This letter is very strange. Many people will tell you I'm completely
mad; I prefer the term "extremely unconventional" as madmen do. If you
are not inclined to read this entire letter, you will no doubt hear in
the fullness of time from other dance-tech readers that you missed out
on the most unusual mail to ever arrive. It IS worth ploughing through.
I'll prove it. If you can get past the shock of the following claim
you'll realise that it is probably a world first, then you'll realise
there are lots of useful ideas where the following trash came from.
I'd also appreciate it if dance-tech KEPT the following claim within
dance-tech until such time as I actually use this in a commercial
recording (trust, net children). You know all those pop songs that
imitate sex through music ? You know, the ones where the music
increases tempo like an orgasm ? Where people groan and pretend ?
I bet I'm the first person in the world to make music by actually
recording acceleration signals from masturbation and turning this
measurement of orgasm (mine) into music.(Sorry, no light; dimmers
weren't connected). I'd like to put it on my band's future CD.
Read on...and on... and on...
My name is Darren Kelly. I've recently discovered your correspondence
group and I'm writing to introduce my work with a gestural MIDI
controller I call DRANCING (from "Drumming by dancing"). I started
developing Drancing a couple of years ago, and until recently knew of
no others working in this area. Through WWW word searches I found out
about other gestural MIDI controllers, one after the other, until
eventually I realised that not only is the idea of translating free
dance motion into music and light as fantastic as I'd always known,
but that many other people had already noticed. And then I discovered
you all know each other.
And I'd like to know you and I'd like you to know me. This letter is also
to introduce me to you. It is VERY long, because gestural MIDI control
has become very important to me. The letter is also rather personal at
times, because devices, shows, dance and music are developed by people
and performed by people. I in particular go to great pains to provide
a complete picture of my life, my being, and how I go about my many
(parallel) projects. This is to avoid misconceptions, which is important
because I can imagine at some stage working together with some of you.
Besides, I've noticed that dance-tech doesn't only discuss dance and tech.
The Tangerine: an analogy
In fact avoiding misconceptions is so crucial that I'll wander off on
a tangerine* with an analogy from my life. Amongst other things, I run
and write music for a band PLAY. People (especially booking types) often
_ask_ what kind of music we play. Of course I reply with the only valid
answer: "music must be heard, not described, otherwise it would be
a novel or a poem or a painting or something else". Of course you can try;
you can say who influenced you, what music you listen to, what techniques
you use, which instruments, where you play, etc.
Usually I give them a sermon about the Greek notion of musing (as opposed to
music), try to prove to them that the word multi-media is useless (the word
already being plural), and ask them whether they'd ask Peter Gabriel what
kind of music he plays so they can print it on their programme.
The WORST thing to do, I've discovered, is to actually play one
of the pieces. As soon as you do, the hearer has an uncontrollable
desire to proclaim "what type of band you are". One hears "ah, so you
are a jungle band", or "ah, so you have that Aussie sound", or "the
classical influence is unmistakable" or "well that's obviously
Brit-Pop", or "you are a victim of that awful repetitive German
electronic obsession" or... you know what I mean. MOST people simply
think in exclusive terms. They think one is this OR that, never this
AND that. It simply doesn't occur to most people that you are not "a
type of band", but that this is simply one song of one musical project
(a band), the musical projects being just one form of expression. I
have something like 200 hours of compositions, and the range of styles
is enormous, including styles with no name because they are mine. But
"people" know exactly what you are far faster than you know yourself.
I'll be damned if I know what kind of music I write. I just do it.
VENUE: "BUT how do we describe you on the programme ?"
DK: "Just say PLAY is playing. Easy".
VENUE: "BUT we have to say what style it is !".
DK: "You've heard the demo, you decide !".
VENUE: "BUT we can't tell; it's all different."
DK: "Then it's all different, isn't it !"
VENUE: "BUT but but but ..."
Nearly every time I go somewhere now in Hamburg I hear one of the following:
- "Aren't you that crazy techno bongo player ?"
- "Aren't you that bar pianist ?"
- "Aren't you that singer ?"
- "Aren't you that guy who writes music ?"
- "Aren't you that guy who plays drums on keyboards ?"
- "Aren't you that guy developing that strange instrument ?"
- "Aren't you that crazy dancer ?"
- "Aren't you that crazy Australian ?"
- "Aren't you that guy PLAY with the funny circles symbol ?"
(The band is PLAY, but sometimes I get called PLAY).
