Soak

Performance at OPENSIGNAL Festival, May 9 2015 at Granoff Arts Center

 

Soak is a live interactive piece composed for a custom-made instrument called “afterglow - ざんぞう”. A performer (myself) plays music by creating black and white drawing using grains of salt. The 27 photocells of the instrument distributed onto the analog TV screen react to various light intensities emitted from the TV screen – the contrast created with salt on a black background. The performer creates a live-interactive loop of visual and aural outcomes by using her perceptions. The drawing, placement and thickness of salt, composes sonic outcome, and this sonic outcome influences her decision making in drawing.

Soak is partially inspired by sand box therapy. Instead of placing objects inside of a sand-filled box, I use sea salt (another type of grains) to reflect non-verbal thoughts and feelings at the moment. Salt has been used in rituals and ceremonies in many cultures with beliefs of power in cleansing. My belief in this power is neutral, but I have experienced tranquilizing feelings interacting with sea salt with my bear hands.

The sound is a series of audio samples of a metal pan in various pitches. Some frequencies are tuned close from each other, so when they are triggered at the same time by the drawing, audible beatings happen. This is inspired by gongs such as gamelan and Tibetan singing bowls.

Distorted image on the TV influences the sound, and invites both the performer and viewers to observe the moment from a distance and from inside.

 

 

The instrument: afterglow - ざんぞう

 

27 photocells of the instrument distributed onto the analog TV screen react to various light intensities emitted from the TV screen. Each sensor converts the light intensities to values, and these values correspond to each gain of 27 audio files in a Max patch. Live drawing of black and white image improvisationally composes an audio-visual piece by sending the live feed to the TV with afterglow - ざんぞうattached to it. A thicker layer of salt is shown brighter and a sheer layer of salt is dimmer on the TV. These color contrasts become the music.

Directly attaching photocell sensors on the TV screen is for practical and aesthetic reasons. An analog TV screen emits slightly unsteady lights, and these small jiggling are reflected as subtle sonic jiggling. Physical activities is a crucial part of this piece and my music making in general, thus I designed this instrument to also act in a physical way – exposed sensors and wires being affected by surrounding world. By showing the gut of the system, it is more likely that the viewers would find ties between the visual component of live action of drawing and the sonic component of instrument triggering sound.

I love you mom is the first piece composed for the instrument afterglow - ざんぞう, and Soak is the second piece. For me, it is very important that I continue composing pieces for my custom-made instruments, because I intend to treat them in the same manner as other instruments such as the flute. Therefore, growing a great degree of familiarity with this instrument by putting thoughts and effortis a crucial part of my instrument building practice. Practicing and composing pieces for the instrument are the ways that I can make afterglow - ざんぞうinto a real instrument.