Vibrotactile Feedback & Networked Improvisation

The idea for this ensemble improvisation was based on work that I have been developing with Christos Michalakos as a tool for ensemble improvisation. Enhancing traditional aural and visual cues, a network between laptops is established providing direction and suggestion to and between performers. Additionally, vibrotactile feedback is provided to performers in the form of tiny vibrations on the skin, opening up a further information channel to transmit signals and cues, allowing for a more informed and focused performance. We are keen to investigate whether/how the actual musical content can be significantly affected/influenced by these ideas.

The first performance using this system back in April can be heard here:
Hayes / Michalakos :: Socks and Ammo v.1 @ Sonorities Festival 09.04.11 by ElleEsAich

The four players in this group were:
Tom Mudd - live electronics
Claire Singer - cello & live electronics
Christos Michalakos - percussion & live electronics
Lauren Hayes live electronics

Adapting the current system to a stable version for four networked laptops would have required more time than we wished to dedicate to technological issues, and so we stripped down the system considerably. We opted for a simple wireless network (thanks to Tom) with a visual cue indicating suggested change points for all performers, and Claire and myself additionally used the vibrotactile feedback. A personal aim is always to remove the need to look at a laptop screen while performing, especially when in an ensemble situation.

The system was noticeably different when working in a group unfamiliar with each other's set-ups and sound worlds. Performers noted during rehearsals that they felt preoccupied by anticipating change points, rather than relying on listening itself for the progression of the improvisation. However, the aim is to provide a framework of suggestion, rather than strict direction, and we clarified that these offerings can be overridden should the present musical development suggest this.

To be continued with audio/video...