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NorthWest CyberArtists

Einar's articles from the NWCA Newsletter.

Important Note: These articles are history, dude, and all references to upcoming meetings and contact addresses and phone numbers and other things that change with time should be ignored. I decided to leave them in for readability.

Magic - July 1994

Last week while I was recovering from the chicken pox, and while Andreas was getting cranky as he came down with it, I cheered him up by pulling a quarter out of his ear. It's an old trick, but not to him.

He was completely shocked that I could make a quarter disappear. He got that look that little boys get when they believe in magic.

Just a little over a year ago I was wondering how I could make a one man electronic music show interesting to a room full of grown-ups. Now, after having built tricky alternative controllers of various sorts and after having played with live interactivity, I'm getting tired of packing and unpacking my bag of tricks, just to drive to a smoky nightclub on a work night for a one hour performance. I still want to surprise people. But I want more kids (like my own here at home) to get excited about discovering some new "magical" toy. And I want it to be enjoyed for a longer period of time.

For my first step in this direction, I contributed a piece to the Random Access show at COCA. Putting something on display like this for an eight week run has been a challenge for me. You have to keep it simple enough that anyone can turn it on, visually interesting enough to draw attention, and complicated enough to make it interesting to play with. Now that it's there I feel hopeful that people will get to play with it at their own speed and "discover" its magic, like Andreas with the quarter.

So my first new goal is met - build something that lasts longer than one hour.

As I got my stuff together for Random Access I realized that the electronics involved were very low draw. This was just an accident, since the only real criteria I had was whether I could spare that particular equipment for the next two months, but since I enjoy being thrifty with electricity it was at the front of my thoughts as I turned on the power and started making adjustments.

As I soldered and sweated and wired and even swore, I started thinking about how I would rather be at the beach with my wife and kids. Enjoying the sunshine, playing - and then it hit me. I could build an interactive electronic musical device that I could take with us to a public place, set up, and then leave alone to allow adults and kids a chance to "discover" it, and then see what happens!

I want to expose some spontaneous magic to the general public.

Just as I did before my first live show, I thought I might tell you in advance how I plan on doing this new portable "CyberArt". If you have a better idea, just let me know - or beat me to it!, but let's keep the magic a secret between us for now.

    The ingredients:
  • The Pavo MIDItoolkit custom instrument.
  • A MIDI sound source -- my QY-10 because it's small and battery powered. Otherwise a sampler.
  • Amplification -- a boom box or powered speakers will do.
  • Various custom switches.
  • A 12VDC battery -- a solar charger would be needed for lengthy installations.
  • A 12VDC to 110VAC inverter.
  • Time enough to spend a day at the park.
    The magic tricks:
  • A photoresistor keyboard.
    Photo cells could be spread out on the ground or against a sunny wall, so that as shadows moved past, they would play chimes. Hopefully someone would want to play a song. (I have already done this one in my front yard. Passing cars must have thought I was crazy.)
  • A float switch chime.
    Standard marine float switches could be hooked up to a long board or pipe, then set on the beach at low tide. As the water comes in, the floats would begin to sound notes. I would surely trigger samples with this one.
  • Something involving helium balloons, wind and kites, though I'm still working on this one.
    Maybe fighting kites that trigger explosions and jet samples when they touch!
  • Motion detectors by the swing set.
  • I could put sensors on a slide so that as a kid slipped past, a descending rush of notes would be heard.
  • Tilt switches on a teeter totter.

And so on.

I have so many ideas in this vein that it's frustrating to have to pick just a couple to start with. So remember, don't be surprised if you hear strange sounds coming out of the bushes around town this summer.The most important thing about these Cyber afternoons in the park is going to be spontaneity. I mean, that way if a grown man (like me) gets the chicken pox and has to cancel a show - nobody would ever know!

See ya,

Enough! Back to!

Einar Ask /