is the dancer playing the notes? - Dance Media's platform

DCdanceme (
Tue, 5 May 1998 13:16:06 EDT

In a message dated 5/5/98 9:51:02 AM, Nick Rothwell wrote:

>If the note events are adjusted behind the scenes to such an extent,
>then the dancers are not playing the notes in the sense that a
>musician would. These "adjusting" functions would seem to represent
>the musical composition and a great deal of the musical performance.

Let me clarify, to the extent I can without disclosing patent claims.

First, it is something you just have to EXPERIENCE directly to really
understand what we've got so far. First, each "song" is a progressing
landscape of potential responses (changing as often as every single beat or
even every few millisenconds), from which the player/dancer extracts; in that
sense, a blend of conductor and performer. That is, in fact, very
constrained. However, the permutations and combinations of events,
arpeggiation, clustering, sustaining, re-attack of sustains, overlaps, choice
of instrument zones, and other factors provide quite a large selection of
results at each moment. The fact we typically have three or even six
simultaneous instrument voices for the device gives the player much latitude
in possible results.

The dancers ARE playing notes in exactly the sense that a musician plays an
instrument such as a piano, as far as the note events go. The difference, or
clearly a constraint is, that only notes which are part of a given
chord/scale./timbre scenario AT EACH MOMENT are available. In other words, a
continuously shifting set of available note PALETTES are available. So, all
notes are NOT available. In that sense, at least in the most "popular mode",
one would not freely compose. So in a way, what we have is like an INCREDIBLY
sophisticated "autoharp" - I say at risk of degrading the refinement of the
actual experience. However, the articulation factor is very high, in fact,
equivalent to sixteen fingered keyboard player. Although there are only
sixteen sensing regions, since at all times any/all are "musically
acceptible," what we have is the equivalent NOT of sixteen keys (which would
be incredibly un-interesting) but the equivalent of sixteen fingers,
intelligently pre-voiced (in the chord sense) over the full octaves range.

We also have a mode of play where the player CAN select, vary and control the
chord progression through time, thus controlling the palettes as well as note
event triggers, however, we've found that introducintg more than ONE type of
sensor response mode opens the psychology of the players to IMMEDIATE
CONFUSION "if there's two things that happen, there are (n) - what is
happening, who's doing what, etc." So we've found to keep it simple is
strongest clarity & enjoyment.

Most important is, we've come up with a combination of FOUR SIMULTANEOUS
VISUAL CUES, which together with the note audio event reponses give the player
completely unambigous feedback so precision play is natural and spontaneous.
This includes an equivalent to holding ones fingers over the keyboard BEFORE
pressing, so one can be on "standby" BEFORE generating events. It is not
satisfactory to only have the event happen AFTER the fact of trigger, maybe
one didn't WANT it yet, etc. That is to our knowledge also unique in our
approach. True precision, yet in space.

Finally, in non-contact environments, dance-music controllers have a totally
UNIQUE advantage over ANY type of physical contact device - namely that all
musical transfer functions can be made 100% transparent. Within a certain
physical sensor geometry which relates to certain most-common type of motions,
coupled with certain visual feedback which the computer controls, it is
possible to have TOTAL transparency of rhythmic transfer function. I can't
say more, but think about it - if you touch something, how can you adjust
rhythm without perceptible delay? We don't have tachyonic time-quantization
available.... So..... And when ONE transfer function is NOT transparent, the
brain says, hey, I'm not doing this, there is something IN BETWEEN ME and the
RESULT. If all are transparent, there is no instrument perceived = a magical
experience. It almost feels telepathic in nature.

So, admittedly within the constraints that each "song" is a strictly
predefined set of potential musical destinations, the pathways/event
matrix/permutations of polyphonic event clusterings/ the player chooses are
(a) almost infinitely variable each time the song is played, the variety or
range of musical result is quite large, within the feeling of that "song",
and, of critical importance is: (b) TOTAL transparency is achieved, whereby
the INSTRUMENT (perceptually) DISSAPEARS, and the player percieves A DIRECT
BETWEEN. There are subtleties to this process I can't yet disclose, which
might explain the "euphoria" effect often reported. This is not marketing
hype, but a very real psychological result of our configuration which is
frequently reported. It amounts to a kind of "direct creatorship, by magical
means". In fact, some of our patent claims have to do with the fact that this
system, in the strict (stage performance) TECHNICAL SENSE, is a device which
induces a "magical" result (apparent perception of the impossible) similar to
the end of a good magic trick, exept CONTINUOUSLY, AND the player is DOING IT.
Somehow, this latter important feature blows away any perception of limitation
as to the musical journey available within each "song." Yes, it is a matrix
of trade-offs, to be sure. But one which brings a musical performance
EXPERIENCE, to body motion in space. We have found that professional
musicians, performers, composers, etc. all equally enjoy the system as much as
the proverbial "joe six-pack" off the street.

It is also important to know that by the time this system rolls out in to the
malls, etc., we'll have about 1,000 songs available, and expected to
approximately double each year therafter. So basically, any player can choose
from such a huge selection of styles or CD-audio songs, so the experience of
the few minutes play WILL be within that musical environment.

We can probably dialog here for months, but if there is any opportunity for
you to come and experience it, that would cut to the chase (and I imagine,
from your excellent questions/ thoughts, stimulated some further dialog.)

Got to run,

David C.