For eight laptop performers. Created for SCLOrk in 2013, second version in 2014.
Seven players type excerpts of a quote from John Cage, projected onto a screen visible to the audience. Each letter triggers a sample of prepared piano. Samples are ordered according to the beginning phrases (or variations) of selected Sonatas and Interludes by Cage. When a typo occurs, samples of rain and trucks are played.
An eighth player (the "projection" player) controls the fade time of the letters on screen. The projection player's laptop is connected to a projector receiving OSC messages from the other players.
Each letter typed by a player flashes on screen for a few seconds, then fades out. The randomized appearance of letters on screen gives the audience the chance to read Cage's quote, not all at once, but put together as pieces of a puzzle. The projection player controls fade time of these letters.
The full quote is:
Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty mph. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them, not as sound effects, but as musical instruments.
DO ONCE: Players open file "Where_We_Are_PLAYER.scd" to pick their unique player number (from 1 to 7). This is assigned to the variable ~player. In addition, players have to specify the IP address of the computer that will be projecting letters on the screen. This is assigned to the variable ~destination. Assuming IP address and player numbers won't change, there is no need to open this file again in rehearsals and concert.
DO ONCE: The Wherever-We-Are folder (clone of this github folder) should contain all scd files, plus a single subfolder with all the samples. This subfolder must be called "samples" (all lowercase), and can be downloaded from: https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~ruviaro/audio/wherever_we_are/samples.zip
DO ONCE: Configure proper screen resolution for the projection in the file "Wherever_We_Are_SCREEN_RESOLUTIONS.scd". Two common resolutions are included by default (1024 x 768 and 1366 x 768). New resolutions can be easily created here to adapt for specific needs depending on the equipment used. Make sure only the desired resolution is commented out in the code. Occasionally, it might be necessary to tweak font size, margin, gap between letters, etc so that the full screen projection shows the full quote evenly distributed on the screen. This file will eventually be loaded automatically, so you don't have to open it every time.
Laptops need to be connected to a local network to exchange OSC messages.
Getting ready to play
- Do not use mirror screens (i.e., laptop screen separate from projection screen).
- Open file "Wherever_We_Are_PROJECTION.scd" to create the projection window.
- Select all (ctrl+A), then evaluate (ctrl+Enter).
- You should now see a gray, empty projection window displayed. Place it on the projector screen.
- Open file "Wherever_We_Are_PROJECTION_FADETIME.scd".
- Run w.fullScreen if needed (this should hide Ubuntu's top bar from the projection screen)
- During performance, you will be controling fade time of the letters.
- Go to a terminal, find your way to the Wherever-We-Are folder, and run the program from there (see below).
- Wait a few seconds as the program starts up (you will see updates on the terminal window).
- If all goes well, you should now have the small "typing window" where you will type Cage's excerpt.
Example: assuming the Wherever-We-Are folder was saved under Music/SuperCollider/, the two terminal commands would be:
cd Music/SuperCollider/Wherever-We-Are/ sclang Wherever_We_Are_PLAYER.scd
The advantage of starting up the program via terminal (as opposed to actually opening the file) is that you avoid accidentally introducing a typo into the code, which might cause errors and inevitable panic just before a performance.
How to play
- Typing players 1-6 take care of typing actual excerpts of text. The letters will show up on the projection screen in the specific sequence forming Cage's quote.
- Typing player 7 is free to type any text. These letters will show up on the projection screen in yellow, in random order.
- Projection player simply changes the fade time of the letters at specific points in the piece (acting as a kind of conductor).
- Players 1-6 start typing their fragment of the quote, slowly. Each player has a specific segment of the text assigned to them: it is conveniently used as the title of their individual typing window. They should simply type that sequence of characters in order. If they make a mistake, a different sound is played. Spaces, commas, and periods are also valid characters that need to be typed in the correct sequence.
- Player 7 also starts typing slowly, being generally sparser than players 1-6.
- Projection player simply sets fade time to a number around 10 or 15 seconds.
Progression towards revealing the full text
- All typing players gradually speed up the rate of typing. Individual volume levels may be controlled in real time using their audio interfaces. It is up to the conductor to rehearse with the ensemble and suggest the right balance of volume.
- Projection player occasionally decreases fade time little by little. The result is that letters disappear more quickly from screen, as the players speed up the typing.
- Loudest and busiest part of the piece is when all players are typing as fast as they can, while letter fade time is set to very short (say, 1 or 2 seconds). At this point Cage's quote is likely to read in its entirety on screen, even though individual letters are all flashing in and out very quickly.
Break, then sparse ending
- Suddenly, projection player changes fade time to very long (for exampe, 30 or 40 seconds). At the sime time, projection player gives a cue to other players to slow down the typing immediately so that texture becomes very rarified and filled with silence. It shouldn't take too long between the cue and the establishment of the rarified texture. The result on screen now is that sparse sounds trigger letters that stick around for a long time on screen.
- Typing players type their sentence once or twice more, very sparsely, then the piece ends with the last fading letters on screen.
- The piece is open to variations or adaptations departing from this general shape.
- Players should not make mistakes (typos) on purpose. They should simply attempt to type their sentences as precisely as possible, only varying speed and rhythm. Mistakes are likely to occur as the typing speed goes up, and that's what will bring up the occasional rain and truck samples.
- Generally speaking, the role of player #7 (the random yellow letters) is to create a shadow of interference in what players 1-6 are doing. The specific result of player 7's typing is an "erasure" of existing letters on the projection. The sounds coming from player 7 are similar to those from players 1-6, but heavily filtered.