Swarming Emotional Pianos
(2012 – ongoing)
Aluminium tubes, servo motors, custom mallets, Arduino-based electronics, iCreate platforms
Approximately 27” x 12” x 12” each
Custom biosensors that collect heartrate and signal amplitude, respiration amplitude and rate, and galvanic skin response (sweat).
Biodata collection software and affective data responsive algorithmic music software built in Max/MSP.
A cybernetic musical performance work that bridges robotics and emotion to create biologically harmonic chamber music. Swarming Emotional Pianos features a set of mobile robots that each house a bell instrument and lighting components. The music that these robots play is determined through physiological responses of a human subject to emotional state, which is reflective of affective computing research. These physiological markers including breathing, heart rate, sweat glands, blood pressure. Research is ongoing for integration of skin sensitive neural activity through microneurography into the system.
My final goal is a live performance whereupon actors are hooked up live to biosensors and their emotional data is wirelessly streamed to the robotic musical instruments. This will require extensive biofeedback testing. I maintain an active dialogue with microneurographer and neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield, in anticipation of networked, telematic performances that involve tiny needles inserted directly into nerves that reflect emotional arousal. The use of microelectrode needles inserted directly into the nerves of awake human performers to pick up on direct electrical neural activity is a unique technical component of this project.
The goal in creating this work is to illuminate and explore the complex relationships between body and mind in human emotions. Emotional-physical outputs are extended through robotic performers as human actors focus on their internal states, and in fact activate their emotions mechanistically, as a means of creating change in their body, thus instrumentalizing emotion.
Thank you to the following for your contributions:
- Martin Peach (my robot teacher) – Sébastien Roy (lighting circuitry) – Peter van Haaften (tools for algorithmic composition in Max/MSP) – Grégory Perrin (Electronics Assistant)
- Matt Risk, Tristan Stevans, Simone Pitot, and Jason Leith for their hours of dedicated studio help
- Concordia University, the MARCS Institute at the University of Western Sydney, Innovations en Concert Montréal, Conseil des Arts de Montréal, Thought Technology, and AD Instruments for their support.
Swarming Emotional Pianos (2012-2014) Machine demonstration March 2014 – Eastern Bloc Lab Residency, Montréal