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Interface at INTERsection


On Saturday August 31st, Spectrum participated in a delightful hodgepodge of new music at Dundas Square. The event, aptly called INTERsection brings together creative music presenters from across the city to participate in an all day marathon of music making. Spectrum shared an exhibitor booth with a friendly rep from the Royal Conservatory 21C Festival. Along with having a good time mingling with music creators and presenters, we had ample opportunity to chat with curious passersby about who we are and what we do.


The real highlight for me though was our beta run of The Interface, an interactive sound installation and live performance. Spectrum composer Matt Roberts, has designed a participatory interface that allows the audience to influence the outcome of the music by using a musician as a live switch.


As Matt rolled up to Dundas Square with his proprietary bike trailer carrying, yes, all of the constituent parts of The Interface, I wasn’t sure what would happen. We had about 15min for setup, and I watched as Matt produced a seemingly endless series of dystopian looking circuit boards from a big tupperware box. To my surprise, after a few minutes and a whole lot of duct tape, we were standing in the middle of the beta version of The Interface.  Even more amazing is that it worked on first try. Nice work Matt!


The best part about the whole thing was how well the public responded. With a little assurance that they wouldn’t be electrocuted, or transported somewhere far away, curious listeners of all ages and walks of life tried their hand at controlling this human-computer hybrid music making machine.


Lucky for me, I also got to perform with it that day. As a performer I’m always trying to feel the energy coming from the audience, and it’s inevitable that this is an influencing part of the creative process. With the interface however, it’s a completely different experience. By the virtue of it’s design, this project breaks down the barrier between audience and performer. For me, this created a much deeper sense of connection with the people around me, as people shifted seamlessly between listeners and participants. My improvisation seemed to be collectively owned, and that made me play more honestly. As a performer, I’m always trying to invoke that sense of ownership in audiences; The Interface provides an immersive, tactile framework for exploring the notion that any performance is a two way conduit between audience and performer.


I’m impressed with Matt’s work on this from an early concept to this prototype, but I’m most excited to unveil the full version on September 13th at our season launch party. There you’ll be able to see, hear, and touch the full version of the installation, and hear several pieces by the Spectrum Composers and Edmonton based composer Dave Wall.


- Ben Dietschi

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