Covey, interactive installation (2007)


with Mark Godfrey (concept and sound), Frank Dellaert, Justin Berger, and Dan Hou (computer vision), and Liubo Borissov (video)

interactive sound installation with optional video projection


Inspired by the Aeolian harp, an instrument "played" by the wind, Covey is an interactive sound installation based on the rich timbre and fluid gestural control of the harp. Computer vision technology tracks participants’ locations and movements, translating them into "wind energy" to play a synthetic harp. In the same way that a force of nature excites the man-made Aeolian harp, humans are the force driving the virtual, technological instrument in Covey.
Four virtual strings (each tuned to a separate pitch) span the width of the space, and as a visitor approaches a string, it is increasingly excited and sonically emerges from the ongoing bass rumble (something of a wind noise-floor). The position along the string at which it is excited emphasizes certain harmonics from the string’s timbre, just as a guitar has a brighter tone when its strings are plucked near the bridge. These timbral changes all occur continuously and allow for a flowing, meditative aural landscape, similar to an Indian tambura.
Visitors to Covey are encouraged to explore how their position in and movement through the physical space transforms the sound of the virtual harp and affects the complex timbral space.  To facilitate this exploration, the intrinsic timbral micro-changes, drawn from spectral analysis of Aeolian harp recordings, can be globally controlled by the total amount of movement in the space.  In this way, visitors, after exciting the system and noting their contribution to the soundscape, can slow their movement and consequently slow the natural changes of the strings’ timbre. If all visitors come to a stop, the timbre is frozen to a static moment in time.

Exhibition History

Listening Machines (Atlanta). April 2007.

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (Miami), in conjunction with Flock, December 2007.

Spark Festival (Minneapolis), February 2008.

01SJ Festival (San Jose), in conjunction with Flock, June 2008.