Flower . Wine . Moon . Me




We begin with a simple idea...

a bending line.


The bending of the pitch line plays a crucial role in Chinese classical music and poetry -- indeed, it is a part of the very structure of the language. There are, for example, four bends, or tones in modern Mandarin. Changing the tone of a word, changes it meaning -- "ma", for example, can mean horse, hemp, mother or scold, depending on the path which the pitch line takes.
Similarly, In Chinese classical music, the way in which notes bend can be more important than the value of the note itself. The traditional Erhu (a two-stringed fiddle), Guzheng (pentatonic harp) and Hulusi (gourd flute) feature slides between pitches as a regular performance practice. All of these instruments can emulate the four tones in the Chinese language.

Using motion tracking technology, this dance piece uses the bending movements of the dancer's body to influence projected images and sounds which are themselves derived from ancient Chinese forms. We attempted to reproduce the expressive acoustic features by sampling and electronically manipulating the sound and then putting these under the live control of the dancer's gesture. The performance establishes complementary and supplementary relationships between the dance, music and visual art.





Performance History

Missouri State University -- 21.March 2010
Valladoid, Spain -- 26.March 2010
Traumfabrik, Regensburg, Germany -- 9.April 2010
Colloquium Kultur und Digitalisierung, L'arc Romainmotier, Switzerland -- 27-29.May 2010
Birmingham Conservatory of Music, Birmingham, England -- 7.March 2011




Creative Team

Robert Wechsler
Dancer, choreographer, motion tracking expert
Artistic Director of Palindrome Inter.media Performance Group
Stuttgart, Germany

Dr. John Prescott
Professor of Music
Music Department
Missouri State University

Rebecca Ruige Xu
Assistant Professor of Electronic Arts
Art and Design Department
Missouri State University

Sean Hongsheng Zhai
Computer Engineer

Pablo Palacio


By examining a small number of morphological properties in Chinese music and language, and by relating these properties to different media -- speech, music, dance and visual design -- this project raises questions about the expression innate within those forms: What are the expressive attributes of various curving lines? To what extent are they cultural? Can we consider the straight line a special case of curve, i.e. by studying the four tones in terms of pitch lines, can we generalize "curving lines" in a way that reveals universal expressive qualities? How do visual and acoustic forms relate? These questions will extend into the performance itself.

Distinctive Features

Our project combines the ancient art form of classical Chinese music with a very new one: interactive dance. It is not only an artistic connection across a vast expanse of time, but also a cultural exchange. To many Westerners in the audience, this work will serve as an introduction to the little-understood musical tradition, Chinese music, and thus bring it to a wider audience.

This piece represents a distinctively Western approach to appreciating Chinese music and language. We use as a starting off point, a study of the 4 tones of Chinese language. Even this description represents a typically Western approach. Chinese people learn these tones by repeating them on every different instance in which they are applied. For instance, you learn "ah" in its 4 tones, then you learn "ma" in its 4 tones, but people do not try to analyze what makes the first tone belong to the first tone, or what it has in common with the 3rd tone. If you ask a Chinese person for an explanation of how to make the tones, you are likely to get laughs instead of answers. Thus, the very concept of "tone" has an intuitive inner-level significance that goes beyond its obvious morphology.


Description of Technology

Motion tracking, as an artistic tool, refers to the use of sensors, such as video cameras and physiological sensors, to obtain data about human movement. The data is then relayed to another computer system which uses it to generate or influence sound, music, images, lighting, and so on. In our case, we will use the EyeCon system, in conjunction with custom DSP (Digital Signal Processing) to allow subtle movements of a solo dancer to be interpreted and translated into other media.

Video examples may be seen at Palindrome's web site.

Graphics will be generated in real time using tools including Processing programming language. Open Sound Control (OSC) will be used as the protocol for communications between EyeCon, DSP and Processing.



Rebecca Ruige Xu is an assistant professor in the Department of Art + Design at Missouri State University.
M.F.A. Syracuse University
B.S. Beijing Institute of Technology
Selected Exhibitions
* SIGGRAPH07, San Diego, CA
* Visual Music Marathon, Boston, MA
* Delta International Film and Video Festival , Cleveland, MS
* 5th International Xperimental Film Festival, Lefkosia, Cyprus
* FILE Electronic Language International Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil
* Addictive TV Best of 2006 Edition, Independent Exposure, San Francisco, CA
* iDEAs 06: Works in progress. San Diego, CA
* Reel Shorts Film and Video Exhibition, Saratoga Spring, NY
* 20th Annual Conference of Society of Literature, Science and Art. New York, NY
* Second Annual International Juried Exhibition, Long Branch, NJ

Dr. John Prescott, a member of the music faculty since 1986, holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Kansas where he studied composition with John Pozdro, Edward Mattila, and James Barnes. An award-winning member of ASCAP, Dr. Prescott composes music for band, orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble, and multi-media venues, and much of his music is published and distributed world-wide.
Dr. Prescott's compositions include works for band, orchestra, chorus, solo and chamber works, and multi-media pieces, and have been performed nationally and internationally. His works are published by Contemporary Music Services, The International Trombone Association Press, Tezak Publications, TRN Publications, Warner Brothers, and Wingert-Jones.

Robert Wechsler is a dancer, choreographer and developer of interactive methods of performing based in Stuttgart, Germany. He is artistic director of Palindrome an award-winning performance group known for their use of motion tracking -- bio sensors and other interactive technologies. His interest in sensors and electronic devices dates back to the 1970's when he used body-worn electronic devices to generate sounds through his movements on stage.
Wechsler holds a BFA in dance and MA in choreography from State University of New York at Purchase and New York University respectively. From 1979 to 1989 he studied with Merce Cunningham and John Cage in New York City. He is a Fulbright Fellow and has received grants from the Marshall Fund, NEA and others. From 2004 to 2006 he was head of England's first masters degree program in digital performance at Doncaster College (Hull University). He is the author of articles concerned with dance and new media for Leonardo Magazine, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Ballet International, Dance Magazine, Dance Research Journal, Der Tanz der Dinge and others.

Sean Hongsheng Zhai is currently a senior engineer working in system integration industry. He received Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University in 2000 and he is certified Unix system administrator. He has a prolonged interest in computer graphics, especially algorithmic art. His works have been exhibited in SIGGRAPH and iDEAs and he is the founder of floatingcube.org, a site devoted to creative experiments with computer generated images.


Additional Images