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 SoftLab is a space dedicated to the research and development of artistic projects using soft-circuits and wearable technology in the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DxArts) at the University of Washington, in Seattle.


Wearable Soundscapes with dancer & choreographer Stephanie Liapis

Wearable Soundscapes with dancer & choreographer Stephanie Liapis

Three weeks ago I initiated a collaboration with dancer and Seattle-based choreographer Stephanie Liapis who is currently an Artist-In-Residence at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill. Stephanie was curious about my work with e-textiles and how this could translate into dance improvisation.

# Week 1

In our first meeting I brought a wearable that I had created three years ago, during a summer school entitles #EXPLORADORES15 in the north of Spain. The workshop's focus was on "Wearable Hacking" and Teenage Engineering was one of the sponsors of the event, so I had the opportunity to play around with the Sub Pocket Operator synth. Initially I extended one of the button on the synth to an external textile button:

I then created a wearable, where three of the buttons were extended onto the body and used textile switches worn on my hands to play the synth:

Having this background information in mind, here is an excerpt of the improvisation that Stephanie did using the above wearable. The audio cable connects directly from the wearable to the speakers, which Stephanie managed to manipulate beautifully, but it was definitely obstructing her movement. Nevertheless, her ability to coordinate the sound that she was producing with her movement, despite the limiting nature of the interface, filled me with excitement as to experiment further. In the excerpt below, you can see Stephanie using it; I also need to mention I have an Electroharmonix Delay pedal effect hooked up to the mixer, which I am manipulating in real-time while Stephanie is dancing.

# Week 2

In our second meeting, I provided Stephanie with a modular wearable, consisting of two pieces of neoprene she could strap on her feet (or hands). The wearable has a LilyPad Arduino microcontroller, an embedded e-axis accelerometer, a knit stretch sensor and a bluetooth module (read more about the bluetooth module here), is was communicating with SuperCollider on my computer, where I had prepared some synthesis for Stephanie to manipulate through her movement. Namely, the four sensor values that I' m receiving (x, y, z and stretch), are manipulating frequency modulation, phase modulation and panning in different FM synths.

# Week 3

In our third meeting, I had the opportunity to bring along Dutch-American sound artist Jonathan Reus, who was visiting DXARTS to instruct a Sense/Stage workshop. Sense/Stage is an open-source project by media artist Marije Baalman to be used in networked performances, where there is a need for various sensor nodes. In terms of hardware, it's comprised by a MiniBee board, which is equipped with an ATmega328 microcontroller, an on-board 3-axis accelerometer and an XBee wireless module.

For this next excerpt, Stephanie has attached two MiniBee modules, one on her right leg and one of her left shoulder. Jonathan is live coding the sound in SuperCollider as Stephanie is improvising.

Further developments on this on-going project will be added here...

Music Glove Prototyping by Brenna Gera

Music Glove Prototyping by Brenna Gera