Monday, 5 May 2008

PwRHm - A new Second Life collaboration

PwRHm is a piece made by Humming for a performance by the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse in a concert hosted by the Deep Listening Institute Women and Identity Festival in New York City April 17, 2008.

The composition is based on the 50 Hz and 60 Hz AC current in Europe and North America respectively, to acknowledge the collaboration that brings artists living in those 2 continents together as the Avatar Orchestra. In the photo above, Humming is seen with the HUDs (Heads Up Displays) representing the 4 "instruments" for the piece that were built by Bingo Onomatopoeia. These 4 instruments formed the basis for the sound of the piece, which explores the relationship between the harmonic series of the 50 Hz and 60 Hz cycles (the 5:6 ratio, or a just minor third) along with some of Bingo's field recordings of electric motors tuned to both series.

The visual aspects of the piece were a collaboration with Goodwind Seiling (Sachiko Hayachi), who designed the set and 'receivers' for the virtual instruments - beautiful spheres emitting coloured particles that indicated the pitches and volumes that were played by the performers.

In the photo below (by maxxico), from a rehearsal of the piece, AOM members Fernsing Llewelyn (Cathy Lewis), Zonzo Spyker (Viv Coringham), Goodwind Seiling, Miulew Takahe (Bjorn Eriksson), Maxxo Klaar (Max D. Well) and Humming can be seen playing early versions of the HUDs and receivers alongside two giant water tanks that Goodwind built for the set. Part 2 of this blog item will talk about the collaboration with Goodwind and the performance.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Poppies everywhere


Since visiting Goodwind Seiling's installation, I have been dreaming of poppies and thinking about the experience of art installation in the virtual world. It struck me that Second Life provides such an obvious path for visual artists to invite a different kind of engagement with their work. Seeing Humming, as the avatar, inside the core of the installation, encased in the soft womb-like bubble, triggering the sounds, being mesmerized by the slowly shifting patterns of the screen ... something quite different seemed to be taking place at the intersection of Humming and me, the flesh and blood being sitting at this computer. Seeing such inviting and compelling images let me imagine what it actually might be like to BE Humming, sitting in a soft amorphous floating bubble, tiny being inside a world of shifting velvety poppy petals.

The image of Humming, in her mostly blue water textured clothing, inside the poppy-filled dome seemed out of place somehow. I decided to go back to the installation and think about letting Humming become more visually in tune with installation in the short period of time that I had to be there. The theme of dissolving, losing identity, is what compels investigatation. So why not dissolve in a world of poppies? Why not let the art transform the avatar and make visible the impact of the art?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Poppies - Goodwind Seiling's Installation

I have just made another visit to the artist Sachiko Hayashi's new installation in Second Life, which runs until the end of February at HUMlab HUMlab (209, 185, 25). Sachiko's Second Life avatar is Goodwind Seiling.

The photos above were taken inside the main part of the installation, which is a large geodesic dome, the planes of which are formed from the most exquisite photos of red poppy petals. The planes shift and change in geometric patterns inside the dome, and as they are touched, delicate sound samples are triggered. Entry into the dome is through red semi-transparent bubbles, placed on the 'ground' outside of the dome. Inside the bubbles, avatars are transported to the inside of the dome, where they are suspended, with the illusion of being gently propelled or floating inside a safe, soft, comfortable and very organic womb-like space. Some of this must be because of the quality of the images. Although it is not perceptible here on the blog platform, inside Second Life the images are very soft and velvety. Like a kind of hush.

At the opening of the installation on January 18, Goodwind took me on a tour of the installation, and explained how it worked. I was most intrigued by the construction of the planes, and wanted to know what they were made of visually. I am not sure I would have guessed they were photos of poppies. Goodwind/Sachiko, let me know that the poppies are from her garden in Sweden.

If you are a Second Life avatar, you might want to visit Goodwind's installation before it closes. It is well worth the experience.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Worldpeace Jammers Jam

Hmmm. I have just logged off Second Life from a lovely improvisation session with Junivers Stockholm and Tuttan Zatelan of the Worldpeace Jammers. Junivers, who is in Sweden in First Life, set up an improvisation space that includes a wall-mounted series of Tibetan bells whose sounds are looped from First Life bell samples.

I had logged into the space before the session was to start, to tune in, and to see how the virtual Cello (made by Robbie Dingo) would work in the sim location. I spent some time in silence, then started the bells ringing, listening with no bells then with bells to the spaces ... the digital soundspace created by the virtual temple room, the imaginary First Life space that this digital Second Life space suggested, the space in my First Life studio at my desk and listening through eMac speakers, the space created by the impact of the listening on the virtual Humming in the virtual space, on me - the entity behind Humming, and on the quantal reality that is the composite of all of these listenings and more.

After I felt tuned to some sense of this 'space', I discovered that the Cello would not play while the bells were sounding, so I tried an Avatar Orchestra Metaverse HUD instrument made by Bingo Onomatopoeia for a beautiful composition titled Rue Blanche by Miulew Takahe. The HUD sound consists of a series of sine tones moving up the harmonic series. The series was perfectly in tune with the tone of one of the central Tibetan bowls, and it was interesting to play with this, gradually stopping all of the other bowls from ringing to leave just the one, while gently playing with the sine tones.

Junivers, Tuttan and a few other Worldpeace Jammers arrived, and we started playing with the Tibetan bowl ringing - it rang for the entire session, which lasted about an hour or so. Junivers played a First Life guitar fed into his computer and processed by delay. He also briefly played one of Robbie Dingo's virtual flutes. Tuttan also played virtual flute, and for a short while, another member played virtual cello. I decided to play a First Life instrument and to sing a bit using the Voice Chat function on Second Life. Very interesting. This improvisation's soundworld thus consisted of a virtual Tibetan bowl whose sound was a sampled loop; an electric guitar played live through a computer's software processor fed into the SL platform; a virtual flute and cello whose sounds are real flute and cello samples controlled by keyboard HUDs; and a live flute and voice played into a Mac internal mic and fed into the Second Life platform. Played by people on at least 3 different continents.

The music was alternately meditative, melodic, atonal, harmonic, rhythmic, eerie, atmospheric, illusive ... many things. The listening, however, was astute and deep. Four people who have never met in Real Life, and very little in Second Life, connected through these atoms of space, in far flung geographic locations, with who knows what in our private rooms, and in very different timezones ... fascinating that we were able to find, immediately and without talking about it, a sense of connection, engagement, respect and curiosity and play good music together.

Hmmm. More to explore.