Qi motion to music machine

Performance can take some interesting turns.  Performativity comes from the idea that your performances and utterances do not just say something but do something in the world.  The past two Friday nights, as part of the preliminaries for the fiftieth anniversary dance concert at UH Mānoa’s Kennedy Theater, dance professor Kara Miller invited History professor Richard Rath to set up his interactive motion-to-music installation “Qi” projected on an outside wall of the theater before the show on two of the Fridays of the show. In it, dancers, cars, and passers by “do something” with their motions, namely make music.  The results were projected on the side of Kennedy theater and music made by the audience filled the air outside the theater the two nights of the installation. A couple of ideas are at work in the installation in conjunction with performativity.  One is that music is often synesthetic, transforming actions in one sense modality, say vision — as in sheet music — or touch, as in the fingers on a guitar, into another, hearing.  In this case the transformation is somewhat direct, as music gets made by moving the balls of green energy — the “qi” — around the screen with one’s motions in order to make music. The installation is also meant to break down the distinction between audience and performer, as often times people discover the instrument through being in the picture on the wall that they are looking at and discovering their motions coming out as music.  In other times and places, especially before the advent of recorded music, music making was something that everyone participated in, without the formal distinction between audience and performer.  Qi points to the artificial nature of that divide while looking forward in new ways rather than back to some romanticized version of the past.
qihandPerhaps the highlight for me was when a couple came who practice Tai Chi and started to work with Tai Chi movements to make the sounds.  It was quite lovely.  I was not able to capture that on video however. People seem to get the idea immediately and have fun doing it, although the occasional detached arm waving in the picture is me giving the two second tutorial: “up for higher notes, down for lower, different synths on left and right sides, bigger circles=louder.” Check it out!