So, there's the analogy so far. As soon as people know one thing you do,
they know what you are, what drives you, what prejudices you are inclined to
hold. But of course none of YOU clever, multi-talented people would do that.
Do you have a picture of me yet ? Ask yourself, do you know what I do and why ?
Stop. Ask yourself. What is he ? Who is he ?
What would you call me ? Do you know yet whether music is my main source of
income (that is, according to social convention, what one "is") ? I'll try a
couple more things I hear (after four years of being extroverted in introverted
Hamburg I can't go out without some stranger somewhere approaching me):
- "Aren't you that guy who paints the walls of his apartment ?"
- "Aren't you that guy who decorates his poems in clubs ?"
- "Aren't you that guy who does poetry readings in cafes ?"
Fine, easy enough to swallow, every creative person has more than one string
to their yoyo. But what if I had started differently ? Here are some more,
the sort my mother would rather hear:
- "Aren't you that guy who simulates supernova explosions ?"
- "Aren't you that guy with the colourful pictures of trapped dust in the
HERA electron ring ?"
- "Aren't you that mathematics tutor ?"
- "Aren't you that guy modelling environmentally friendly pest control
with sex pheromone ampules ?"
- "Aren't you that guy working on symbolic algebra PDE interfaces ?"
Aha. So I'm actually a physicist, right ? A physicist-lamb in wolves
clothing. Yes, deep inside he's a COLD SCIENTIST, he's actually not
a dancer at all, he just pretends to be wild at night, he gets paid to
do physics, he's not REALLY a musician, he can't really feel, he's a boffin,
he'll never make it as a writer, you can see the unmistakable technical
influence in everything he does, he's a SCIENTIST, I knew it all the time,
there was something about him, that's why he plays piano so digitally,
no doubt about it, he's destined to sit behind a computer where he can geek
and hack so that REAL PERFORMERS, the ones who can't programme, the
ones who can really feel, the ones who understand people, the ones who
are much better in bed, can make REAL ART.
Of course if I had said from the beginning that I am a trained
physicist none of YOU clever, wise, multi-talented people would
have formed a strong impression about me. Of course not. And when
you meet me you certainly won't pigeonhole me. Of course not.
There is an old claim about sunsets, namely that physicists, who are
supposed to understand why the colours are that way, can't possibly
enjoy it "as much" as someone human who just looks at it. The people
who claim this have not had the wonderful experience of enjoying BOTH
knowing and understanding and looking and feeling. They are convinced
that ignorance is bliss:
Ignorance isn't going to improve gestural MIDI controllers.
They are the same people who (especially in Australia, where I was
born), feel that live music has to be mixed dreadfully in order to be
"credible". They are convinced that, as soon as someone starts
talking about how dreadful those high frequencies are, their MUSIC
must be worthless. They think exclusively. They think music must be
"without sound technique but emotional" OR "clean yet without
feeling". This is complete nonsense. Music can be "raw" AND
well-mixed, and is simply better that way. I'm not saying that
feedback is necessarily a useless thing, it's just one can only
exploit it more when one understands it, irrespective of the language
one uses to represent that understanding.
So before I actually have the pleasure of meeting any of you, let it
be known that I'm glad that I have a training in maths and physics,
and I don't think this renders me artistically invalid, even if I am
short sighted as physicists are supposed to be.
NOUNS: I am NEITHER a physicist, NOR a musician, poet, singer, dancer,
inventor, mathematician, pianist, writer. I am not a noun.
VERBS: I DO physics and PLAY music and COMPOSE, and SCRIBBLE poetry and SING
and DANCE and INVENT and CALCULATE and WRITE and .... I do things.
I have a theory that convict children 200 years ago in Australia
turned away from nouns. If you were born "noble" then nouns suited you
fine; if you were labelled a "convict child", then the only way out to
combat the stigma was to emphasise what you do rather than what you
are called. I try to be a verb person more than a noun person. I'm
certainly more of an "and" person than an "or" person. I have the gift
of many talents and the curse of 5023 "projects", all of which are
only 80% finished. [If your reaction here is "who doesn't" then I'm
writing to the right people].
FACTS: At school I won prizes in many subjects the way bright children
do in small towns. I studied physics and maths at Sydney Uni, honours
thesis in radioastrononomy, PhD in theoretical astrophysics and now
I'm in Hamburg, Germany working in the machine group of the HERA
particle accelerator at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron.
