2010 was the first ‘question’ driven technological music research project I led as lecturer in composition – in many ways the start of a broad research and practice trajectory which continues till today.
This inter-disciplinary project between digital arts, Wits medical school and music explored questions around using the body as a sound source in as many ways as possible: pre-recorded, live triggered, as controller and even as a live sound source. Participants were encouraged to ‘run wild’ and we dreamed up a range of individual solutions for the 8 composer participants. These ranges from tracking tai-chi, to bespoke dance pads on the floor, cameras tracking make-up application, goldfish tracking in a tank and even coloured balls thrown by the audience.
The finale to the performance was given by Nicholas Williams who volunteered to swallow a miniature lapel microphone whilst Andrew Orkin volunteered to be kicked and punched, with his body enabled with drum triggers. We worked with gastroenterology and used a topical throat anaesthetic to allow Nicholas to swallow the microhome, cable still attached, live on stage. This was played back over the PA system and he modified the sounds of his stomach by moving around an effect enabled webcam field.
The success of this project was not only in the diversity of the technological and musical realisations but also in the value of core research question. By asking ‘what would is sound like if….’, or ‘is there a way that we could…..’ frees the musical, sonic or artistic practice from the confines of not only convention but from the limitations of one’s own experience.