Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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While walking through Austin I stumbled across an exhibition by the Austin Museum of Digital Art (Amoda). In a stark space with tall, unadorned white walls, polished cement floors, and exposed ceiling girders, all that was to see were these large flat panel screens. Hidden away behind white screens were the computers powering these screens, which were intended for user interaction.

There were several exhibits, two of which I found most interesting. The one pictured here allowed the user to click anywhere on the screen, and a circle of dots would ripple out from the click location, accompanied by some strange mathematical sound. Though I couldn't quite grasp the relationship, the mouse position had some sort of gravitational influence upon the dots, causing the circle to deform and move, dragging across the screen as it leaves a trail. Furthermore, the mathematical sound depended in some fashion upon the position of the dots, causing the entire thing to behave like some strange instrument. When multiple clicks were combined and manipulated with the mouse, it was really quite pretty.

Similar to the musical dots exhibit, an exhibit allowed the user to create and manipulate virtual strings using the mouse. By clicking and dragging a path around the screen, a new string would be created. And, like water, moving the mouse would cause the strings to circulate about the screen. Each string operated as a separate instrument in a virtual symphony, where the length, position, and shape of the string all contributed to create a unique sound.
Though there were many other exhibits, my favorite consisted of a digital projector and several hanging translucent sheets hanging back in a dark hall. This complex piece allowed the user to first select an music score from a large selection using a mouse. Once selected, the piece would play as if on a player piano. However, as the music plays, the notes would project onto the screen in order. The current playing note was actually in the middle of the scrolling canvas, so the right half showed notes that were yet to play, and the left with played notes. As the notes were played, the actual notes themselves transformed to create a picture of the song at that moment, in the theme of the song.

One Jazz piece, for example, looked as if it created a cityscape from the played notes, where the volume determined the size and the pitch the of the location of the building added. As the music played, a city skyline, built from the score of the music itself, was built in the air. In another, what... [more]

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