Staircase of Light Installation
The Staircase of Light exists in Josef Fung's Sino-Nordic Arts Space in Beijing. I created this work with sounds recorded in China of the qin (Chinese zither), a Zen temple gong in Emei Shan park, waterfall sounds, and other sources.
I designed the implementation, created the MaxMSP patches that generate sound, and put together most of the physical setup involved. Others provided help, including the initial idea and discussion with Josef to make an interactive staircase installation, soldering by Josef, technical assistance on wiring photocells from Bill Gwynne and Michael Barnhart. The parks of China provided source sound material, and qin player Huang Mei allowed me to sample her playing.
Photocells receive light from small flashlights attached to various stairs. The photocells are wired to a NOTAM analog to MIDI converter. This sends MIDI data into the laptop running MaxMSP. When a person's foot steps on the stair, it breaks the beam to some degree and sends a particular value dependent on the strength of the light beam on a particular channel. This data is received by the Max patch, and used to trigger new events or change parameters of existing events.
A performance July 27, 2003 in the Sino-Nordic Arts Space involved a dancer in the creating of sound on the stairway, to an intrigued audience, who then experimented creating sound on the stairway.
The staircase will be an ongoing collaborative project.
Mara Helmuth, Feb. 2004
Staircase at the SinoNordic Arts Space, Beijing
Dancer in rehearsal with Staircase
NOTAM analog to MIDI converter, wired to Staircase
Photocell with film cap to project against extraneous light