Re: meanings of interactivity

Richard Povall (
Mon, 30 Jun 1997 07:11:42 -0400 (EDT)

>When does it need to be clear who/what is causing whom/what to happen?
> a always b sometimes c never
>We've done it both ways and I will tell you what I feel -- though the truth
>is i have mixed feelings (hence the question)...Since
>the audience cant see the zones in space, they actually have no way of
>knowing from whence the sounds originate. So you might ask, what is the
>point of setting up such a complicated system in the first place? (i'm
>remembering Dawns letter of some weeks ago)

I would have to say that somewhere halfway between a and b is the "correct"
answer. Huh? I guess what I mean by that is that the audience should
always have _some_ sense of the relationship between the performers and the
system. I didn't always feel this way, and I'm certainly not suggesting
that the relationship between these two things should be crass or
simplistic. I think the skill in designing an interactive environment
rests largely on the transparency of the outcome. An elegant environment
will be complex yet clear. I really think there is little point in an
interactive environment unless the audience is at least somewhat aware of
its nature. Unless, of course, you want to make an argument that as long
as the sound (or whatever) is actually derived from the movement, that in
itself should be philosophically enough, and it matters little whether the
audience can sense the relationship or not. This was perhaps my position a
few years ago, but too many disappointed or puzzled audiences have
convinced me otherwise, and I think I have to admit that the latter
argument was more a response to a rather inadequate system and an
inadequate environment design than a genuine argument.


>But there is something more. It is an effect I first observed watching
>the marvelous collaborations of Cage and Cunningham in the 70's and
>80's. In those works the dancers attempt no linkage whatsoever between
>movement and music, and yet, in spite of this - perhaps because of this
>- there were always moments when movement and sound would unite in
>fantastic congruity. It is the excitement of the singular event -- a
>moment which you know could not have been planned, and can never be

Of course there are wonderful synchroncities that happen by chance - that
is what much of Cage's work was "about" after all. Watch any set of visual
images with any sound source, and you will see extraordinary
synchronicities. I'm not sure it's relevant, though :)


R i c h a r d P o v a l l
Assoc. Prof of Computer Music and New Media
MPO Box 0332 TIMARA/Studio 5
Oberlin, OH 44074-0332 USA Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Voice: +1.216.775.1016 Oberlin College
Fax: +1.216.775.8942 Oberlin, OH 44074 USA
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