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Danceroom Spectroscopy

Person dancing in a musical particle field

Danceroom Spectroscopy in action

Black and white image from a 3D camera by Dave Glowacki

Danceroom Spectroscopy 1; Dave Glowacki

Black and white image from a 3D camera by Dave Glowacki

Danceroom Spectroscopy 2; Dave Glowacki

Dave Glowacki
School of Chemistry

Lee Malcolm
Electronica artist

See video of Danceroom Spectroscopy in action

Understanding the fundamental patterns and rules that govern what matter does at a molecular scale requires insight into the strange frontier-world where quantum mechanics mixes with classical mechanics. One of the tricky aspects of research at this level involves the ‘many-body-correlation problem,’ which means that every individual particle in a system affects the motion of lots of the other particles in the system. Everything feeds back into everything else. For those attempting to fundamentally understand and predict what matter does, many-body correlation makes things a lot more complicated. And messy.

The Danceroom Spectroscopy (DS) project attempts to create a virtual world that allows people to step into the highly correlated world of molecular motion and quantitative feedback. DS will engage participants in two ways: (1) at site installations, e.g., art museums or science festivals, and (2) at gig-oriented settings like music festivals or nightclubs.

In the art museum format, people will be able to literally step into the same sorts of interparticle force-fields that organize matter. Their movement, captured using suspended 3d imaging cameras, will warp the virtual forcefield, creating vortices and perturbations that affect the projected particle motion in predictable and unpredictable ways – much as if the participants were making ripples and waves in a virtual pool of water. In addition, we will use some tricks from the field of statistical mechanics to generate accompanying soundscapes from the force-field perturbations. The availability of an assortment of props at the door (umbrellas, fabrics, jump-rope, etc.) will allow participants to generate their own visual and audio landscapes.

In gig-oriented settings, the emphasis will be on using DS to provide an electronica artist with a new input channel – the crowd. This will provide a quantitative mechanism whereby the crowd participates in a feedback loop that subsequently shapes the music they hear. Using the same 3d imaging, computing, and mathematics discussed above, an electronica artist will effectively source a ‘vibe’ from the crowd, detecting their ripples, waves, and vortices, so that they may be fed back in the form of visuals and sounds.

Relying as it does on fundamental physics, the patterns generated by DS will be most interesting when amplified by collective, coherent action. A bunch of alienated people gyrating out of phase with one another will not be very interesting. DS thus offers an alternative and engaging response to the atomizing forces of the modern western world, and a particularly poignant response to things like iPods and silent discos.

The DS software is being written in C++ using Openframeworks, and collaborators include Mike Ashfold, Tilo Burghardt, Lee Malcom, Qu Junktions, the Bristol University Centre for Public Engagement, and the Arnolfini art museum. DS is being funded by the EPSRC.

Dave Glowacki

I'm originally from Milwaukee, somewhere in the United States. I study all kinds of stuff. And sometimes I even manage to connect a few dots here and there.

I have published over 20 papers spanning a range of subjects: scientific instrument development, optics, spectroscopy, computer programming, atmospheric chemistry, classical and quantum dynamics, biochemistry, postmodern interpretations of religion, and cultural theory. Mixing, matching and juxtaposing things that haven't been before gets me excited.

My research straddles the boundary where theoretical physics meets chemistry - where quantum models of interaction meet the multidimensional classical world, in an attempt to characterize and understand a range of microscopic molecular physical phenomena. The applications of this research are diverse – from understanding the earth's atmosphere to nanomaterials to biophysics to synthetic organic chemistry to astrophysics.

At the Pervasive Media Studio, I’m working on an EPSRC funded project called ‘Danceroom Spectroscopy’, which is an attempt to fuse my varied interests in scientific instrument development, quantum and classical dynamics, digital technology, computers, art, and cultural theory.

More about Dave Glowacki.

Lee Malcolm

Lee Malcolm is a well-established musician, electronica artist, and sound engineer who plays ten instruments, including drum kit, hand percussion, piano, and guitar. He is the front man of the band Vessels, whose music has recently enjoyed a great deal of national and international publicity, including airplay on BBC Radio . Vessels have toured nationally and internationally, and been invited to play at a number of venues, including Shepherd’s Bush (London), Latitude Festival (Southwold), Bestival (Isle of Wight), the Yorkshire Playhouse (Leeds), and the Leeds Festival. Under Cuckundoo Records, Vessels have released a number of recordings, including a full length album, White Fields and Open Devices, which has received critical acclaim from a number of music industry magazines including NME, Kerrang, and The Fly.

In addition to his work with Vessels, LJM maintains his own solo projects, and is currently finishing an album whose release is planned for later this year. LJM is an independent electronic music producer and studio engineer who has undertaken mixing for a number of bands. Having expertise with a range of musical software and technology, he has recently begun managing a large studio is Leeds. LJM has experience teaching both music production and percussion workshops in universities, schools, and community centres. LJM is increasingly exploring novel and interactive ways in which to present live electronic music. He recently performed with a contemporary dance company in London as part of The Place Prize event, and won the audience vote on ten consecutive nights – an unprecedented achievement. In this performance, LJM reacted to movements made by the dancers using musical software. The result was an intense and energetic show that left the crowd demanding more, which is particularly unusual for a choreographed dance piece.

LJM sees Danceroom Spectroscopy as an exciting musical project that will initiate a new generation of electronic artists that have an increasingly symbiotic relationship with the crowds for whom they are playing.

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