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Seeing Sound

21 Nov 20120 Comment

A few months ago, Charu at Khoj International Artists’ Association, asked me to come over to their makeshift office (their original office, was being rebuilt and expanded). Khoj was planning a celebration to mark 10 years of working in and around Khirki Village, she explained. It is called Khoj Dus.tak.They were looking for digital work that would pick up on what it means to be in Khirki: the people, sounds, smells, swirling dust on non-existent roads. They wanted to know what I had been up to and what I wanted to do with the vast canvas that is Khirki.I had been messing with Processing: using the computer language to capture musicians with an Xbox Kinect while they played their instruments and building a game that would respond to peoples’ movements. For me, this was another excuse to play with code.

The concept was to pick up on the noise in Khirkee, but also to use the sound people make while looking at static artwork (the sound of shuffling feet, hushed conversation, cell phone ringing) to create something. I wanted to create something that would react to people; something that would respond to people watching still images in a (artificially) quiet place. It was artwork that changed as you watched and interacted with it (static images are so boring!). And this is what I came up with (its the header image).

The installation will go live on the 23rd of November 2012 at Khoj’s renovated office. The details are here. It’s a little Processing based program that picks up on ambient noise around it. It then uses the noise to change the variable values in a 3D Pythagoras Tree (fractal), which slow revolves around it’s central axis. If the noise volume is low, the tree merely expands and changes color. But if it goes beyond a certain threshold value, the tree’s configuration changes. Since this change occurs due to sound, which can be erratic, you can’t predict what the tree will look like next. It was built using the Fractal math in this example from the Open Processing forum as scaffolding and the Minim library for sound capture (this library is now part of the default library set in the latest version of Processing).

We hope you’ll join us!


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