Stepping Tones

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Building a Collaborative Projection-Mapped Musical Instrument

April 2014

 

Stepping Tones is a multi-user projection-mapped step sequencer. It was installed at the San Jose Tech Museum for 6 months.

Interactive Music Installation for All Ages

As part of Anticlockwise Arts, I developed the initial concept for Stepping Tones and helped lead the engineering efforts.

The project goal was to create a music toy that could be played by multiple participants. A secondary goal was to help teach the principles of rhythm.

The target audience was children aged 6-14.

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Drum Pads & Loops

Participants each get a pair of drumsticks and a set of drum pads. When they play the drum, a note appears in the looping ring above.

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Music Experimentation

Stepping Tones evolved from a series of music prototypes in the Anticlockwise Arts studio.

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Custom Fabrication

The exhibit required custom station fabrication. We soldered arcade buttons and wired drum triggers to a MIDI converter.

The Process

Each station represents a different instrument. The stations each have a set of drum pads and a projection-mapped ring above them. The ring represents a single looping pattern of music and the drum pads allow participants to insert new notes into the pattern.

Just like live looping artists, Stepping Tones allows participants to “build up” a song by playing notes using the drum pads.

The big lesson I learned from this project is that kids will destroy everything :) We had to replace the drum pads over and over because the children would smash them as hard as they could. We ended up giving them extremely soft mallets.

A second lesson I learned is that sound installations are tricky. You really need to think through how each participant will understand their contribution to overall soundscape.

The software was written using C++ and JUCE for the audio sequencer. The presentation layer was written using Unity.

Links

Keywords: Music Installation, Interactive, C++, Unity, Museum, Creative Collaboration

Matt Sonic