MORE FACTS: I also run and write music for a band PLAY in Hamburg, and
I just love to dance, although I'm sure the third muscle of my 4th toe
on my right foot isn't as supple as on most "professional" dancers. I
don't foxtrot (yet). I compose, play piano and keyboards, play various
percussion instruments and conga and bongos, sing, mix and record
constantly, because my I go to sleep with music in my head and wake up
with music in my head. I don't know why I do this, it just happens.
I paint (often with reference to PLAY themes), write, compose poetry
(in a style I call PLAYing).
The novel, film script and theatre pieces haven't yet achieved
substantial physical form, but already legendary in my head. (Did you
know that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had to memorise his own novels in
prison ? ).
The many noble and simple inventions to aid sick and handicapped
people and for making the world a greener, happier place will have to
await financial security, and the almost complete papers on
mathematical sidelines that find no direct application at work taunt
me night and day.
The reason I'm carrying on about everything else I do is so that -
right from the beginning - NOONE classifies me as a technical
boffin. I'm not. I'm not saying I can't do what a technical boffin
does, in fact that is exactly what I do (more through necessity than
love). It's just that I also do other things, just as well or badly,
and I take them just as seriously. I take tangerines* very seriously.
The other reason is so that you know I'm blessed/cursed with a
multi-tasking mind. This is different from being multi-talented.
Multi-talented means you can do effective work in many areas one at
a time (effective because you concentrate 100% at each stage).
Multi-tasking means your brain literally thinks of dozens of things
at once. Of course this is probably not effective, which explains
why I'm surrounded by unfinished papers, music and projects.
Drummers multi-task: they can waggle their feet and arms in completely
different ways. Dancers are usually very good at it. Performing live,
thinking of text, singing, playing, bongos and dancing simultaneously
certainly involves multi-tasking. Speaking German on the phone whilst
reading a book in English is another example:
Gestural MIDI controllers are multi-taskers' heaven.
My gift/curse is not so much physical multi-tasking, it's intellectual.
I've perfected the art of hearing music, multiple conversations,
smelling flowers that aren't there, regretting a fight with Dad,
seeing mathematical symbols before my eyes, and writing a letter
ALL AT THE SAME TIME, each equally poorly, and usually at the same time
as wondering what I'll cook for dinner. I'll just bet I can do more things
simultaneously unsatisfactorily than any of you ! Because I'm crazy smart.
When I try to sleep my head is full of complete symphonies, with
dozens of sounds and intruments, real or not, and I have no notion
where it comes from or why it is there all at once. So I don't sleep.
I just fidget and multi-task, and wonder why my YAMAHA MT3X doesn't
have more than 4-tracks when my brain has 79 at least.
[END OF THIS IMPORTANT TANGERINE*]
* Tangerine: I'd much rather wander off on a tangerine than a tangent.
Tangent's are infinite yet only one directional. Tangerines offer infinitely
many directions. Many-dimensional tangerines are of course preferable.
Infinitely dimensioned tangerines are yummiest. Emotions resemble a
tangerine far more than they resemble a tangent.
AND THEN ONE DAY, a couple of years ago, I was dancing and realised
how I can combine all these things so that I can finally do what I
want: everything at once ! Dancing, music, physics, maths, composing,
programming, theatre, drama, choreography, research and development,
painting, lighting effects, recording, mixing. I decided from scratch
to figure out how to capture the rhythm and music of free dance and
convert/translate it into music and light. And in the trance of dance
I conceived DRANCING, my version of the gestural MIDI control
concept. I'm sure each of you recalls the moment you realised how much
potential is lurking behind gestural MIDI control.
Over the last couple of months I've become familiar with the work of
most of you through your web pages, although I'm yet to see a
presentation by any of you. As I already said, I not only worked in
complete isolation the last years, I also worked in complete ignorance
of the work of others, and indeed I worked correspondingly anxiously;
I had never heard or seen anyone do what I was trying to do, and was
convinced I might be able to patent some of my ideas.
I was actually secretive, which seems laughable until you realise
exactly how much promise there is in this area. I'm totally convinced
that gestural MIDI controllers will play a role in the future of music
(I mention here specifically music as opposed to performance; it is
one thing to be convinced that these techniques will play a role in
dance performance, as they already do; it is another to think they'll
form robust, responsive, "useful", musical instruments). I am so
convinced that I am about to completely change my career (at least
temporarily) to work on developing gestural MIDI controllers, and in
particular light and music triggering/modulation algorithms and
mappings, which is probably the area I can best make a unique contribution
given my mathematical and musical background.
