Amanda Palmer picture from her Kickstarter page for her new album.
Rockstar/artist Amanda Palmer, well known for her vocals, piano, keyboard and ukelele performances and recordings, explored some experimental media arts with the help of MIT’s Media Lab on Memorial Day 2012. The jam session was webcast on Amanda Palmer’s Party on the Internet site and the whole event is archived at UStream here. The event is split over a few different video files. (There will be ads.)
This event was a video uzi of rapid-fire awesome. I’ve included some links and references for any of you who want more information on these innovative media projects or Amanda Palmer’s work. Amanda Palmer and MIT Media Lab will also have more and better links to the information up soon.
Joi Ito, welcomed Amanda Palmer and her viewers and gave us a brief description about what kind of people and projects you will find at Media Lab.
“The Media Lab was founded by, as kind of, the misfits of MIT, the people who couldn’t fit in at other places, and it still is, kind of, the ultimate place where all of the misfits end up, including myself. The criteria for faculty and students is–if you can do what you want to do anywhere else, don’t come to the Media Lab. You should only come to the Media Lab if you can’t fit in anywhere else and it’s the only place you can do it.
The criteria for the success of any project is: Uniqueness, Impact, & Magic. If it doesn’t have all three, it doesn’t work at the Media Lab.”
With that said, Dazza the Media Lab Emcee and Amanda Palmer the Rockstar jumped right in to get their hands dirty on some magic by inviting graduate students to demonstrate their projects.
Daniel Novy from the object-based media department started things off by showing off a project called Pillow Talk. This is for people who want to record their dreams. He claims the device was inspired by Harvard medical study that found that “upon waking, if you move your position, you will forget your dream or be more likely to forget your dream.” So instead of reaching for a journal and pen and forgetting your dream, you simply squeeze the pillow and talk into it while it records. The recording of your dream is then transmitted to a mason jar full of what appear to be LED “fireflies” where it waits for you to retrieve it.
Remember the Tupac ‘hologram’ sensation at Coachella 2012? Be amazed…be very amazed. Dan Novy works on the technology responsible for that. He says it’s an updated version the Pepper’s Ghost magic show illusion and not actually a hologram.
There is a brief description of both PillowTalk and Holographic TV projects here.
The next Media Lab magician was Mark from the Responsive Environments group. He brought an array of tiny musical toys.
Amanda Palmer said she wants to take him on tour.
The first toys were lightweight/low power sensors that detect vibration. Mark explained that if these were worn by dancers they would create a feedback loop in combination with the music. The dancers would help create the music as they moved. They could also be worn by members of the audience for fun audience participation possibilities. They make a noise that sounds like crickets chirping.
Mark then held up a tiny microphone that plugs into the headphone jack on your iPhone. He said they’d be great for recording Amanda Palmer concerts with good sound quality. He became tired of listening to bad audio on YouTube so he invented this microphone.
You will want one of these because Amanda Palmer gladly permits bootleg recordings of her live shows with good sound quality.
Amanda then tried out a prototype musical device, Mixtape Alpha, that Mark brought that looked a lot like an old-fashioned cassette tape. Mixtape Alpha made a variety of synthy tones. It looked compact, versatile, and loaded with features. Amanda Palmer compared it to the Stylophone that she has used on tour.
Rob Morris now talked to us about his project Know Your Exit , an audio project crowdsourced from all over the world as seen on his web site. If you visit the site you can watch the patterns of crowdsourced musical data display on a graphic of the Earth. When you are done exclaiming, “Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small was singing!” (like I did), watch the nifty tweets containing search strings from the song lyrics.
Eric Rosenbaum , supergenius, of the Lifelong Kindergarten group (a.k.a. makers of Scratch) was up next to delight and astound us with MaKey MaKey . With the MaKey MaKey board you can turn any everyday objects into a keyboard or mouse input device by just little alligator clips. He took ordinary bananas and limes and turned them into a banana piano and drums. Then, Amanda Palmer and her friend, Casey, improvised with musical fruit and finally themselves.
Me likey likey.
Eric Rosenbaum is also the inventor of this lovely iPad app, MelodyMorph.
Later in the web cast Amanda Palmer debuted some new music and they took questions from Twitter. So check it out at her archive on UStream.
Amanda Palmer mentioned that she is looking for ways to work with Media Lab in the future. We will all benefit if they figure out a way to collaborate with these and future promising and fun new media devices. Heaps of gratitude to Amanda Palmer for webcasting her jam session at MIT Media Lab and giving us a peek into what’s coming in the future of music and more.