I just thought I should mention that I’m not dead but, rather, I’ve had to devote nearly all of my time to my academic/statistical/startup projects for the last year (and for the foreseeable future). I’d love to get back to creative work but my hair is on fire and I must tend to other things. (Sigh…) I did, however, produce a lovely little graphic for an event I have coming up next week, the Utah Data Dive. (And here’s the explanation for the assertion “Data is all about love.”)
[And, despite the fact that I spent a fair amount of time learning Illustrator and Photoshop while I was on sabbatical a few years ago, this graphic was created in Tagxedo, Microsoft Word, Preview, and Keynote. (Although the t-shirt did convert it to a proper, Illustrator vector graphic, but this is my original.) Hack, hack, hack….]
Sometimes it feels like I spend hours and hours and hours programming, usually trying to do something that seems like it should take two minutes, only to have it all blow up in my face. At least now that I realize my blow-ups are at a more advanced stage. I take great comfort in these words from Jake the Dog on Adventure Time:
Words to live by. Thank you, Jake.
The National Conference on Undergraduate Education (NCUR) is, as its name suggests, the country’s premiere outlet for scholarly and creative work by undergraduates. UVU dance student Molly Buonforte, who participated at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR), and I were able to make the trip to the University of Kentucky to present a reworked version of Dance Loops. Following the nomenclature from software releases, this version was the “Golden Master],” which refers to the production-ready version of software. This was our largest audience by far, as well as the first performance on an actual theatre stage (yay!). It was also the first performance with original music, as I created two pieces in GarageBand for the performance.
Despite the “Golden Master” nomenclature, there was a string of technical difficulties that nearly prevented the performance: the extension cable for the Kinect didn’t work, then the extension cable for the USB web cam didn’t work, then I couldn’t set up the Mira app with wi-fi to control the effects, then I couldn’t set it up over a private connection. Eventually we moved the entire performance about six feet downstage so I could sit at the edge and control the laptop manually. Sub-optimal, but it worked. Always nice to know that if Plans A, B, C, and D don’t work, there is still a Plan E.
The video for this performance, while still amateurish, is better than the others. Enjoy!
After learning a little more about what to do and what NOT to do with your first rendition of Dance Loops (i.e., the “alpha release” @ UCUR), we had a chance to do a few things over for our “open beta” (AKA the “nearly there” version). This time, we were at the Scholarship of Teaching and Engagement Conference (SoTE) at my home school, Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. Superstar UVU dancer Hannah Braegger McKeachnie reprised her role from Dance Loops and performed the first section, to the music of Julia Kent (with an edited version of “Gardermoen”). We still performed in a sub-optimal environment – a partitioned meeting room, in this case – and we still have abominable video but, otherwise, things went beautifully. We also got to meet some wondeful people from other schools who were interested in the piece and may be able to contribute in some way in the future. Very exciting! But, for now, here is our monkeywrench video:
Wonder of Wonder, Miracle of Miracles! Dance Loops was accepted for ISEA2014! That is, the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art, which meets in Dubai in November of 2014. (I wrote about this application in an earlier post.)
In fact, it was accepted THREE TIMES. The first was the faculty piece, which we are calling “Debauched Kinesthesia: The Proprioceptive Remix.” As I mentioned before, “debauched kinesthesia” has nothing to do with debauchery. Rather, it’s a term from the Alexander Technique, which my wife Jacque Bell teaches, that refers to the disconnect that many people have between what they think their body is doing and what it actually is doing. And “proprioceptive” because that refers to the sense of where your own body is and what it’s doing, and “remix” because the dancers will be able to rearrange and replay videos of their own dancing while they themselves are dancing.
We also had two student proposals accepted. The first, which will have Mindy Houston, is called “The Triple Fool + 2: A Performance for Poetry, Dance, and Data Visualization” and is based on John Donne’s poem “The Triple Fool.” The second is “The Dance and the Meta-Dance: Live Performance and Live Visualization,” and were finding a dancer for that piece right now.
The tricky part, of course, is that now we have to find money to get there. I’ve submitted a grant application that would pay for most of it, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’s time to go on Kickstarter!
In the software world, the “alpha release” is the “not-quite-ready-for-primetime” version. It is usually circulated internally so the bugs can be worked out, although there are occasionally public alpha releases by very daring (or foolish) companies. I’m not totally sure which of the two camps we fall into, but here is an extremely non-professional video – we like to call it the “bootleg version” – of our first public performance of Dance Loops.
The full name of this particular piece is “Dance Loops, Alpha Release: Trio with Live, Interactive Video Looping.” It was performed at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The dancers, in order of appearance, are Hannah Braegger McKeachnie, Izzy Arrieta-Silva, and Molly Buonforte, all of whom are undergraduate dance majors at Utah Valley University, where I teach. I designed the visuals and did the programming in Max/MSP/Jitter, while Jacque Lynn Bell (my wife and professional choreographer) and Nichole Ortega (chair of the UVU Department of Dance) provided choreographic input. The music is by Julia Kent (with an edited version of “Gardermoen” in the first piece and the complete version of “A Spire” in the last) and Zoë Keating (with an edited version of “Legions (War)” in the middle piece). By the way, those are live links to their websites where you can buy each piece of music, along with everything else they make! (I have all of their music and you should, too.)
Now, a few alpha release issues with this performance.
- The video is shot way off to the side and aimed wrong. The primary video camera didn’t work and, well, this is what we have. Better than nothing (but maybe not by much).
- It’s in a classroom auditorium with a very shallow stage and no theatre lighting, but that’s the nature of this event.
- The projections are way too fuzzy for this situation; we wanted them a little fuzzy but on this shiny surface it was really exaggerated.
- The videos are projected too high; we wanted to avoid the wood rail but learned that the videos need to be on the same level as the dancer and the same size to work best, wood rail be damned.
- We though that there was too much synchronization in the projections during the last rehearsal, so I removed a bunch of unity from the programming for this. Big mistake; it just looked jumbled. Never change things without rehearsing first!
- We also told the dancers that they didn’t need to follow their phrases so closely and to just play around with. They did exactly what we told them to but, again, it looked to mushy. Again, never change things without rehearsing!
So, we learned some important lessons. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Hannah will get to her part again in a few weeks and Molly will do a variation on hers (and another) a week after that. We’re learning!