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October 28, 2014 AT 7:00 am

Musicians NeoPixel Controlling Gloves Enhance Musical Performance #ArtTuesday

Adafruit customer and composer, Elise Reitze, enhanced her percussion piece “The Sound Collectors” with a NeoPixel light display manipulated by musicians gloves. video via EliseReitze

…a freelance composer from Western Australia and earlier this year was commissioned to write a new piece of music for ‘The Sound Collectors’, a percussion duo. Percussion is already such an amazing visual experience and I wanted to enhance this concept in my piece. My partner, Aharon Cunta is an electrical engineer and is always showing me the amazing products on the adafruit website. When I saw your Neopixels I came up with an idea to visually represent movement in music through a dynamic lighting display. Working with Aharon Cunta we developed gloves with accelerometers that wirelessly communicated with a series of microcontrollers, the master controller being the Arduino Due. The acceleromaters worn on the hands of each players measured 6 degrees of motion that were read and sent wirelessly over 150 times a second to the Due. With some clever math and programming the Due was then able to read and process this information and control 480 Neopixels (8x1m strips of your 60 RGB Neopixels), individually and dynamically in a live performance resulting in a intricate lighting display that responded to each players’ every move.

The music I composed with the visual aspect being the main focus – I wanted the performers to almost be seen as though they were not only playing instruments, but playing lights. As I am also a Percussionist by training I began developing the piece with a focus on movement. In the video you will see 3 main sections of movement that correspond with the music – the introduction focuses on slow atmospheric sound and movement, using a 2 octave set of chromatically tuned Gongs. The middle of the piece focuses on intricate rhythms on Vibraphones and how groupings of beats can be visually seen (this section does not translate on the video as well but there are 4 pixels for each hand of each players showing the different groupings of rhythm as the right and left hands move up and down the 1m strip as their hands also move up and down in the live performance). The ending of the piece uses the amazing sound of bowed cymbal harmonics and how the movement of bowing a cymbal can be interestingly transferred to a visual representation of lights. My piece then allows the audience to enjoy the sound of Kalimbas in darkness – listening to music in darkness is something we rarely encounter in a performances and believe this to be a beautiful experience. The performance seen in the video of my piece ‘motion(duelight);’ at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts was completely live and dynamic meaning that if it were to be played again and the players moved slightly differently the lights would also be displayed slightly differently.

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