Speaking of secrets, it is highly likely that - given that you don't know
me - there are others working on these things. We are all of course far
too artistically untouchable to even think of commercial applications. Just
recently, however, the devil crept into my head while I was in the park
daydreaming, and a number of realistic commercial applications tainted
my thoughts. Are you all so convinced that some really clever engineers
aren't working on this stuff ? Engineers who build devices WAY more elegantly
than you do. Engineers with lots of resources and lots of backing working
for big multi-national electronics companies who like their engineers to
keep their mouths tightly SHUT, and can whip your butts ?
Do any of you think you have achieved technological originality ?
What if I know how to make millions with gestural MIDI controllers ?
But I'm too exhausted and tired and poor and artistically pure to find
sponsors before the idea is gone and away. Would you still speak to
me ? Have you ever tried to write a complete patent specification for
a device you are sure will work but can't afford to build, let alone
explain to your boss why you have huge bags under your eyes every
day ? What if I have the best ideas since grinding flour, but my
circumstances won't let me realise them ?
What would you do if you were me ?
This is what you would do. Get up (not wake up, already awake). You
have not idea what time it is, because years of shift work in the HERA
control room have taught you that the day is exactly 36 hours
long. Stretch, not enough time to do yoga, stretch quickly instead so
that everything is now aggravated and stiff instead of just stiff,
shower with head full of music, sing in shower, singing reminds you of
overtones, overtones remind you of frequencies, frequencies remind you
of time intervals, time intervals remind you of the annoyingly slow
cycle time in Drancing because you can't afford to replace the 40 MHz
PC you use (belongs to ex), coffee, bread, cheese, think about work,
sort out notes for work as PLAY piece you recorded yesterday plays in
background, mistake !, regret not having practised scales well with
left hand, mix not good, tape player (analog) has wow and flutter,
must redo, can't afford digital, find this spot in last night's PLAY
recording really nifty, dance !, stretch, dance !, very awake now,
hear news in Radio Berlin, imagine Drancing on stage with five
drancers, remember that the dance company you have approached has run
out of money, think of method for plotting electrons scattered from
residual dust particles in a vacuum chamber, think of being thirty,
think of red wine, think of Mozart dying too young because he worked
too hard, wonder whether anyone will give two hoots about your music
when you are dead, see PLAY paintings (apartment walls), think of
stage projector for backdrops, can't afford it, think again of Mozart,
own music is playing in the background, feel sick through comparison,
remember that Mozart was unhappy, ask whether you are happy, think of
the weather, Hamburg is grey, think of ex, think of Drancing, think of
new GUI for Drancing, think of new computer you can't afford, think of
dimmers you can't afford, think of making Drancing video, think about
doing it cheaply, change mind, think of the dynamic aperture of the
HERA proton ring, think of tricky ways to reach high energy particle
collisions without draining Hamburg's electricity supply, think of
stars and astrophysics, think of partial differential equations, think
of sex (men do that apparently), think of song from three years ago
you'd like to work into that new PLAY piece, think of Mum, smell
eucalyptus in your mind, think of finally organising practice room
instead of annoying neighbours, think of argument with best friend and
ex PLAY drummer, think of new drummer, remember how hard it is to find
a tidy drummer, think of sticking with own tidy keyboard drums, think
of congas, think of only having two hands, think of the gulf between
multi-track recordings and live performance, think of using MIDI
playbacks, remember hearing Simon Philips drum live, want real drummer
again !, think of new sensors for Drancing, think of finishing
patents, think of electricity bill, leave house ... ride to work
through park thinking of simply everything ... stop for five minutes
in park .., enter gate, read email, while calculation for work runs
search web for combinations of words "dance", "motion", "velocity",
"position", "music", "light", "MIDI", "gesture", HIT ! HIT ! HIT !
LINK ! LINK ! heart sinks, others working on it FULL TIME !, spirits
rise, teamwork ?, money ? Note from boss, physics, hard physics,
mathematics, miss sex, remember the benefits of living alone, remember
that no partner could tolerate you working like this, eyes sore, neck
stiff, it's dark, it's 2 am, ... bike ... house, red wine (Aussie
Shiraz Cabernet), cook, food better mixed than last PLAY recording,
food has right balance of treble (spice) and bass (carbohydrates),
ahhh. Find last analogy useful but wanting. Remember that latest
patent specification is incomplete. Sigh.
