Publications/KISS2017b

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Alan McNeil Jackson with Björn Haßler and Thomas Daley (2017). Running with Kyma: How to sonify geospatial data in real-time. KISS2017, Oslo.

RunningSong is an experiment in augmenting the physical act of running with sound. It is a digital re-imagination of Aboriginal “SongLines” and is the sonification of the geospatial data of a run path. The performance creates a random trail for a runner through the streets of Oslo. The live position and speed of the runner interacts with the performers to create a real-time audio representation of the route. The principles behind the performance can be used as part of a fitness training program that carefully manages distance to prevent over-training injuries while encouraging spontaneity, exploration and a sense of joyous freedom.

At the start of the performance the RunningSong system produces a random 2km path through the streets of Oslo starting and finishing at the performance venue. A performer in running clothes will set out to run the route and send a live video feed and telemetry data back to the venue. The projection of a map at the venue will show the audience and the on-stage performers the current location of the runner. As the runner enters a road, the performers will improvise a musical rendering for that section of the journey based on the rhythm described by the angle of the subsequent turn. The tempo is set by the live cadence data (steps per minute) from the runner.

At the centre of the performance would be an instrument I have created – an electric bullroarer which is a re-imagining of the ancient aboriginal instrument that traditionally comprises of a piece of wood swung on a string. In the electric bullroarer, a speaker is secured at the end of the string and a piezo microphone element picks up the vibrations created by the speaker over the string. As the speaker is swung around the head of the performer the tension in the string increases and a feedback loop is created. Kyma is used inside this loop to condition the piezo signal and inject other sound sources.

The on-stage ensemble will comprise the electric bullroarer player, a woodwind player and modular synth player.

Kyma is central to the performance by providing the rhythmic backbone through interpreting and sonifying real-time angular mapping data. Kyma also provides spatial processing of the live instruments injecting the signal into the feedback loop of the electric bullroarer at the appropriate point in its swing and positioning the instruments within a quadraphonic sound field.