HSS8120 Project Work 4


I’ve decided to attempt to build my initial idea for a breath-controlled instrument/costume and explore several options using different ways of sensing the stretching movement created by breathing. Each one uses a different kind of material to create a variation in resistance which would be measurable and translated into sound.

method 1 : conductive rubber cord

I want to experiment with the original idea of using conductive rubber chord, however I’m not sure this will be the perfect solution to the problem. If it isn’t I can imagine other projects that this would work for – ones that it wouldn’t be such an issue if the rubber doesn’t shrink back immediately.
In terms of what the instrument could do, it would produce very linear data which would be very simplistic unless I make it more complex in the coding stage.

method 2 : knitted elastic yarn and conductive yarn


Another solution is to use this tutorial I came across on instructables to construct a similar mechanism for measuring stretch which uses conductive yarn knitted with elastic yarn to give the belt the ability to stretch. This is more useful perhaps as a band around the chest (as the image on the blog shows) but would be less easy to integrate into the waistband of a skirt in the way I’d like. It could be hidden under a costume however, so the effect would be the same though it wouldn’t be the costume itself creating the sound.

method 3 : Conductive thread and regular elastic

This third solution is one which would produce more complex sounds just in the physical nature of the instrument, rather than relying on coding to make the sounds less linear. It involves sewing patterns into two pieces of regular elastic and the friction of the stitches passing over each other is the thing that would be measured and turned into sound.

Things to consider now :
  • Could the costume be made wireless using bluetooth?
  • How do I construct the rest of the circuit to get the best results?
  • Do I want a linear sound or for it to be more complex?
  • How will it interact with the voice?
  • How will the costume look?


marshall mcluhan : “the medium is the message”

No, it isn’t.

I understand the idea of the extreme provocation statement as a way to start meaningful debate, but in this case I just disagree totally with the concept that the communication method is more important than the content of the message. To claim that, in my opinion, is to silence the individual and dismiss their experiences and expression.

The act of sending a letter, or the decision to choose to send a letter over other forms of communication is interesting, the idea of telephone communication as a concept is more impactful on the world than what you actually say on the phone to your mate, yes, okay. But to say it is more important (which is what he claims in an Australian TV interview) and that those words don’t matter is to exclude a whole area of human interaction and experience, which I don’t think makes sense when we’re thinking about the concept of information sharing and HCI.

I haven’t read his texts, which may be more nuanced (and I intend to read some of his writing) but that statement in itself is not inspiring to me. It is easy to say that the medium is the message when the world is already telling your story because you are part of the white male academic elite, but for someone who is, for example, a woman or non-binary individual, LGBT+, not able bodied, not white or western, the individual experience and expression becomes incredibly important. The use of social media for activism is more important than the fact that people are communicating via social media. What the tool is used for matters a great deal.

expanded cinema/structural film : medium as message in art

That being said, I love many works of art that fit into the catagory of “medium as message”, however I don’t think that they are beautiful because they explore the medium, they’re beautiful to me for their minimalist, meditative quality. The ones that don’t achieve this meditative beauty are less interesting, a “hm” reaction, or “oh, that’s clever”. Works that merely demonstrate technical quality aren’t inspiring to me, I want to be moved by art. I find “Shutter Interface” by Paul Sharits to be moving. For me it isn’t about the qualities of the projector, it is a beautiful use of colour and sound and atmosphere that gives an intellectually stimulating and (I imagine, though I haven’t seen it in person) a bodily experience. Even if the medium is the message, it’s not the one I take from it; Sharits is communicating something more than that.

HSS8120 Project Work 3

From a similar idea as the previous post but potentially with more scope to use different kinds of sensors in different ways is this second idea – to make a bow which is played as a music instrument. Again, the sensors would be connected to an arduino and feed them data which can be used to alter pitch, volume, speed etc. This will potentially be a good alternative if it turns out that the conductive chord takes too long to revert back to its original size to be usable for the breathing instrument.

HSS8120 Project Work 2

A thought I had early on in the creative digital practice project was to make a costume/instrument which is in some way responsive to a stretch force.

With the brief providing the opportunity to respond freely to a theme of our choosing, I am excited to be able to try to develop this idea further by creating a wearable instrument that interacts with breathing (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and also by a pulling motion. The development of the idea since the last thought was that I could produce a costume with two separate sensors that put out two sets of data. These could corrospond to different sounds (each assigned a drone or sound file to manipulate in one specific way) or alter the same sound (e.g. waist alters volume, collar alters pitch of same audio file). I could then improvise vocally in response to these.

My initial idea in terms of visuals is a play on the painting trope of the stern seated woman, speficically I have in mind the way that Frida Kahlo subverts this in her self portraits, being the self reflective gaze rather than that of an -often male-painter. I want to activate this position by performing with the costume, for it to be very calm and controlled (perhaps eerily so). I want to explore the voice and the body as activist tools, control and power.

Frida Kahlo : The Two Fridas (1939)

Frida Kahlo : Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)

Similarly I have in mind already a piece of performance work by Ruth Barker that has inspired previous works I’ve made in which she performs (in costume) a very slow spoken word piece.

