Brave New World

There are two web sites that I think you should check out – not right this minute, but when you have some leisure time, for they both require and deserve a lot of time to get into:

1. The best paper I heard at the toy piano conference at Clark University last week was by the irrepressibly enthusiastic Helen Thorington, of NPR and radio sound art fame. She came to tell about her Networked Performance blog, a site where she and other bloggers keep track of internet performance projects from all around the world. The stuff she showed us ranged from unbelievable to hilarious, and mostly involved technologically brilliant attempts to get lay audiences more involved in art. The best approach to the site, I think, is to go down to the menu on the lower right hand side and look through the categories of different types of art. I was most tickled by the “Wearables,” new high-tech clothing, like:


Wearable Keyboards by a Professor Tsukamoto of Kobe University, piano key patterns sewn into the fronts of dresses, or the arms of shirts, that create sound when touched (giving new meaning to my oft-repeated expression that [French accent, please] “a beyootiful woman must be played like an eenstrument”);

Aware Cuffs, knitted cuffs for your wrists with lights that will light up when you’re within range of wireless internet service;

Random Search underwear, developed by Ayah Bdeir, that responds to metal detector searches in airports with rippling LED lights.

But there’s tons of more stuff – sites that you can draw on and have the drawings turn into sound, mirrors that can recognize your identity and give a personalized digital response, communal iPods, and tons more. A few hours’ immersion will make the timid old 20th century seem to fade away from consciousness, and will bring to life the famous statement by science fiction writer William Gibson: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

2. Composer/video artist/whatever-he-wants-to-be-called-these-days Henry Gwiazda has just inaugurated a web site to accompany (and sell) his imminent Innova DVD titled, “She’s Walking….” But this is more than an informational web site: it’ll let you listen to excerpts of Gwiazda’s music and watch clips from the DVD, but will also ask you personal questions and offer bits of wisdom like, “Perhaps each day is about the same because we need the time to practice what to see and what to hear.” And you can upload a photo of yourself (or anything else) and have it diffracted via Gwiazda’s abstracting imagery. Gwiazda’s music is made up of samples of real-life sounds combined with a humorous sense of poetry; his videos focus over and over on details from daily life in an attempt to make us see the world around us differently. Beautiful, touching stuff. And there’s also a link to the program notes I wrote for the DVD, though not to my filmed interview with Gwiazda that comes with it.