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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Navigating Instruction, Interface, and Sociality in Participatory Network Music
by Kappes, Greg, M.F.A., Mills College, 2018, 33; 10822047
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis is a discussion and analysis of the piece I presented at Signal Flow, the graduate music festival at Mills College, on March 8th, 2018 called pls don’t(!) silence ur cellphones. This analysis will be punctuated with various theoretical asides meant to shed light on different aspects of the work and to present a clearer view of my own artistic mission. Since one of the hardest parts of doing work similar to mine is finding the right ways to do it, I hope this paper will at least serve as a resource for those with similar goals. In the spirit of open source, I want the tools and the processes to be as transparent as possible in order to encourage other artists and to expand a now relatively small community. My piece uses only the audience’s cellphones as sound sources. I use a centrally-located projected display supplemented by the cellphone displays themselves to choreograph the audience’s movements around the space. The piece aims to encourage interesting, fulfilling interactions for the audience while producing a complex sonic result through these interactions. In doing this, there arose many intersecting (and often extramusical) concerns and issues that I needed to address. This paper then serves largely to examine the failures and successes of this pursuit in the hopes of outlining future directions for the project. For this piece, audience members are invited to log onto a website on their cellphone. This website contains a brief set of instructions as well as a “start” button which, when pressed, activates a Web Audio app which produces sound. Each phone then basically becomes a mobile speaker in a large speaker array composed of the aggregate of all of the audience members’ phones. The interface on the phones is intentionally spare and minimal in order to encourage audience members to keep their focus elsewhere; it merely displays a solid block of color indicating which group the audience member belongs to at different parts of the piece and flashes white briefly when a new instruction is sent out. The main interface which all audience members react to is a projected image which acts as a sort of topographical map of the performance space. The audience is directed through a sequence of different spatial orientations which are accompanied by changes in the sonic material presented on their phones. The main goals of the piece are 1) to quickly and cheaply create an accessible “high-tech” listening experience, 2) to encourage and foster social contact (while problematizing and questioning the role of instruction and suggestion), and 3) to present various compositional ideas which are inherent to the work’s form and sonic affect.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Chris, Bischoff, John
Commitee: Ghuman, Nalini, Payne, Maggi
School: Mills College
Department: Music - Electronic Music and Recording Media
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Musical composition, Social research, Computer science
Keywords: Electronic music, Human-computer interface, Social engineering, Sound art, Videogame, Webaudio
Publication Number: 10822047
ISBN: 978-0-438-00502-0
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