Danceroom Spectroscopy: collectively generating music from movement

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Understanding the fundamental patterns and rules that govern how the world functions at a molecular scale drives research in chemistry. In particular, chemical physics is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, and spectroscopy is a fundamental tool for obtaining information about the behaviour and structure of quantum mechanical systems. Spectroscopy is the use of light to obtain information about matter, and has applications in a number of fields including process control, analytical methods, astrophysics, and medicine. In the last 50 years, spectroscopic techniques have been revolutionized by a mathematical method called the fast Fourier transform (FFT). The FFT permits time dependent signals to be easily converted into frequency spectra, and this has lead to tremendous advances in a number of fields, including a number of subject areas within the EPSRC research remit: chemical physics, quantum mechanics, biochemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, laser physics, biomedical imaging, and digital signal processing. The Danceroom Spectroscopy project offers an innovative and experiential format for engaging members of the public with the science of frequency spectra, FFT and wavelet analysis, and quantitative feedback. In Danceroom Spectroscopy, the movements of a crowd of dancing people will shape the music they hear. Using cutting-edge robotics imaging technology, computing, and mathematics, an electronica artist (or DJ) will effectively source a 'vibe' from the crowd, which he/she will then be able to incorporate into the dance music. Danceroom Spectroscopy will use three dimensional imaging cameras suspended above a dance floor to track movements in the room, much as if the heads of the participants were making ripples and waves on the surface of a pool of water. Using FFT and wavelet methods, the patterns of these ripples and waves in the gyrating crowd will be transformed to frequency spectra, which will then be fed into music software that the electronic artist can translate into beats and sounds - thus generating music from movement and feeding that music back to the crowd.This project fits with the objectives of the PPE scheme: researchers will carry out public engagement activities that connect directly to their research interests (DRG and MNRA), and training and learning opportunities will be built into the project, providing an innovative manner in which members of the public will engage with a cutting-edge and impactful area of research whose applications saturate our modern lives.Mathematics and science drive much of the progress in the modern world; however, few attempts have been made to explore meaningful ways in which these subjects can interact with live art to engage the public. While recent EPSRC public engagement funding is oriented toward exploring the boundaries of science and art (e.g., the Heart Robot project, and the Everything and Nothing project), the Danceroom Spectroscopy project is unique insofar as it seeks to create a truly interactive and symbiotic experience that immerses public participants in the frontiers between science and art. The Danceroom Spectroscopy project also engages with contemporary societal and cultural issues:(1) People are increasingly subject to surveillance, and Danceroom Spectroscopy is an interesting exploration of these technologies: three dimensional 'surveillance' is effectively the medium for interaction between the crowd and the electronica artist, in order to facilitate shared, meaningful and enjoyable experiences amplified by collective action.(2) Digital technology is being exploited to offer people increasingly individualised experiences that they can control (e.g., iPods, the 'silent disco', etc.). Danceroom Spectroscopy, relying as it does on forms of collective motion and coherence, thus represents a meaningful response to trends in which musical experiences are increasingly atomized

Planned Impact

The Danceroom Spectroscopy Project includes a number of public, academic, cultural, and economic beneficiaries. Below we outline who the beneficiaries are and how they will benefit. The ways that these impacts will be realised are outlined in the 'Pathways to Impact' attachment. 1) The general public will immediately benefit from their increased exposure and understanding of scientific techniques that saturate modern society, and which are linked to contemporary research. The innovation of Danceroom Spectroscopy project may inspire others to explore the interdisciplinary frontiers of science. The cutting edge nature of the project means that it has the potential to bring significant exposure to events where it will be demonstrated - e.g., Arnolfini, Bristol music venues, the Cheltenham Science Festival. 2) The participating scientific researchers - principally DG and MNRA with other members of the School of Chemistry Laser and Dynamics Group - will immediately benefit by experience of public engagement - through developing innovative means by which to interest the public and communicate their research through the activities listed in the case for support. In the longer term, collaboration with the high-profile partner organizations listed below will also provide significant exposure that may inspire further public engagement, and spawn further projects with a range of potential partners with whom we will interact during the project. 3) The UK creative media and arts community will benefit from an innovative, internationally-significant means of fusing contemporary science, technology and art, at a time when artists are increasingly exploring digital technologies. In the longer term, this will lead to other projects designed to push the boundaries between science and art. 4) The Arnolfini and the Pervasive Media Studio (PMS), two of Bristol's leading arts and media organizations, have agreed to lend their support and collaboration to the project. Their involvement, through talks and live art events, not only provides ample opportunity for the Danceroom Spectroscopy project to benefit the arts/media community (point 3 above), but it also provides significant immediate benefits to the organizations themselves, given that this project is exploring the boundaries and possibilities of science-art collaborations. 5) The commercial sector will benefit from this project. Substantial industry research is devoted toward identifying 'the perfect song'. There is also research effort to develop automated DJs. The Danceroom Spectroscopy project may contribute to realizing those aims, providing the feedback loop that these applications presently lack. Furthermore, one can envision a straightforward integration of this technology in, for example, an iPhone application collecting and pooling accelerometry data. This project, and related software applications, will be of interest to any of a number of companies involved in motion tracking, as well as to the electronic music community. DRG's extensive experience with writing, licensing, and distributing software will facilitate this. In the short term, links with the commercial sector will be maintained through the support, talks, and collaboration with the PMS and through continued contact with University of Bristol Research and Enterprise Development (RED), which we have already initiated.


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Description We set out to explore how the quantum-mechanical methods used to investigate the reactions of molecules might be used to engage the public and stimulate their interest in science. new interactive visualisation of the nano-world. By using three-dimensional imagery based on the same computer code that is used to study real molecular dynamics, danceroom Spectroscopy allows participants to see their own energy field, and use it to interact with the otherwise invisible atomic world.
Exploitation Route This initial award has led to a considerable expansion of the danceroom Spectroscopy project, including not only several successful applications for further funding, but many public events.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The impact of danceroom spectroscopy has been considerable and is far too extensive to document fully here. Further deatisl are given on the linked website.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural