Sounds of a Community: An Interactive Sound Installation (2001 - 2003)
2003 Bob Gluck


Sounds of a Community

 
'Sounds of a Community' invites visitors to interact with sculptural electronic instruments, most in the form of Jewish ritual objects. The sculptural objects can be played as musical instruments. Visitors to the installations can creatively shape how collections of sounds change and are experienced, to create musical compositions. The sound collages produced draw mostly from on-site recordings from the life of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation in Woodstock, New York. Participants find themselves asking: "is it ritual or is it musical performance" and in fact, it is both.

The premiere showing of the installation showing took place in a large rectangular space. At four corners were situated the four sculptural instruments: eShawl, eFloor, eHarvest, and eChant. In an antechamber, was a listening station, in which several people simultaneously listen to an electroacoustic soundscape composition (also composed from sounds previously recorded on site), through specially designed 'Sound Pillows'.

New sound sculptures were added in 2002, and a few of the original pieces were redesigned. New pieces included eMenorah and two new eShawls ('eTallit' 1 and 2); plus an additional listening station, eSabbathTable.

An introductory narrative explanation, mp3


Sounds of a Community

Comments from participants (pdf).
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eShawl
eChant
eHarvest
eFloor
eMenorah
Listening Stations, Soundscapes


eShawl

... a wearable interactive instrument with which one can create multi-layered sounds ...

While 'playing' eShawl, one discovers how physical movements can create an intricate sonic texture. What's needed? Coordination and an exquisite sensitivity to sound and one's own body movements.

The sounds of a solo singing voice are heard when the performer rocks forward and back. Bending to the sides brings forth an additional layer of chanting, these sounds continually changing in length. Varying how far, how fast, and in which direction one rocks creates each performance. eShawl was constructed using custom-built Basic Stamp II hardware, and its interface was written with Max/MSP.

eShawl was redesigned in 2002. There are now two eShawls, each called 'eTallit'. Both are identical in design, and they are worn over the head, in which a yarmulka has been placed. The yarmulka, which contains tilt sensors, fit comfortably upon the head. The eTallit is then draped over the shoulders. eTallit1 plays the sounds of eShawl, which are shaped by swaying forward and back, and from side to side. eTallit2 plays sounds similar to those of eFloor, which are shaped by holding postures leaning forward and to the sides at varying angles. Refer to 'eFloor', below, for sound examples.

A narrative explanation, mp3


eShawl performance 1eShawl performance 2eShawl performance 3
 
Above is the eShawl in performance.

New eShawl: eTallit

This is what the redesigned eShawls look like.

Image of the original Max/MSP interface and detail of a subpatch.

A brief Quicktime movie

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eChant

... an interactive instrument in the form of a sacred book, upon which a participant moves a pointer and shapes the musical output ...

A narrative explanation, mp3

eChant1eChant2

On the surface is an abstract collage of images from a Medieval mystical prayerbook. The sounds are voices singing a call and response chant that precedes sections of biblical readings in Jewish worship. Various layers of these sounds are embedded in different sections of the image, to be selected by the participant, who can also evoke solo voice chanting of the text itself by pressing down on the pointer. The participant begins a musical phrase by touching one of the printed words. When the pointer moves through certain sections of the text, the sounds are digitally processed in ways that alter the nature and size of the group. A graphic tablet is enbedded in the book, and its interface was written with Max/MSP. The pointer, constructed from balsa wood strips, in the shape of a hexagon, covers a graphics stylus.

eChant3 eChant4

 

Sound examples, mp3

A brief Quicktime movie

eChant5


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eHarvest

... a stick-shaped interactive ritual object, playable as a musical instrument. eHarvest is unique amoung these instruments in that all of its sounds are acoustically created - by the shaking sounds of its wooden dowels and its dried twigs and leaves. As you hold it at different angles, and shake it in different directions, the sounds, amplified, emerge and change. eHarvest was constructed using custom-built Basic Stamp II hardware (embedded in the yellow citron), and its interface was written with Max/MSP.

A narrative explanation, mp3

eHarvest1eHarvest2eHarvest3
 

eHarvestdetail1 On the right is a closeup of the upper part of eHarvest. The microphone may be seen behind the body. On the left is a closeup of the sound-generating wooden dowels. eHarvestdetail2

Sound examples, mp3

Here is a brief Quicktime movie

eHarvest4eHarvest5eHarvest6eHarvest6

Here is a second short Quicktime movie

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eFloor

... an Interactive 4 x 4 foot floor tracks movement to create real-time quad sonic environment ...

When you slowly and meditatively explore this raised surface, eFloor senses where you are standing and how often you have been in each place. It responds by creating textures of varying sound densities, from solo singing voices, to as many as 11 massed voices in quadraphonic sound.

12 piezo sensors are embedded in the floor beneath you, functioning as external drum heads on an Octapad, sending data to a Max/MSP interface.

A narrative explanation, mp3


eFloor1 eFloor2 eFloor3


Above is eFloor in performance. Below is the software interface.

Max/MSP interface


eFloor performance 1eFloor performance 1
On the left we look beneath the carpeting. On the right is the bottom level; the piezo sensors are attached inside the rim of the metal pie plates.

Sound examples, mp3

A brief Quicktime movie

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eMenorah

An interactive instrument modeled upon a Hannukah menorah. There are eight 'candles' that can be lightly tapped with a 'match', and a ninth that starts and stops the sounds. When you tap - starting from the right - you will hear phrases from a Hannukah song 'Mi Yemalel' (Who Can Retell ...), but often in changing sequences and in varying numbers of voices. The fugal qualities continually change, depending upon which 'candle' you tap, and by choices continally made by algorithms in the interactive software. The conception, design, and painting were a collaboration with my daughter, and the voices are those of family members.

 
eMenorah eMenorah detail

Above: eMenorah and some detail of the wiring that you do not normally see.

Here is a short Quicktime movie

Sound example, mp3

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Listening Stations

Soundscape and Sound Pillows

The electroacoustic soundscape composition 'Woodstock Soundscape' (composed from sounds previously recorded on site) may be heard within these special 'sound pillows'. They are comfortable cushions within which headphones are embedded. Lying on the floor, one places their head into the pillows ...

Sound Pillows1 Sound Pillows2

Above, listeners relax while enjoying the sounds.


Below, note the head-shaped indentation in the pillow, where the headphones rest.

Sound Pillows3

Soundscape sound example, mp3


eSabbathTable (2002)

Added in 2002, a listening station in the form of a Sabbath dinner table. Sitting on the table are sculptures based upon traditional ritual objects and foods: a pair of candlesticks, a kiddush cup (wine goblet), a dinner plate, a hallah (braided bread), and flower vase. Embedded within each object is a speaker through which one may listen to family history narratives about the immigrant generation early in the 20th century. These are from a 1980 interview with the my late great-aunt Jennie Dressner, at whose table my family often ate Sabbath dinners and celebrated Passover seders. Also included are two sections from my 1998 work, 'Scene / Seen in Shul' that draw upon sounds of prayer.

eTable1 eTable2


Listening to eSabbathTable objects:

Listening Plate Listening Candle

Hold your computer monitor to your ear, look at these images, and listen to several of the mp3 sound clips, and you can imagine your own eSabbathTable!

****** story1 ****** story2 ****** story3 ****** story4 ****** story5 ****** story6 ******



eSabbathTable with its wiring visible. Table with Wiring

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