Ruth Barker : A Love Song for Gilgamesh (2013)

The piece itself I see as a performance, rather than the costume being the work. The costume will be a performance tool used to convey a concept, though the performance would not exist without the costume.

From here I need to look into wearable technology and performance art and look into if this idea is even possible as I concieve it, and how it will work practically.

As a start, a piece by Maziar Ghaderi :

Initially I’m concerned about the practicality : costumes involving wires and technology might be messy looking and also difficult to use.

And about the possibilities of the technology, for example the description of the conductive rubber cord I’m looking at using it says “Once the force is released, the rubber will shrink back, although its not very ‘fast’ and it takes a minute or two to revert to its original length.” This could be a problem in terms of having a responsive work that has to wait for the rubber to revert to its original size (by that point I may have taken several breaths and none will be registered in the output data).


What started out as a fun craft project might end up being something more (hence it’s inclusion on the blog) – I made this lush fabrilage of a demon and stitched it to a jumper and had a thought that I could make several and use them as performance costumes, using different garments and perhaps as part of sets or fabric backdrops for performances. I’ve not done much textile work before but I was inspired by the lovely fabrilages made by my friend Ella Dorton (Ground Gallery). I will keep exploring the technique first and make more with different characters and creatures.

Using fabrilage could be a really nice alternative to printing fabric – I designed these pants recently but it’s too costly to produce them.

EDIT: When making this post I had an idea that I could make a huge curtain with sparse fabrilages across it and perform in front of it wearing a top of the same colour with a fabrilaged image on. I have been thinking (very abstractly) about what my final creative practice project might look like and thought it might be centered around research I want to conduct about diverse old religion and pagan Gods being presented as devils by the patriarchal church (specifically I love all the myths about the devil flying over the country and throwing stones at churches – explaining the existance of any hill or mountain near a church) – and perhaps I could make a minimally fabrilaged curtain depicting this and create a piece of music for performance to sit within it. Very early thoughts just yet.


When researching material for my music elective project I discovered Shapenote Bremen have amazing midi versions of every song from the Sacred Harp book – split into four parts and also the full harmony in four parts for learning the melodies by ear.

Excitingly – I just recieved their permission to sample any of their midi files in my composition! These recordings are harsh and strange, the words are muffled and they are perfect examples of this world I’m trying to build – one that has links to the past and draws heavily on tradition and myth but is twisted and made uncanny by the introduction of futuristic and alien characteristics.

The piece I’m thinking specifically of sampling is ‘Distress’ (32t).





I want to create an EP of 20 minutes in length for public release, with an appropriate original artwork that reflects the themes of the music. I want to explore personal grief and concern for the planet and environment in the lyrical content, arrangement and choice of sampled material. I will interview children about their relationship to nature and the planet to use as source material for lyrics and sample the audio recordings in the finished composition. I will explore the use of collaged sound techniques and employ them to build rhythmic and melodic structure of songs. I want to create music that is moving and hypnotic, that is at times comforting and jarring at others.
I want to create a collection of tracks which are distinctive, but that also flow into each other and make reference to each other.

I want to answer questions like:

How can ideas as abstract as personal grief and concern for the planet be conveyed through music?
How can traditional music be used to understand our current and potential future relationship to the natural world?
Can sampling traditional music give a sense of historical connection when used in conjunction with experimental electronic composition techniques?
To what extent can electronic music be an expressive and emotive medium?
How can electronic music be used to explore our understanding of the natural world?

HSS8120 Project Work 1

reflections from 10.10.18 : creative digital practice – research through art and design

In introducing the idea of research through art and design we were given examples of works that used sensors. Thought this wasn’t necessarily the aim of the lecture – it made me really excited about the possibilities of different kinds of sensors and their application in my practice, which thus far hasn’t involved any kind of interactive design or technology beyond the use of pedals, sequencers and samplers (preexisting technology, basically). I’ve never dreamed of what could be possible in terms of the creation of instruments from scratch for myself, especially not ones that serve as both conceptual and aesthetic objects. I feel like I’ve suddenly been given new materials to play with.

I started researching what kind of sensors would respond to a streching motion and came across the concept of “Soft Robotics” (wiki says: Soft Robotics is the specific subfield of robotics dealing with constructing robots from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms). I intend to look further into this – but at the moment I’m mostly excited about the idea of producing an arduino-based instrument using a flexible rubber sensor (measures stretch, displacement and force – changing resistance when stretched). I had two initial concepts for instruments that would allow a stretch to be translated into a change in pitch/tone/volume etc of a note. In both cases I imagine the production of a drone that may be improvised over using the voice or alongside other instruments :


A stretch sensor is attached to a piece of fabric, each end wound and tied around each hand. The performer “plays” the instrument by making performative archer like gestures.

Breathing skirt

A stretch sensor is sewn into the waistband of a skirt. The performer “plays” the instrument by breathing in and out (speficically by filling the diaphragm with air rather than breathing into the chest). This would give the illusion of singing but without sound coming from the mouth (performer could then duet vocally with the breath-controlled instrument, as this would also be controlling the voice at the same rate).