Sound Games: Reaching For The Sky With Audience Participation And Smartphones

On 12/09/2016 I played the Sound Games with other participants at the International International Computer Music Conference in Utrecht. This sound installation was specially designed for and inspired by the conference’s main theme (“Is the sky the limit?”) under the ethos of how innovative technologies and approaches to composition and performance continuously push our musical experiences to new territories. It is also an invitation to reflect on the traditional divisions between composers, performers, performance space and audience.

To address these issues, three fundamental ideas come into play: embodiment, audience control and immersion. Embodiment approaches musical experiences from a holistic point of view where the body is a natural mediator between the physical world and our mental representations. Audience control refers to the fact that, in Sound Games, members of the audience become active participants, as opposed to just passive listeners, and control the sound that is generated in real-time with their smartphones. Immersion is sought via a deep involvement with the narrative and the environment of a musical game that unrolls in the performance space, where the audience/performer is located.

Interactions between the participants are (and, consequently, the final sound output is) shaped around a number of game rules. The aim of the game (in addition to doing music together) is to achieve the highest number of points, and these are given to each participant according to how they perform during the installation. For instance, participants receive more points if they stay in least populated regions (in the performance space) or if they respond appropriately to specific messages they receive in their devices. Data generated by the smartphones is continuously sent to the server but, in the other direction, participants also receive instructions in the form of vibrations, flashes and changes of colour on the devices’ background. The consequence is that the communication between the algorithmic component of the installation and the participants in the performance space is bidirectional.

The final sound output results from this complex amalgam of connections.

At the ICMC2016, the winner of the Sound Games was Jaime Reis:


Congratulations, Jaime!

If you want to know more about the Sound Games:

Check the Sound Games’ page on the ICMC’s website.

Here are the instructions to the audience-performers:

And here the full audio produced by the game-performers:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: