Pi to 500 Places: Piano Solo

With this piece I wanted a visual representation as well as an auditory one. I used the piano sound and animated the keyboard (using GarageBand, Photoshop and Final Cut Pro) because a keyboard is iconic; as a visual it can call up previously established patterns and associations, particularly if you've ever played a piano at all. And it's linear and easier to understand. So along with the sound representations of Pi, there is also an evoked kinesthetic representation in many of us (studies have shown that if you think about playing the piano, electrical impulses register in the the muscles of your hands). I'd venture to guess that using oboe finger patterns and an oboe graphic would not be as interesting.

I'm particularly interested in how these visual and auditory elements combine and how difficult it is to create a situation where they are equal, where one is not dominant over the other. In several of my installation pieces I have had to "dial back" one or the other so both were noticed, not just one. For example, in the Sonified Weather Installation, shown elsewhere on this site, I had to decrease the color saturation of the rain drops and clouds that were projected on the floor of the gallery.  Even at that, the visual element was too compelling for some viewers, they really didn't pay much attention to the "Sonified Weather".

Here's another example. The image above is a gallery view of a floor mounted, 5 foot by 10 foot "city" I recently made mostly out of old circuit boards that I collected over the past 15 years. The city is called Henryville, after the folk song John Henry, because the theme is obsolescence and the displacement of labor by machines. Under the piece are 5 speakers and a 20 minute long, looped sound narrative played in surround sound. At one point in the installation, using an aerial video projector, I projected onto the piece a movie I had made of storm clouds, simulating clouds and their shadows passing over Henryville. Very cool I thought! Trouble was, when the clouds were added the sound narrative almost became background noise. So I projected it on the wall behind Henryville. Even worse balance. I dialed it back, and didn't us the storm video at all. It turned out to be a good decision, especially since the piece was intended to be a "balanced" piece from it's inception.

(((((((((( Besides Henryville, Also New in 2008 ))))))))))
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