ambience: Shoe-generated music
A dancer usually moves to the music that’s being played, giving physical expression to the rhythm and tone of the sound. But what if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak, and the music were being composed by the dancer? Well, with a little help from computer technology that’s actually what we’re hearing right now. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We’re listening to a composition that’s being created by the movements of a dancer wearing special shoes. The inventor is Joe Paradiso, of the M.I.T. Medialab.
“I’ve created a shoe with 16 sensors on each foot, that measure everything the foot can do. And what you’re hearing now is the computer turning the information from those sensors into expressive sound. So the dancer can just move around, and with the motion of their feet, completely sculpt and control the music.”
The sensors send information to a microcomputer and radio transmitter and that data is then broadcast to a computer. The music is created from about a hundred audio samples and synthesized sounds which have been programmed into the computer.
“Just purely by the motion of his feet, by the pressure of his toes, by how fast he’s whipping his foot around, by where he is on the floor, how long he stands in a certain position, all of those factors go into the computer and the computer is using that information to fire sounds and change them.”
To produce certain sounds, the dancer moves his feet on a 3-foot-square pad.
“He’s standing on this pad here, and when he’s on this pad, we can sense how high his feet are off the pad. If he’s lifting his foot, you can hear the sound change a little bit as he’s moving his foot. He’s rotating his foot around, he’s also changing the timbre. We’re actually sending an electric field out of that pad into the shoe and it’s measuring that.”
We’ll hear more of this expressive footwear, in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.