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BODIES AS MUSIC

The bodies as music project started as an attempt to answer two questions: how can dancers’ bodies and movement define and impact the creation of the music to which they are performing and the visual picture created during the performance; and how does the content and presentation of a live dance performance change when the authorship of the music is informed and determined by the bodies and movement of the dancers who are performing? To explore this idea, Rich, Kat Hickey, and Renee Murray have worked with a number of collaborators since 2015 to embed sensor technologies on dancers, and to use those technologies to impact lighting and sound in a live setting.

Rich, Kat and Renee presented their work for the first time in a performance entitled, "Repercussions and Reverberations," along with collaborators Rose Kaczmarowski, Courntey Frederick, Allison Newhard and Megan Turnquist. In this performance, gyroscope sensors were attached to the dancers' bodies, and the data from these sensors directed the movement and color of two moving lights.

 

Rich continues to develop and refine the electronics and control networking systems. The embedded sensors originally formed an I2C bus on each dancer, and communicated with offstage software via a Zigbee mesh network. This software converted the received data to OSC messages, pushing these messages to subscribed clients on a closed network.

The current iteration of the project localizes sensors to smaller areas of the body, and relies on a Cortex M0 processor and 802.11 WiFi transceiver to communicate data from the dancers. Data is packaged as OSC messages, and transmitted to an offstage computer running custom Java-based software. This software allows for input data streams from dancers to be mapped to multiple output OSC addresses. This allows for easy communication with most live-entertainment control systems, including ETC's EOS family of lighting controllers, Q-Lab sound playback software, and Resolume Arena video playback software. Additionally, each input-to-output mapping can be assigned a unique algorithm for manipulating the data stream, which can allow for significant variety and interaction between performers and entertainment technology systems. 

Video of "Before the Storm,' choreographed by Renee Murray, featuring Kathleen Hickey and music by Mark Jamerson. This performance utilized an early iteration of the technology, using a three-axis gyroscope to control position and color intensity of a moving light.