Gypsy Pond VII:
The Individual Spiraling Labyrinth
(Digital Music Ensemble - Fall 2005)

During the fall 2005 semester I participated in the University's Digital Music Ensemble. Typically in the fall, DME creates a piece called Gypsy Pond Music. The inspiration for this piece is the topic of "Labyrinths in our Lives." As usual, we start with some readings on labyrinths such as the story about Minos and the Minotaur and have discussions using the readings as guides. We then have to start ideating rather quickly to beat the Michigan cold because, typically, this installation is set up on the path next to the pond on the way to the School of Music. After our many discussions, we came to agreement that everyone has a personal labyrinth specific to their life. This is one that is constantly changing and builds on events in the past. One shape that was presented to represent this was a 3-D spiral, spiraling up to a single point. Since this ensemble is fairly large in the fall, there are two parts to the piece: a visual part and an auditory part.


To represent our "individual spiraling labyrinths" with audio, every member of the ensemble went around collecting audio samples of things that reminded them of their journey through their personal labyrinth of life. These samples ranged from the Super Mario Bros. theme song to out of tune violins. All these samples were gathered and randomly divided into 3 groups. Each group of samples was assigned to a "bliss station," or an infrared sensor as seen below. When someone would stand in front of the sensor a random audio sample would be triggered. The longer the individual would stand there, the more samples would be triggered and the more they would be repeated. The idea is, that every time you step up to a bliss station, the experience would be different, and would build on itself. This was all controlled through a few EZIOs and MAX/MSP.

Left: Tree with loudspeakers and infrared reflector in front of the pond
Right: "Bliss Station" with infrared sensor and pyramid

Gypsy Pond Music on WCBN

The following audio is from a program on WCBN Ann Arbor during Gypsy Pond VII's installation and features the professor of the course, Stephen Rush, and Chris Fosdick, a fellow student in the ensemble.

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Through the process of ideation for this project, one step is to propose an impossible project. One of the proposed projects involved the participant looking up at the night sky and following an ever-changing labyrinth in the stars. This sparked ideas for a possible project that would be very similar, except on the pond. The idea was to create glowing objects that would float on the pond and move into different formations. The end result was about 16 pyramid structures with flashlights inside controlled by individual microcontrollers that would randomly change the intensity of the light. This gave the illusion of ever-changing constellations on the water. The end result was gorgeous, like little diamonds suspended in the water.

Pyramids floating on the pond (pictures don't do them justice)

Thank You

This project would not have been possible without the aid of Roger Arnett, Greg Laman, Michael Rodemer, and Stephen Rush.

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