A Constellation from Chantine

Quick intro – I’m Chantine Akiyama, a senior at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering and Product Design and I am a “UROP” (an undergraduate researcher) here in the Opera of the Future Lab group at the Media Lab. I’ll be blogging for the group about the Symphony in D project, so you all can join in the fun that we’re all having!

This week I had the pleasure of playing a bit with the Constellation web app that is a composition tool open to the citizens of Detroit. You can create mini “symphony” clips using the drawing tool and submit them to Tod Machover to possibly incorporate into the final piece. If you call Detroit home, we definitely encourage you to collaborate with us since the project is about your habitat!

Here is a quick composition I made — I’m not much of a musician or composer, but the beauty of this app is that you don’t have to be an expert to create some pretty interesting things. It was a lot of fun discovering the unique auditory landscape of Detroit embedded in each of the “constellation” patterns. I chose the pattern I liked best, and found the most interesting-sounding “stars.” Two of them in particular, when I held the cursor down to repeat the sounds, made particularly stimulating sounds that I thought would be good to repeat and go back to over and over in my piece. They’re the first two sounds in the piece and are a theme throughout. As for the other sounds in the piece, I followed a general 2 main sound-2 alternative sound pattern in that I’d take my main 2 sounds, deviate to a couple of others that I found interesting, and go back to the main 2 sounds. Toward the end of the piece, this pattern was also deviated from a bit, but I still made sure to go back to the main 2 sounds to keep the theme the same.

As a reflection on the piece, it represents a sense of home. The average person who calls Detroit home will have a dwelling and a workplace or school that he or she goes to often and repeatedly, on a schedule, in which there will be familiar sights, smells, and sounds. The piece captures this repetition with the main 2 sounds being the backbone of the piece. The alterations in what happens between the routine things (after school and after work activities) are reflected in the alternative sounds that fit between the repeating main 2 sounds. However, life and culture and societies are also always in flux, ever changing, perhaps inconspicuously at first, but evolving nonetheless. This is reflected in the slight deviations from the 2 main sound-2 alternative sound pattern as the piece goes on. When a third alternative sound is added in, it could be a community crisis, or catching a cold, or rearranging your apartment, or welcoming a newborn.

Definitely check out the app and submit your pieces to the group! We’re so excited for what you all will create, and hope to feature some on this blog when you do!

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