Dance Loops accepted at UCUR, SoTE, and NCUR!

Acceptable

I mentioned in the last post that I had sent proposals from the Dance Loops project off to a few conferences, such as the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research. We got accepted at both (!) and even at another one as an added bonus: UVU‘s Scholarship of Teaching and Engagement Conference (SoTE)!

And so we have three performances scheduled:

  • UCUR on 28 February 2014
  • SoTE on 28 March 2014
  • NCUR on 03-05 April 2014

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p>Yay! More info as we prepare.

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“Debauched Kinesthesia” and “Dance Loops” Let Loose (Sort of)

Well, I’ve sent out conference applications for Dance Loops… finally. I’ve added a couple of extremely amateurish videos as vaguely supportive material. Mostly, they both just show that it’s possible to use the Kinect and Jitter to do some video recording and effects. I’d much rather have actual demonstration videos with the looping in place but, well, that takes more time and we’re still working on things. The first application is for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which will meet at the University of Kentucky in April of 2014. That application uses the very exciting title of “Dance Loops: A Dance Performance with Live, Interactive Video Looping.” (At least it’s self-descriptive.) Here’s the video:

The other application is for ISEA2014, the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art, which meets in Dubai (!) in November of 2014. That one gets a much more interesting title: “Debauched Kinesthesia: The Proprioceptive Remix.” Woo hoo! By the way, “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. Very exciting! Anyhow, here’s the not-very-helpful video that accompanied that application:

So, we’ll see what happens. It may be that I get to travel across the country with a few students in April, and maybe even around the world later that year. I’ll let you know what happens!

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Fun with Splines

I did these a little while ago in Processing but I love them. It’s just a grid of circles and splines that connect the centers at random. (These are Catmull-Rom splines, to be precise. They’re the same thing that I used for the projections in “Hello World.”) By clicking the arrow keys you can add more circles or more splines. If you want, you can download the Processing .PDE file here.

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F# Minor: Brought to You by Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy and Randy

It turns out that “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne is in F# minor. What?! (See Ozzy and his hardworking guitarist Randy Rhoads above). Here it is confirmed on MusicNotes.com.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about F# minor:

Very few symphonies are written in this key, Haydn’s Farewell Symphony being one famous example. George Frederick Bristow and Dora Pejačević also wrote symphonies in this key.

The few concerti written in this key are usually premiere concerti written for the composer himself to play, including Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Scriabin’s Piano Concerto, Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Vieuxtemps’s Violin Concerto No. 2, and Koussevitzky’s Double Bass Concerto.

In addition to the Farewell Symphony, Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 40 (Hob. XV:26) and String Quartet Op. 50, No. 4 are in F-sharp minor.

Mozart’s only composition in this key is the second movement to his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major.

And, of course, Crazy Train.

Below are two video renditions.

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Elton John: WTF?

Elton John Gnome

I’m listening to Elton John singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” A beautiful, moving song. But in it he says:

“Don’t discard me just because you think I mean you harm”

What? I can’t possibly think of a better reason to discard someone. Sheesh.

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Peter and the Starcatcher

The Black Stache 2

On our way down to California for a few weeks, we stopped in Cedar City, Utah, for the super-fabulous Utah Shakespeare Festival. (It really is fabulous: a few years ago they received the “Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.” Then, more recently, the founding director, Fred Adams, received the “Burbage Award for lifetime service to the international Shakespearean theatre community” – quite a mouthful.)

While we were there we saw Love’s Labour’s Lost, which was lovely, but their production of Peter and the Starcatcher completely stole the show. It was possibly the funniest show I’ve ever seen, with a standout performance by Quinn Mattfeld as The Black Stache (i.e., He-who-will-later-be-known-as-Captain-Hook; as shown above). Here’s a review of the festival’s production in the Salt Lake Tribune and the official trailer below. If you like in Utah, the production runs until mid-October and absolutely justifies the 250 mile drive to Cedar City. Here the link for tickets.

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Screendance Workshop @ U of U

Screendance-2013-Banner

I’m thrilled to say that I was able to attend our friend Ellen Bromberg’s biennial (more or less) screendance workshop at the University of Utah. The was my first real introduction to making screendance – also known as dance for camera, dance for video, video dance, cinédance, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This workshop focused on editing as a form of choreography – something I had never considered – and was taught by the fabulous Simon Fildes (that’s him in the top right frame).

[The last time the Screendance festival convened, it was Simon’s wife, the extraordinary videographer Katrina McPherson who led the event. The collectively constitute Goat Media.]

The basic idea is to take lots and lots of random footage of dance and then create the order, transitions, and meaning by selecting, cutting, placing, repeating, and so on. I had always assumed that the choreography was created, the filming/video was blocked out, and things essentially went in a linear order. Oh, silly me; nothing of the sort. Film here, film there, throw it all in a big pile and then start mixing and matching. Amazing things can emerge.

Take a look at anything by Simon for stellar examples:

Or my masterpiece, built using random bits and pieces of footage that Simon provided for our experimentation:

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Dusting off My Saxophone

Zoot the Muppet

When I was in junior high school, my parents bought me a lovely alto saxophone and I started playing in the junior high and then high school bands. Mostly it was a lot of honking and such, but I had fun. I tried playing a little more in college but quickly gave up on that. I essentially put my horn away more than 20 years ago.

