20 June 2011

Day 16: Push the Button, and a so-long to Prague

Today was the big day in Prague - our last full day here and the presentation day for the big project that we've been working on for the last few months. S and I went down to the Sound Kitchen to catch two performances this morning - a lovely noise piece by a gent from Cyprus, and a crazy internet additive synth noise piece by a Futurist from Italy. The piece from Cyrpus was more pleasing and comfortable, but the piece from Italy asked some more fundamental questions about the nature of sound and noise.

At noon, we all started lining up to hear Scanner talk. Patrick, Karen, and Liz were in line with us:

We could only stay for the first 30 minutes of Scanner's presentation, because we had to sneak out to do a sound check for our piece. The sound check was going well until I plugged in the audio interface. It was just my luck that the ONE wall-wart transformer I didn't check before plugging in was the one transformer that wasn't rated for 220V power. It immediately started smoking, and it set B and I (well, me mostly) into a bit of a panic as we tried to figure out how to get four channels of audio out of the computer. S ran home to get a couple of cables to try to salvage the audio interface, but it was definitely unusable.

In the end, we jerry-rigged together a four channel system out of the headphone out of my computer and the two channels of audio coming out of an mbox micro. It ended up working fine, but we were sweating it until the last minute.

When it came time for us to present Push The Button, the project itself went off with out a hitch. We were quickly able to pass iDevices off to audience members, and they were able to interact with the audio environment. The video system that B hooked up worked perfectly. Sometimes the sound got chaotic, but usually it settled down into a nice environment that provided playtime AND experimenting time. Because the lobby we performed in was full of green marble (which is reverberant) and there were big old buildings visible through the window, we chose to present a city park soundscape rather than some sort of musical environment.

We got a lot of great feedback from some of the participants. Some people thought the cacophony was overwhelming, and some thought that unless you were controlling an iDevice, your experience was too limited. Some thought that the city park was not as interesting as a piece of music might be, particularly in terms of creating clear one-to-one relationships between gestures and sound. Some people really wanted to hear much more interaction between the sound families (where, for example, a gunshot sound would cause the birds to stop chirping). Lots of great feedback, and we're going to be thinking about all of these ideas as we gather our ideas for the SoundWalk in Long Beach in the fall.

By the way, B put up a video of our performance yesterday as The Night I Found Out I Was Adopted. Check out the YouTube Video here!

After Push The Button was wrapped and struck, we walked down to Wenceslas Square for a sausage and a meander. Here's Beth (UCI '12), Josh (UCI '14), B, Carl, and S.

One of the big parts of the PQ is the exhibition hall, where each country gets a little bit of floor space to present a piece representing theatre design from the past four years. This year, because the PQ was spread all across the city, we hadn't gotten a chance to check it out. Since our events were done, we finally got a chance to head north and see the exhibitions. Some were truly beautiful and moving:

A few exhibitions encouraged a sort of public art by providing material for the audience to draw on, scrape, or otherwise mar the exhibit. Of course, TNIFOIWA made an appearance.

After the exhibition, it was food time! S, B, Veronika, Lap, Toy, and I had dinner to talk about World Stage Design in Cardiff in 2013. B and I have been asked to do some curation for it, and it's time for us to start talking about what that will entail. After dinner, we wandered town, met up with some students, ate some yummy dessert foods, hit a bar, and found some old friends.

At the end of the night, we had to say goodbye to everyone. S and I fly out to Italy tomorrow, so we're leaving Prague in the morning. We were sad to say goodbye to everyone, particularly since the PQ is still going and so many people are staying longer, but we're also very excited to get down to Italy for the next leg of our honeymoon! Onward and upwards!

Thanks, PQ, and particularly Steve Brown, for a terrific few days. We're looking forward to the next chance to gather!

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