And then I say to myself: "Your life is so full, so exciting, so interesting,
and you are drinking good red wine. You must be really happy Darren !"
Working in complete isolation has the obvious disadvantage that you
reinvent the wheel a lot, and you end up exhausted because you have to
do everything yourself. However, it was very instructive in many ways.
Firstly, I'm pleased to say I didn't invent any square wheels (and I
do think there are some unrealistic claims being made out there about some
square wheels !). From what I can tell, there isn't a single technology
being used for gestural MIDI control that I didn't consider in depth
a couple of years ago, before settling on a couple of methods suited
to my desired application. Secondly, there is no better way to understand
a wheel than reinventing it yourself.
And I suspect that working in isolation has lead me to some ideas that
might complement the developments of others, as might my experience
in mathematical physics, music, composition, and programming, i.e. I
suspect I have explored some different paths with different languages
than some of you.
THE STATUS OF DRANCING
I conceived three versions: Drancing-A, Drancing-V and Drancing-P,
based respectively on transducers measuring acceleration, velocity,
and position. They are NOT defined by the technology used to measure
those quantities, but rather by what one does with the measured
quantity. I am not in love with any particular transducer. Note also that
you can easily derive acceleration and velocity from position by
differentiation, but deriving position and velocity from acceleration
through integration is not realistic, the limits being both physical
In my loungeroom in Hamburg there is a functioning 3D-accelerometer-based
Drancing-A suit, driven by PC control software "DranceWare", and employing
Crossbow accelerometers, driving a digital stage piano as sound module.
Crossbow know about my work. Dimmers are due very soon.
I hope to publish a complete report on my experience with the Drancing-A
prototype in CMJ as soon as possible, including examples of signals,
triggering and modulation algorithms, some mathematical analysis etc.
I wrote an extensive report on my plans to construct this device, and
circulated it to a number of musicians, drummers, choreographers and
engineers on February 15, 1997:
"Drancing: a musical instrument that generates drumbeats,
melodic sounds, light, laser and video images synchronised to dance.",
D. R. C. Kelly, PLAY technical report No.1, Feb 15, 1997.
The paper is now out of date, so I won't distribute it. Although
accurate, it was written before I'd built my full prototype. This is
not a published refereed paper. I am writing a number of PLAY
technical reports to develop and record my ideas, and each in turn
will form the basis of published papers.
Until my paper for CMJ is complete, I'll say a little here about my
Drancing-A is built, tested, and it works. I can now make genuine melodic
music with it (music I enjoy hearing, and I'm not easily pleased). Most
importantly, I can generate live music with it that I couldn't better
generate using another instrument.
I do not, however, yet consider Drancing- A to be a useful percussion
instrument. No musician in their right mind would yet choose
Drancing-A over keys or drumpads as a MIDI controller. No, the
advantage of Drancing-A over other MIDI controllers such as keys
is theatrical and visual synchronisation.
There are many interesting ways to form triggers from the acceleration
signals or modulate sound and light with them, approaches I'll discuss
in the paper I'm preparing for CMJ.
There are, technically, some enormous advantages to using
accelerometers: they are robust, self-contained (require no
reference), not subject to external fields, and are much cheaper than
position sensing. As they are used more and more in the car industry
(air bags etc.) they will become cheaper and cheaper <--- NB !!!!!!
Although it takes more than a little practice to learn to play it
reliably, Drancing-A is a true musical instrument, (as opposed
to a device only responsive enough for theatrical gesture control).
My dream, however, was to be able to drum effectively in free dance,
so that the sound is comparable to playing samples by keyboard,
so that my audience dances with me, so that I can walk through the
audience and dance WITH the people, so that dance IS the rhythm.
I hope that Drancing will eventually generate music that encourages
body motion, because it is generated by body motions: in physical terms
one might say the source and receiver have the same length scale,
The performer and audience have similar body wavelengths.
I'm not quite there yet with Drancing-A. I think I will get there
with Drancing-V. Drancing-A IS certainly already very suited to
choreographed music generation and light modulation with many drancers
moving completely freely on a large stage.
In the meantime I'll prefer my digital stage piano, congas and bongos
thanks: these DO make people dance. I am not inclined to use a device
just because it is technically novel, even if I built it myself. I
certainly hesitate to incorporate Drancing-A into PLAY music live
where it must perform alongside tried and tested "musical instruments".
