My interactive sound-art installation, falling in love with a sentence, is an immersive meditation on the concept of 'love at first sight' transferred to the domain of sound.  First debuted at the Chip Davis Technology Studio at the University of Michigan on April 27, 2016, this installation can be experienced with more than one user at a time.  Two "walls" of spandex fabric are spaced away from each other so that users are not in a direct sight-line with each other, and a pair of stereo speakers output audio.  As users touch the walls, they sonically explore fragments of text from Roland Barthes "A Lover's Discourse - Fragments" mapped to different positions on the walls, providing meta-commentary on the experience of falling in love with the sound of another person.  When two users touch the same position on both walls and hold it for a significant duration, a sound effect is triggered signaling a match and change to the next interaction stage.  falling in love with a sentence assumers that users have knowledge of how they are perceived by a spectator (or in this case simultaneous users), and act according to this knowledge.  Building this assumption into a design principle, my installation consciously blurs the distinctions between user, performer, and spectator to create a fluid and multi-layered interactive experience.    


As the first stage of interaction, sound turns on when users touch one or both walls.  With the users touch emerges a quiet noisy background of quotations from Barthes' text overlaid on top of each other, as read by the artist.  As users explore different positions on the walls, individual lines from the text advance to the foreground, only to recede as the user changes position.  When two or more users manage to find each other at the same position on the respective walls, a reverberant stutter effect is applied to the text and panned from left to right speaker and vice-versa.  Finding a matching position shifts the language of the text from English to French and vice-versa as the next stage of interaction.  All spoken quotations in the installation come from the following passages:

"...nous aimons d'abord un tableau.  Car il faut au coup de foudre le signe meme de sa tous les arrangements d'objets, c'est le tableau qui semble le mieux se voir pour la premiere fois : un rideau se dechire : ce qui n'avait ete encore jamais vu est decouvert dans son entier, et des lors devore des yeux...le tableau consacre l'objet que je vais aimer...Toujours visuel, le tableau? Il peut etre sonore, le cerne peut etre langagier : je puis tomber amoureux d'une phrase qui m'est dite...qui va m'habiter comme un souvenir" (Barthes, 227).

"...the first thing we love is a scene.  For love at first sight requires the very sign of its suddenness...and of all the arrangements of objects, it is the scene which seems to be seen best for the first time: a curtain parts: what had not yet ever been seen is discovered in its entirety, and then devoured by the eyes...the scene consecrates the object I am going to love...Is the scene always visual?  It can be aural, the frame can be linguistic: I can fall in love with a sentence spoken to me...which will inhabit me like a memory" (Barthes, Howard trans., 192).

All sound design is programmed in MaxMSP, routed through via a simple interface as shown below:


Building off of the technical work of Jaime Oliver's Silent Drum, I used two webcams to track the one-dimensional positioning of the users' touch. Adapting Oliver's PD patch, I routed data from the webcam through PD to MaxMSP to trigger and process audio.  The black spandex folded in half lengthwise, then stretched and secured along pipe trusses via U-bolts attached to eyelets in the fabric.  The webcams, as shown in the picture below, are positioned behind the spandex walls and monitor the position of black peaks created by users pressing against the fabric.  

Two lamps provide a lighting source behind the spandex, and pieces of white foam core and poster board placed strategically enable contrast on the webcams.  The peering of light through the porous spandex fabric creates beautiful ripples noticeable to the user upon close inspection as pictured below:       

Two 4' x 5' sheets of black spandex fabric
Twelve eyelets
Two webcams (I used two Logitech C170s)
Two corded lamps with clamps
Twelve U-bolts
Twelve zipties
White poster board and foam core