|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.
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.
Missouri State University -- 21.March 2010
Dr. John Prescott
Rebecca Ruige Xu
Sean Hongsheng Zhai
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.