[ ** The scientific definition is that a "musical instrument"
is fun and pleasant to use whereas a "useless technical gadget" is
irritating to play and sounds like shit. Any questions ?
By the way, in contrast to claims made by certain overenthusiastic
technical disciples on the net, the most effective MIDI controller
ever was invented hundreds of years ago. It's called the piano key:
MIDI control is cool and useful; not all controllers are.
Guitar strings are also clever, as are violins. I hereby challenge
anyone who thinks their gestural MIDI controller is a genuine music
instrument to come and jam with PLAY. I'll play my MIDI controller
called a Roland RD500 digital stage piano, Michael will modulate his
Mesa Boogie amp the way Hendrix did (which Michael will enjoy because
his Hendrix bouts are otherwise forbidden). Come on, cowards ! Face
I'm developing some dedicated sensors for Drancing-V. These will enable
very sharp percussive playing. I'm hoping to patent this dedicated sensor.
If I have a novel _technical_ contribution to make, it is here. Otherwise
I'm inclined to simply purchase existing technology.
My dream is to be able to afford the EM motion tracking technology
from POLHEMUS. They know about my work. Given their 120 Hz rate you
have the complete choice: position (120 Hz), velocity (120 Hz), and
acceleration through differentiation (60 Hz). You can, for example,
use v for triggering (v=0), and r & a for modulation. Their
technology, however, is subject to EM interference and only works over
a limited performance area. In contrast, with Drancing-A I can control
5 Drancers with radio data telemetry over a large stage without
obstruction and at much lower cost.
I am familiar with other motion capture technology such as video
methods, ultrasound, etc. These might meet the requirements for
gestural MIDI control, but they don't meet my requirements for
a self-contained musical instrument suit enabling complete freedom of
movement and very, very, very sharp (= percussive) musical response.
I don't know about you, but I can't afford to fit out 5 dancers with
Polhemus motion capture technology. My priority is to develop a
musical instrument (and software) that is not financially exclusive.
I don't mean that my aim is necessarily to sell a commercial
instrument (although it wouldn't hurt); I want dance companies to be
able to afford the methods I'm developing. This is one of the reasons
I'd like to concentrate on exploring the limits of triggering and
modulation algorithms exploiting cheap, practical, robust, self-contained
In Hamburg I'm planning a European style rave/dance-party together with a
MIDI musician and sampler Stephan Reifenrath. I'd love to perform in this
way at least once before leaving Hamburg in May 1997. I think, however,
that the as-yet-unbuilt Drancing-V will achieve this, not Drancing-A, for
the reasons I've mentioned above and as I'll explain in the foreseen CMJ
This rave will be THE test. All of the promises and talk on the web about
linking weird buttons and knobs with weird sounds and weird lights is
typical boffin blah blah and humbug. There is one thing NONE of them
mention anywhere; whether they made the audience dance or cry, too !
If you can do that you can do anything else. The proof is in the pudding.
I don't want to further develop a silly gimmick. I want people to feel my
rhythm, get inside my rhythm, and move. I want them to dance and smile and
say "Hey, great music, great show". I _don't_ want them to say "well, how
about that, how fascinating". Or to put it another way, I'm having way too
much fun making music with proven conventional instruments to waste my
time on technology for its own sake. Being wired up in a Star Trek uniform
flinging your arms around like a complete wally generating spacy sounds
is not art, it's just sad. Swaying gently at a microphone as you sing
good lyrics with a great voice supported by good background music can,
however, be very desirable - whether or not the audience even notices that
that SWAYING is generating drumbeats and switching the subtle dimmers. Id est:
Drancing should be sexy not dorky.
I've approached a dance group in Australia about preparing a choreographed
performance in Sydney for 1998. I can't give details until the project is
confirmed, but this performance is to emphasise choreographed music
production, and to exploit the freedom offered dancers wearing self-contained
accelerometers suits with radio transmission of motion data.
The already mentioned PLAY is the name of my band in Hamburg. I PLAY
piano, keyboards, keyboard percussion samples, bongos and conga, sing
and control sound effects through mics. The other main member is a
talented German guitarist Michael Teske. I take PLAY as seriously as
work, because I have given up distinguishing them, although my bank
account has a different opinion; I hope to teach my bank account a big
lesson. Life, after all, is a PLAY, and I'm just plain childish.
