Exploring the Future of Music with Spencer Salazar

Advancements in technology are transforming music into an incredibly interactive experience for the listener. It’s not only about listening, but bringing a level of tangibility to sound and audio. The increasing use of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices is providing a new way to learn and engage with the world, and artists, musicians, and creative technologists are now developing methods to involve the user in creating their own unique experience.

For instance, the way we read has changed drastically. American publishing house McSweeney’s incorporated icons for interactive artworks into their mobile applications as a way for the reader to engage with the material while providing exposure to new media artists. Within the music industry, we see the same innovation but with much more interactivity in mind. As touch screen technology becomes increasingly prevalent in how we obtain information, creatives must grapple with how the technology affects our individual and collective experiences. From the internet to mobile devices, music is one of the first commodities that concerns the user. It is no longer an auditory escape but a multi-sensory experience, which forces artists and musicians to look at music production in radically different ways.

Upcoming GAFFTA course, Music and Mobile Computing for iOS, taught by instructors Spencer Salazar and Mark Cerqueira, will not only assist developers in learning new skills but will help shape nascent ideas into potentially sustainable projects. Despite Salazar’s busy schedule, he was able to answer questions regarding the field of mobile computing, how the course came to fruition, and where he believes the field is headed. He also shared some projects currently in the works at Smule.

Q & A with Music and Mobile Computing for iOS Instructor Spencer Salazar

Dorothy Santos (DS)Can you provide some background on processing and design in iOS as a creative tool? In layman’s terms, how would you describe music and mobile computing in iOS? How is it used and by whom, typically?

Spencer Salazar (SS): The explosive popularity of smartphones in the past 5 years has led to a proliferation of small computers in apparently everyone’s pocket or purse, each persistently connected to the internet, aware of its geographic location and spatial orientation, always-on, and capable of extensive audio/visual processing. There are many similarities between traditional desktop computing and the new mobile model; our course explores how the distinguishing qualities of mobile computing can be leveraged for new/interesting musical experiences, using iOS as the specific programming environment for this exploration.

Mark and I both come from Smule, where these technologies power apps like Ocarina, a combination of instrument, music education tool, and social-music experience. I’m a PhD student at CCRMA (Stanford’s Computer Music department), where groups like the Mobile Phone Orchestra (“MoPhO”) use iOS to realize musical compositions in a performance context. Beyond that, forward thinking musicians such as Björk and Brian Eno have embraced mobile technologies, the former releasing her latest album in the form of an iPad application. So, in our experience there’s a combination of software developers and musicians who see a lot of value in these tools.

DSWhat do you hope students will get out of the course?

SS: The curriculum is about 50/50 audio and physical interaction. The focus is partially on what kind of musical experiences make sense given the hardware interface and how to implement in a way that will actually work reasonably well with limited computing resources. We hope students will produce some sort of interesting app/experience/instrument for their iPhone or iPad. After 2 weeks it’s more likely this will be in proof-of-concept form rather than something ready to ship to the App Store, but from there, we also hope that they will have the tools to further develop that app and create new ones.

DSWhere do you see this subject matter or field going?

SS: Hmm, its a tough question because we’ve really just scratched the surface of what is possible with the current way of thinking about it. But we think there will be a lot more software that really takes advantage of location-awareness, the physicality of the device itself, and the degree to which one’s phone is part of one’s identity.

From a software engineering perspective, there is a lot of room for growth. At the moment, to put together a solid network-enabled app you need to have a handle on at least three different programming frameworks. In an ideal world you would only need one, so that’s a pretty glaring deficiency in the toolset.

DSWhat’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen done with these tools?

SS: I’m not sure what the *most* exciting thing is but its pretty cool to see mainstream artists like Björk embracing this type of technology (e.g. Biophilia). It’s also cool to see things like this:

I don’t watch Glee or even have TV, but here 3000 complete strangers from around the world are singing together (in support of those hit by the Japanese tsunami in 2011). This is something that just wasn’t possible until very recently, thanks to mobile audio technology.

DSWhat new projects are you working on?

SS: I’m working on a mobile application where users can leave audio “traces” throughout their world, and other people can tune in to the traces that have been left around them. I’m also trying to develop that “1 framework” I mentioned above.

Originally posted to the GAFFTA blog, which can be found here

ZERO1 HackFlux at The Glint

Seventy two hours overlooking the San Francisco cityscape in a mansion atop Twin Peaks sounds like a pretty nice getaway, doesn’t it? For the artists and creative professionals last weekend at The Glint it wasn’t very much time to create a mobile application for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial. But the groups pulled through with some amazing ideas and a network of new friends and potential colleagues. Hackflux participant, web developer, Anna Billstrom, remarked that it was,

“…nice being in a personal space. From the very beginning, from the first pitch, I talked honestly about what inspires me and even when ideas did not make sense, people went along with the them”.

