!

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The Dreamlab website is superb. Featured here is the interactive multi-sensory installation The Portal. The installation by Dickinson Prentiss offers interactive laser light and digital audio and the opportunity for a group of participants to shape the installation through a cooperative effort. The participants pull on cords attached to a large Lycra Spandex fabric structure, 28 feet in diameter. The physical structure shapeshifts as the matrix of interactive technologies restructure the sound and light. The changes become predictive, though no less startling and unique once a person learns the 'play' parameters of the installation. Control becomes a group effort as other people are 'playing' at the same time.

It seems that the programmed play parameters and the extent of 'practice' that one has with the installation and other collaborators would be a key issue to producing work of any depth, though the website also touches on the 'community' aspect of the installation. The Portal. Photo (c) Dickinson Prentiss.Maybe this is a cyber-variant of a kind of improvised 'chamber music' in that sense, only now with computer controlled laser light and sculptural elements added. Suggested sound program material is the digitally sampled or synthesized human voice across a diatonic (white-note only) three octave range. The tones are triggered by any of twenty-four sensors through the MIDI protocol (Musical Instrument Digital Interface - a standard computer/music protocol). Sound progam material may alternately be other polyphonic sampled or synthesized sounds or text, and of the programmer's choosing.

Judging by the pictures at the site the installation looks like tremendous entertainment, especially for the non-musician. With suggested diatonicism as the basis for sound and with untrained large group input, don't expect a Beethoven quartet to pop out of the sound system. But with a good programmer, terrific samples and a group of skilled musicians working together... who knows? As with any new performance medium it will take time for the work and the performers' skills to develop. Meanwhile the site is worth the visit for the graphics alone. Enjoy.

The Portal:


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Copyright © 11 March 2000 Jeff Talman, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA


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