We have performed successfully in some known music venues in Hamburg and hope
to record in studio later this year or early next year. I write, record
and mix the music, so I have developed some experience in these areas,
too, and my training as a physicist has helped me develop some novel and
effective sound techniques. Shame I still record analog.
But PLAY is more than the band. I use PLAY (as opposed to work) to refer
to everything I work on outside work. This includes an ensemble of PLAY
paintings that complement PLAY music, PLAY poetry, PLAY inventions, and
PLAY technical reports, the first of which describes my plans to construct
And so it is that certain people in Hamburg know me as simply "PLAY",
which is not quite true, but not something I discourage.
[Outside of PLAY and WORK and DANCE I do have a simple hobby: cooking]
I am absolutely convinced of the value and future of this research area
(gestural MIDI controllers). When I return to Australia in May 1998 (my
contract as a physicist here runs out end of April 1998) I wish to
dedicate my immediate future to further development of Drancing and to my
other musical and PLAY projects. I don't yet know how I'll support it, but
that's what I'd like to do, and I'd like to be in Sydney.
This area is, as you know only too well, very HOT and it's moving faster
than I can purchase equipment.
I would like to form a Drancing team in Australia (hopefully Sydney) to
move people with these techniques. I just can't find time to do all this
alone, and I can't afford it alone. The team might contain (at least) the
* D(r)ancers: Yours truly and others.
* Composer: Yours truly and others.
* A programmer: I can programme just about anything to do anything in any
language, given time. To the extent that I've spent the last years doing
nothing but demanding numerical computations and sitting at a computer I
think it's safe to say I'm a "computer expert" compared with most of you.
This is also where the musical creativity is realised, and where I think I
can make a big contribution. However, I don't want to spend the next few
years sitting at a computer. I already do that, thankyou. I want to
concentrate on Drancing performances, that's why I'm developing it. Ideally,
I'd work closely with a full-time programmer. I have a German friend here
who is very keen to do just this. He is a physicist, plays music, and
currently works as a GUI writer. Drancing is only as powerful and flexible
as the driving PC software. At the risk of promoting National Instruments,
I quote their virtual instrument philosophy:
"The software _IS_ the instrument"
* A microelectronics expert: You can't beat experience and you can't
beat familiarity with available technology. I'm just not up to speed
on practical electronics. Physics is not electronics, electronics is
its own art. I can, however, design and use electronics with more
understanding than the average bear.
* A MIDI musician/sampler: Again, although I understand the principles
and do some music programming myself, you can't beat experience.
Stephan Reifenrath is an experienced and talented MIDI musician in
Hamburg. He's interested in Drancing and interested in coming to Oz
to help out (if someone will pay his flight, of course). He has a
special gift: true sound sensibility. Most importantly, he has
professional sound modules, his own MIDI studio, and a very interesting
collection of samples.
* A _clever_ sound technician: I like to use lots of tricks mixing and
recording. I've discovered that we can never use those tricks live
with PLAY because the mixers simply don't understand what I do. I want to
work with a sound engineer who (like we physicists) understands sound waves,
signal paths, frequencies, ... gee maybe even _feedback_ and _monitors_
for a change; that would be really nice. Then I could concentrate on
_just_ keyboards, singing, bongos, dancing, ... and DRANCING.
* A lighting technician: although lights can be synchronised to Drancing
via a MIDI controller, you also need a real light person for larger
venues, the sort of person who can tell the difference between the
thick cables and the thin ones, one phase, three phases and the moon's
* Stage design: what a fun space, stranded between the sublime and
* Costume design: The DRANCING suits should (and does) look great, and will
look even better -- and maybe even have enough room under the arms --
after a trained tailor Carolyn gets her scissors into it soon.
* A secretary: Oh yes please...leverage for my tired brain and soul.
* and then there could be video, lasers, ...
I currently, seriously, do ALL of these things at once. (Note that
sleep didn't appear in that list). And I'm tired. I'm tired the way a
single sleep-in can't cure. I'm emotionally exhausted. Nearly
finished. I'm so sick and tired of imagining how fantastic it could
be, if only I were like those aimless young bachelors in wealthy
Hamburg who - lacking direction, purpose, and scruples - BUY an
atelier, BUY lots of expensive photographic equipment, and become
"erotic photographers". How much better I could use their
resources ! I'm so tired that I write silly letters like this to
intelligent people whose time should not be wasted.
I'm tired of no one noticing that I'm a very good investment.