Nika Jones, Cloud Computing and Web Developer shared a similar sentiment,

“I had the chance to collaborate with back-end designers, artists, and developers. It was an interesting space. It helped to bring out a lot of creativity and ideas. The people I’ve met here are people I would want to stay in touch with.”

Danielle Siembieda, ZERO1’s Community Engagement Manager, opened up the final day of the hackathon by introducing jury members and extending gratitude to The Glint co-founders, Alexandros Pagidas and Damian Madray, who were also jurors for the weekend’s event.

As ZERO1’s inaugural hackathon, the team gathered for a weekend of creative thinking and coding in the hopes of creating an application that could be implemented as a useable product for the ZERO1 2012 Biennial. In addition, the application is slated to be open source for other teams interested in creating their own iteration of the winning app. Cultivation of ideas and allowing other to build off of what has been created are only a few elements that help make hackathons successful. With open source coding, these apps and products are developed, reworked, and possibly cast into another format all together. For HackFlux, the jurors were looking for the following criteria:

  • Viability – Is it feasible to create the App with the resources provided? Can it be sustained and maintained?
  • Concept – What is the strength of the idea? Is it creative? Innovative?
  • Does it meet the scope of the App and beyond?

The jury consisted of the following individuals:

The tech advisory committee consisted of the following individuals:

  • Brendan Wypich
  • Dan Zeitman
  • Doniece Sandoval
  • Greg Gopman
  • Michael Shiloh
  • Myles Weissleder, SF New Tech
  • Rajiv Patel
  • Sarah Nahm
  • Sian Morson

PROJECT TEAMS

Team Visitor Information App (VIA): DC Spensley and Nika Jones

Spensley and Jones proposed an application that included three modes: scheduling, event, and mapping. The development of this particular app was based on the previous biennial. The idea was to have the end user experience the biennial with the convenience of planning and mapping out the experience they want! Ideally, the small events screen would take the user to event options with information pulled from the ZERO1 website. A “Share” option would be built so people are able to connect prior to an event. The map suite would be based on iOS mapping but work in conjunction with android and Google Maps. Parking availability pops up and the “Stars” signify where you have been. The user testing has been estimated at 90 days and would require receiving a ‘tickle’ via SMS or audio (for the visually impaired).

Team Parque Art: Romy Ilano, Athena Chow, and Timothy Evans

The Parque Art team presented a product feature to work in conjunction with another fully developed app. Essentially, the team envisioned (re)making the journey to biennial events as a basis for their work. They started their presentation with the idea that “parking is never a pleasant experience” and team member, Romy Ilano noted during the introduction, “Disneyland cleverly turns the trip from the parking lot to the entrance into a wonderful adventure (i.e., tram ride, fairy, etc.)”, which was the impetus for creating the Parque Art app feature. Since attendees spend approximately 10-15 minutes between their car or public transportation and the final destination, Parque Art, ideally, would help ‘set the tone’ for the overall biennial experience. The app would include soundscapes, simple mp3 audio (i.e., audio art, spoken word poetry, music, etc.) of participating biennial artists. Geo-location through a mobile web API would be embedded into the primary mobile website.

Team ZERO1 IN: Allison Holt and Lisa Benham

The ZERO1 IN team developed an idea that is a location based app/module that could serve as the foundation for a fully developed app. The ZERO1 IN app would include an interactive festival map and guide along with a “Printed Map” for individuals that do not have a smartphone but want to participate in the gaming experience. Overall, the app is an interactive scavenger hunt. The three levels of complexity included: 1) Feeling Clever, 2) Middle Path, 3) Where am I? The breakdown of level is listed below:

  • Feeling Clever: Ability to choose a language to explore the biennial (64 language via Google translate)! Very few dots and cryptic clues leading to artworks and exhibitions.
  • Middle Path: Less ‘dots’ on middle path (UNLESS you unlock), technologically, the experience would rely on human cleverness!! Artist’s text and cryptic photograph included on this level.
  • Where am I? Complete guide and details to the biennial! No guesswork!!

With enough development time, the team was hoping to develop features that would allow users to filter artists (i.e., music, LED-based, visual, etc.), take pictures, and create a mosaic of the biennial experience.

THE WINNING TEAM

Team REACTOR – The Reaction Trader: Anna Billstrom, Kelsey Innis, and Helen Mair

The Reaction Trader app idea by Anna Billstrom, Kelsey Innis, and Helen Mair would allow users to react to artworks with geo-location as a way to connect with other users. The app would allow crowdsourced reactions to artworks through drawing, speech, or texting. With every reaction, the user will receive two anonymous comments in return of the same artwork, which serves as an incentive to truly engage and interact with other biennial goers! The team stated there would be notifications based on location, log-ins to other social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, Four Square, etc.), and the ability to rate and flag reactions. The higher rating a comment receives, that comment would be placed into a public gallery for all users to see!! With the gamification of comments, the Reaction Trader is definitely a promising tool to promote interactivity. One of the impressive aspects of the Reactor Team’s weekend was an actual working demo to showcase on the final day! In the future, visualizations of reactions may be built into a living map of the biennial!! As the winning idea, the REACTOR team will work with the Core Team towards the development and launch (September 2012) of the application to approximately 100,000 end users! ZERO1 will market and be accessible beyond Biennial dates to work with the winning team!