Then, for Christmas last year, Jacque (you know, my wife) took my horn to a repair person. Over the decades it had become torqued (a natural thing for saxophones to do, what with all the holes on one side) and essentially unplayable. It got completely disassembled, straightened out, tightened up, and made fabulous all over again!

A few months after that, I decided that I needed to take lessons again. And so, on 29 May 2013, at 2:00 PM, I met with David Hall – the same man who resurrected my horn – and recommenced my musical training.

The good news is that I could actually play a little. I could even get a reasonable tone out of it. Woo hoo! And now, I could say much more, but I have to go practice.

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Arduino Final Project: Distance LEDs

Well, I hope this will take care of it for now. I have completed (what I hope is) my final project for my independent studies class in Arduino. The idea behind this project is simple. I wanted to use both a sensor and an actuator of some kind (i.e., both physical input and physical output) and I wanted to use something that could, in a very rudimentary way, lay the groundwork for using Arduino on stage during dance performances as a way of manipulating some aspect of the set. In order to keep things simple and transportable, I decided to use a distance sensor – an Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 Distance Sensor For Arduino from Amazon, in this case – for input and plain old LED lights as my output.

The sensor reads the distance of objects in front of it and converts those measurements to inches. If the serial monitor in open, the distances are shown, although they jump around a lot. I understand that such fluctuation could be the results of a $5 sensor but could also have to do with fluctuating power supply from my laptop USB. It could also have to do with the actual code that I used, as I decided to forgo the use of a library in this one to keep things simple. Anyway, the measurements are generally accurate. If the object is less than 72″ (6 feet) from the sensor, the green LED lights up. If the object is less than 12″ away, the white LED also lights up. Finally, if the object is less than 4″ from the sensor, then the red LED joins in. Simple but it works.

As with all of the exercises that I completed for the book Getting Started with Arduino, the code for this sketch can be downloaded from http://db.tt/f6x9Q4NA (you’ll want the “Distance_LEDs” folder, in this case).

And with that, I think I have finally finished all of the work to get the Art Technology Certificate from the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History that was the purpose for my 2011-2012 sabbatical. Woo hoo!

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GSWA 6: Talking to the Cloud

Okay, chapter 6 of Getting Started with Arduino, “Talking to the Cloud,” has been the bane of my arts technology existence. I did most of this chapter about three weeks ago and couldn’t get it to work. The problem is that the book as a whole seems to progress like this:

  • Chapter 1: No real information
  • Chapter 2: A tiny bit of information but no practical work
  • Chapter 3: A tiny bit more information but still no practical work
  • Chapter 4: A tiny bit of practical work
  • Chapter 5: A little bit more practical work
  • Chapter 6 (this chapter): About 1000% more complicated than all the rest of the book put together
  • Chapter 7: A tiny bit of information to wrap things up

It really felt like getting thrown into the deep end. However, I finally got it to work. Here is the chronicle of my adventure:

  • Copy and paste code into Arduino and Processing IDEs (because this one uses both).
  • Get intractable errors in Processing because the code was written for v. 1 and we’re now in v. 2
  • Spend much time searching the web, determine that all of the Java libraries must be installed manually
  • Get the Processing code running (see first photo above) but get such miserably low numbers for output that no light would be detectable
  • Revise Processing code to search for more common terms with the hope to being able to see things (see second photo)
  • With Processing apparently working right, turn to physical components of Arduino
  • Reconstruct the physical circuit because I took it apart after three weeks (having even schlepped it around with me in a box on the bus and train from Salt Lake City to Orem)
  • Plug the Arduino board in to my computer
  • Have the Arduino shut off and get alarming error message from computer (see third photo)
  • Spend much time fiddling with USB connection, pull out brand new, back-up Arduino board, plug it in and see that it works, recreate circuit on new board, get same problems, notice lots of heat on bottom of first board, think that I have destroyed things, fret much
  • Search web for help and learn that there may be a short-circuit (without even really knowing what this would mean)
  • Eventually discover that I put the ground wire on the same positive rail of the breadboard as the power. Oops.
  • Put the ground wire on the negative rail (the way the illustration told me to do it in the first place), board powers up, problem solved.
  • Back to Arduino IDE, compile and upload sketch, have lights blink to indicate successful upload, but see nothing happening with LEDs
  • Mess around with light sensor and the button on the breadboard to no effect
  • Check the serial monitor in Arduino and see a steady stream of strange data that is absolutely not in the right format
  • Read book again, see “important message” about serial port selection
  • Go back to Processing, uncomment code that lists serial port connects and find that my Arduino is connected to port 5 and not the expected port 0
  • Change port in Processing, rerun sketch, and suddenly see much blinking on Arduino board
  • LEDs light up! Button turns them on and off! Success! (See last, triumphant photo above)

Okay, that was not fun but I was convinced that I would never make it work so I feel very, very happy now. And I already finished chapter 7 (although I haven’t yet posted it to this web page because I’m an extremely linear guy), so I’ll post this chapter, post that one, and then try to do a small, creative project (which I have been planning – more or less – for a few weeks), and call it quits. But here we go for now!

Completed:

  • Getting Started with Arduino, 2e, Ch. 6: Talking to the Cloud (1 exercise – but a really, really big one)
  • Sketches (i.e., code) can be downloaded from http://db.tt/f6x9Q4NA
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