If only someone would just give me some money so I can gather nifty people
around me I'll make it all happen, if they'll just leave me in peace to
work hard at the method in my madness.
Funding: I'm looking (as much as time permits) into the following
* Commercial sponsorship.
* University sponsorship.
* Arts promotion sponsorship.
If, however, I land a recording contract for PLAY in Oz I could truly
combine these projects. This is my clear and obvious preference, and in
the end I think this is what will happen. Many of the people I would
require to form a Drancing project would also be able to contribute to
PLAY, so maybe combining them is the way.
I can/will/hope to do:
* receive you any time at the PLAY-house in Hamburg (address below). I cook !
* invite you to try out Drancing-A.
* perform live and promote your gestural MIDI controller if it
can achieve drumming by dancing to my satisfaction (and I don't
just mean getting a sampled drum beat out of a swinging arm, the
whole of dance-tech can do that).
* read replies to this copious mail.
* keep in touch through dance-tech or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* contribute to other gestural MIDI controller development groups
FROM MAY 1998 (I have a contract here in Hamburg until then).
* do the nasty maths you were avoiding because you didn't realise it
was useful or necessary.
* gladly accept lots of money without nasty conditions.
* discuss my plans for dedicated Drancing-V sensors with serious sponsors
with serious money willing to let ME choose a serious team to achieve
my serious goal: drumming by dancing.
* take you on a tour of the 6 km long HERA particle accelerator.
* explain to you why some stars blow up when they die, how we know,
and why that's interesting.
* sign anything in blood (I've seen the house in Staufen where Dr.Faustus
* Write or pass on anything else about technical details of Drancing until
my article for CMJ is finished, submitted and accepted.
* Discuss my plans for dedicated Drancing-V sensors unless you are a
serious sponsor with serious money willing to set up a serious team,
having noticed that I'm serious.
* Take on anything full time so that my PLAY band activities are thwarted.
* Join another gestural MIDI controller development team permanently. My
very specific aim is to achieve drumming by dancing to _MY_ satisfaction.
If anyone can show me they've done it, I'll stop developing Drancing and
start using your MIDI controller live, on stage, now. I don't actually want
to develop anything, I want to DO something. Becoming a manufacturer is not
something for which I'd disrupt my career in physics; drumming by dancing
* I won't live in America (visiting I can handle), and should spend a lot
of time in Oz: I've been away for years, my folks are getting old, and
I like Sydney.
* I do not have a personal web page and can't advertise PLAY or DRANCING
here. (Although our sibling institute CERN of course invented the web).
* I will not spend the next years programming your MIDI controller's
graphical user interface for you. (I got into dancing because of neck
strain !). I can write GUIs to my heart's content for the HERA control
room any time I want to, thanks. I will gladly _discuss_ GUIs.
* I can't afford to move from Hamburg, travel, buy a decent sound module,
phone you, or undertake anything involving _any_ expense whatsoever.
This is because I don't have enough money. None. None to by the things
I need to impress you with Drancing, let alone pay for a flight back to
Australia next year, the sort of flight which takes your instruments, too.
[I may, however, travel to S.F. early next year as part of work and
will certainly visit Buchla and Assoc.]
* I can't send you PLAY or DRANCING recordings. Remember, I'm making music
recordings, hope to get a contract for that music, and DRANCING is to me
just one way to make music. You can't get a recording contract for music
which already exists in recorded form all over the world in non-studio
form on various media in varying qualities. The record company says:
"No thanks, that piece is herewith dead. Next piece please." You are
welcome at a PLAY concert; if we manage to produce a commercially available
CD I'll gladly send some copies to dance-tech members GRATIS.
mit freundlichen Gruessen aus Hamburg
Dr. Darren R. C. Kelly
(just "Darren" in reply please)
PS: If anyone writes back to tell me that it is impossible to do everything,
and that one must set priorities to get anywhere, I will scream. The question
is how one stops THINKING about everything, constantly, all at once, always.
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Darren Kelly | | |
| \ 0 / |
DESY -MPY- (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) | * o |
Notkestr.85 | - D E S Y - |
22603 Hamburg | o * |
Germany | / O \ |
| | |
phone: +49-40-8998-4569 | |
fax: +49-40-8998-4305 <--Note change | |
e-mail: email@example.com | |
Amandastr.40a, | HOME |
20357 Hamburg | zu Hause |
phone: +49-40-4322602 | The PLAYhouse |