ABOUT THE ZERO1 APP LAB

The objective is to create a seamless visitor experience through mobile technology for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial. This year’s theme is “Seeking Silicon Valley”. Our goal is to create a collaborative social science experiment exploring how an app can create community, interaction, and navigation in a clear and interesting format. We plan to utilize a variety of techniques and practitioners that will include, but is not limited to: alternate reality, geo location and mapping, mobile technology, storytelling, and augmented reality. Secondly, we plan to develop a ZERO1 API that can be built upon and used by ZERO1 artists, fellows and used for future ZERO1 Marketing, Programming and Garage.

Check out photos from HackFlux on Flickr here

Originally posted to ZERO1 blog, please click here

The Neurology of Gaming

Hanging out, catching up on some reading, listening to music, and digging through favorites I’ve stashed for chill out evenings like tonight. Found this infographic for The Neurology of Gaming. A lot of the positive and negative effects of gaming are relatively common sense but “parts of the brain activated” by game play make the graphic worth perusing. I can’t wait to delve into arts and tech research. Game design and theory has piqued my interest lately. My goodness, so much to read. For now, an infographic will do!

Question Bridge: Black Males Exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California

Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas. Question Bridge (still), 2011; video installation. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California, Oakland. – Photo Caption

The opening of Question Bridge: Black Males (2011), a new-media work by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis, is a timely response to events like Trayvon Martin’s death and the Oscar Grant case. By mimicking a roundtable discussion, Question Bridge excavates and delves into issues around the notion of the African American male, forcing participants and viewers across the spectrum of human experience to witness a thought-provoking exchange.

Originally, Johnson began the Question Bridge project in 1996 in order to address concerns regarding divisions within the San Diego African American community.1 Close to a decade later, Willis approached Johnson about collaborating, which resulted in interviews gathered from black men in different cities across the United States.2 The work consists of one hundred fifty videotaped black males from a diverse range of demographics (age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, to name a few), answering questions about violence, health, intelligence, masculinity, education, fears, lifestyles, and sexuality. The installation speaks directly to the collective consciousness, for although there’s never an easy time or place to discuss race relations, posing questions around the topics of race, gender, and cultural amnesia feels especially urgent.

Johnson and Willis asked participants to provide questions as well as answer questions from other participants. In response to a vehement question about the code of the streets, the answers vacillate between the prevalent street mentality that silence is the ultimate code to anger and frustration that young black men perpetuate the cycle of violence. For some of the younger participants, respecting the unspoken commandment of the streets—in the belief that “the streets will take care of that” with “that” being the violence inflicted or received from an assailant—is common and strictly observed.3

Yet, as others noted, the code of the streets is a mere “set of playground rules” that some may or may not grow out of to deal with the complexities of violence and power struggles found within a disenfranchised community. All of the men speak of solidarity but are unaware of how to bridge the differences that exist between them.

The editing of the video footage makes it appear as though men on separate screens are looking at one another as they pose and answer questions. Each of the speakers seems to express genuine and sincere interest in listening to and addressing the questions of his interlocutors. The illusion that these men are in discussion together, in the same physical space, makes the artwork less of a physical object and more of a glimpse into the experiences of African American males and the issues and concerns often obscured by the media, silenced by culture, or cloaked by hyper-masculinity.

The nearly pitch-black installation space and editing of the videos also implicate us as witnesses as we listen to these conversations between men. As we wait for a question and answer, our heads might slowly turn from screen to screen, as if watching the trajectory of a ball in mid-flight. These gestures echo the connecting of complex ideas and thoughts between and among the participants.

Despite the power and effectiveness of the work, it would nonetheless be advantageous to expand the scope of the Question Bridge project. Participants identifying themselves as gay or queer were certainly incorporated into the discussion and, understandably, the work focuses on African American male experiences. However, the absence of African American transgendered men suggests another aspect of the male experience that remains concealed from the public. This lack of representation certainly does not make the work deficient, but it  raises the question of how American culture defines the male experience.

Indeed, what happens in the space between the participants serves to remind the viewer that the archetypal black male is nonexistent. One participant’s question, “What is common to all of us?” provokes a flurry of answers. Though the participants’ commonalities overlap time, space, sex, gender, color, beliefs, and much more, a more significant commonality emerges from their responses. These men are willing and ready for engagement. All that they needed was for someone to ask the question.

QUESTION BRIDGE: BLACK MALES IS ON VIEW AT THE OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA THROUGH JULY 8.

Originally posted to Art Practical, please click here

________
NOTES:

1. “About Question Bridge,” Question Bridge website,http://questionbridge.com/index.php/about.

2. Ibid.

3. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the interviewees in the artwork.