This area of interaction has already been explored by many other artists and groups. Here are some of the projects we’ve discussed as inspiration and markers in the field:
Self Portrait with 7 Fingers – LCO & Jonny Greenwood
The main concern with all of these kinds of things is how to give the visitors a feeling of power and agency without the sound turning into chaos. With Associates had a nice idea for their project with Jonny Greenwood and the LCO, Self Portrait with 7 Fingers, which was to give everyone a limited number of interactions. Once an audience member used all their interactions up (one interaction = making a small chime sound from their phone speaker), they couldn’t interact any more, so they became a scarce commodity, and the audience started using them more sparingly.
xtet – James Bulley and Dan Jones
Phones speakers are really quiet, so to have a meaningful impact on the sound needs serious scale. Jones & Bulley managed this with xtet at The Barbican in London in 2013.
Fields – Seb Piquemal and Tim Shaw
In a series of intimate live performances, Seb Piquemal and Tim Shaw again used people’s phone speakers as a distributed sound generator.
Jazz trio Tin Men and the Telephone seamlessly integrate crowd interaction into their improvised set via an mobile app. Some of the interactions include:
- The audience voting for how the band should play – style, tempo, etc.
- The keyboardist chatting with the audience in a whatsapp-like interface (his piano keys trigger letters).
- One member of the audience being selected to control the stage lighting during a tune, and the band plays=ing according to the lights.
- The audience being divided into two teams, which compete in a camel race by shaking their phones. The name of the fastest shakers and how fast their camel ran are displayed on the screen, along with video of a real camel race.
- Providing feedback, the audience can throw tomatoes, underwear, flowers, or eggs at the band.
- People leaving a voicemail message which becomes the basis for a tune composed live on stage.
- The audience can also create beats, chords and melodies which the band uses to compose a new tune live.
- As the keyboardist plays notes on the piano, each phone lights up and plays along with him.
Resonate – Reactify
The idea of passive interaction was interesting when thinking of how this concept could integrate with live performance. The idea behind Resonate was to allow people to connect to the server, put their phones back in their pocket, and carry on dancing. The server would track the people’s movements and have visuals react on the projections behind the performer.
The concept behind Dynamics and Trigger Happy was that of allowing audience members to become more ‘powerful’ (i.e. their interactions having more effect on the music playing in the room) the longer they spent connected to the installation. So, at first, the visitor can only trigger short, one-shot sounds, once a minute or so, but as they spend more time in the installation, they can start to turn parts of the track on or off, and then eventually can add filters or effects to the entire mix. This encouraged more measured engagement, making people listen to the track as a whole.
We’re looking forward to throwing our collective hat into the ring.
-Yuli (disclosure: I co-founded Reactify)