Re: Dance Software

Richard Povall (
Mon, 04 May 1998 10:32:18 -0400

Robert wrote:
>We want to be able to get up and have IT happen! We want SATISFACTION!
>NOW!!! Some of the most enthusiastic supporters of work of this kind have
>never actually used it very much. I think this goes for choroegraphy
>softwares as well. In the beginning there is this -- what Germans call the
>"Aha" effect. Everyone is delighted. at first.

But this also brings up another dilemma. We don't expect people with no
training of any kind to get out there and just, well, "dance". We don't
expect people to pick up a saxophone and make beautiful sounds in the first
five minutes. But this kind of instant gratification is always expected
from computers. Most of the available software (and hardware) for sensing
motion doesn't work very well - certainly not well enough for "plug and
play" instant results. If it did, it would probably only work in the most
simplistic ways, and produce relatively uninteresting results.

I've finally spent enough time with my software of choice - BigEye (and
others related to it) - that I'm just beginning to feel like I can play it
like an instrument, with a certain level of finesse and fluidity; that I
can finally achieve a certain level of satisfaction. It just so happens
that BigEye has an "instant gratification" mode, one that produces results
with little or no programming or user knowledge. That mode, however,
produces very predictable and largely uninteresting results.

Of course this is beginning to take on a rather elitist stink - but I don't
really mean it to. Practice, as they say, makes perfect, and we cannot,
and should not, expect instant results from instruments that are (and to
some degree, have to be) difficult to play. I teach computer music,
including a beginners' class, often to instrumentalists who have been
playing their instrument of choice for ten or more years. I constantly
have to tell them that OF COURSE they don't have much sense of control, and
that they will have difficulty implementing the musical decisions they are
attempting to work with until they have more experience with the tools and
instruments at hand. What was their violin playing like, I ask, after only
three months of playing?

This is not an argument that better software can't be made, because it
surely can. It's merely a caveat that there's no such thing as satisfying

Sorry, Monday morning angst.


R i c h a r d P o v a l l
Assoc. Prof of Computer Music and New Media / Chair, TIMARA Dept.
MPO Box 0332 || TIMARA/Studio 5
Oberlin, OH 44074-0332 USA || Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Voice: +1.440.775.1016 || Oberlin College
Fax: +1.440.775.8942 || Oberlin, OH 44074 USA

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