I chose to start my experimenting with the Adafruit FLORA because it is designed specifically for etextiles and is MIDI enabled. I used the arduino software to send the information through to Pure Data and built this simple looper which records and plays back the sounds at varying speeds. I made these tests using only one sensor, so all of the sounds created are my voice manipulated by data from a single light sensor.
So far in this test I have the sensor value effecting the playback of two separate loops (at different speeds) and the frequency that a recording is taken. I am happier with this than I have been with earlier experiments, which often just produced noise without any interesting atmospheric or tonal quality. With this patch I tried to make a multilayered echo that is slightly unpredictable but can be worked with to produce interesting and varied tonal results. I think a key shift in the sound was when I decided to introduce a drone function, so I could record a loop that played back completely uneffected, which bridged the gap between my natural singing voice and the electronic reproductions at varying speeds.
When thinking about building an instrument, as with the last one I built, I feel I work best when it has a conceptual grounding. I’ve been reading a lot about the folklore and family of myths around the idea of the Devil throwing stones as it flies over England, usually at churches, and missing (thus creating standing stones, mountains, islands, etc). One in particular that is found across the UK is one in which the devil is flying over with an apron full of stones. When the apron strings snap, rocks fall to the ground and impact the English landscape. The thing that interests me the most about this folklore is the use of the ‘evil’ ‘devil’ as a shorthand for the old religions that Christianity was seeking to destroy. The devil, in many of these stories, is very powerful and stubborn, but is ultimately defeated by Christianity. The standing stones, cyclical pagan rituals and other elements of old religion was lumped in together as an ‘evil’ practice and thrown in together with this idea of the devil.
I want to call the instrument the Devil’s Apron, inspired by these tales, as a nod to this idea of the devil as symbolic of being in some way against the status quo, a symbol of the will of a public or an environment (especially since using light sensitive sensors it will be effected by the environment a considerable amout). Physically it has similarities in it’s appearance to an apron, and my thought is that it can be used anywhere, impact any space with its sound without relying on a power source. It may be suspended among trees, flown like a flag on a beach, wrapped around a boulder etc.
I want to eventually make a performance using this instrument which is conceptually along the same lines, though I am keen for it to be a tool that is utilised for multiple things. The performance will be in some way informed by this folklore, the narratives of resistance. Perhaps suggesting an alternative path in which the ‘old religion’ / ‘devil’ / ‘will of the people’ is in fact successful in it’s resistance.
Playing on the dual meaning of the word ‘darn’ in which it means fixing a hole in clothing (or textiles more generally) and it’s use to mean ‘damn’ (punishment, hell, a mild swear word/curse word) I want to decorate the textile surface with darning patterns that insulate the conductive thread circuitry and also embellish the surface of the apron. This also plays on the idea I’m interested in with regards to bringing together old and new technologies, aesthetics and narratives. It also implies a tear in the fabric, a repairing process, which is inseparable from the idea of a broken system being fixed through resistance of the people.
I took the fabric and cut it to a rectangular size I thought would be transferrable between situations, however I have since cut it down because it was too large at the risk of being difficult to use. I tacked it to four strips that act as a way to suspend and secure the instrument and as a way to secure the folded version which acts as a protective cloth for a laptop.
From this I began laying out the sensors and the FLORA board, estimating where would be useful to have the sensors for playability and also so they didn’t interfere with each other. When doing this I was struck by how little space the sensors actually take up, and began thinking about practicality and proportion rather than aesthetic, which is what I’d been previously focusing on. I decided to first experiment further with what sounds I wanted to achieve, especially since I am considering using light sensors which I have less control over, before I fix in my mind the layout of the instrument. For example, is it okay that when effecting one light sensor, I will inevitably effect both?
For my Live Electronic Performance module I want to create an interface, building on the project work from Creative Digital Practice.
To make an interface that is suitable for different environments. One that can be added to a “normal” tabletop setup, but that can also be suspended, layed on the floor, be taken outdoors etc.
To make an interface that is programmable in many ways, can be used to perform with but one which can also be left as an environmentally responsive sculpture, “performing” the live ambient sounds around it.
To create multiple performances/situations using the same interface to explore it’s potential.