Human Harp LIVE-LAB Unleash the Voice of the Roundhouse
Dates: 4th – 25th August 2014
Opening hours: 12-5pm, Monday – Friday (+ REVERB weekend 21 – 23rd August)
Location: The Roundhouse, Torquil’s Bar, 1st Floor Bar by the rooftop beach, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH
WE ARE EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THE LAUNCH OF HUMAN HARP LIVE-LAB, TAKING PLACE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE THROUGHOUT THE MONTH OF AUGUST. ARTIST DI MAINSTONE AND A TEAM OF ENGINEERS, MUSICIANS, DESIGNERS AND DANCERS WILL COLLABORATE FROM A POP-UP LABORATORY LOCATED ON THE VENUE’S 1ST FLOOR. DESIGNING, BUILDING, TESTING AND PERFORMING – THE TEAM AIM TO CREATE A SONIC INSTRUMENT FOR 21ST CENTURY – THE HUMAN HARP
WHAT IS THE LIVE-LAB?
Human Harp’s LIVE-LAB is a pop-up laboratory situated on the first floor of the Roundhouse which is open to the public for the month of August thanks to funding from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts and the Roundhouse. Visitors will be invited to test twelve new Human Harp instruments that have been developed specifically to play the structure of the Roundhouse. They will also be able to enjoy workshops, talks and pop-up performances. The team will be filming our activities and hosting videos on our website. We will give visitors a unique opportunity to interact with this new sonic instrument – enabling our team to develop the device both artistically and technically. By combining art, play and scientific integrity, the Human Harp LIVE-LAB aims to create a collaborative municipal instrument for the 21st century.
WHAT IS THE HUMAN HARP?
The Human Harp is a device that clips on to any urban or industrial structure (like the Roundhouse or the Brooklyn Bridge for example) enabling the user or movician to play it like a giant instrument. The human Harp attaches the movician to the structure via retractable strings. By extending, plucking and moving with these musical strings, the movician can adjust various characteristics of the structure’s voice.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Each modular “player” contains a retractable string, with state-of-the-art sensors built in to its body. The sensors detect how far the string is pulled out, the speed at which it is being moved, and its angle. Data from each of the strings is transmitted wirelessly to a piece of custom written software which transforms all of the information into sound. The resulting sounds are triggered by a mechanical device which is attached to the architecture. These structural resonances are sampled and then manipulated by the movicians as they interact with the musical strings.
THE VOICE OF THE ROUNDHOUSE
The team realised that if the Human Harp could play a giant bridge it could very possibly play an industrial building like the Roundhouse. With this in mind, Di and her collaborators will answer the question “Can the Human Harp unleash the voice of the Roundhouse?” Responding to the building’s acoustics and structure, the team will be on site to test the latest sound control systems, sharing ideas with the venue’s visitors as well as fellow artists and scientists.
ARTIST DI MAINSTONE
Human Harp is a collaborative project initiated by artist Di Mainstone who is artist in residence at QMUL where she works with the university’s students and researchers to create sonic sculptures that extend from the body and trigger sound. Di invented the term movician to describe the player of these devices – a person who controls the sonic behaviour of a wearable instrument via their body movement.
DI Mainstone has reached out to scientists, dancers and musicians from around the globe to share in the instrument’s creative process. During the Human Harp LIVE-LAB at the Roundhouse the public will have the opportunity to meet our London team, made up from students and researchers from QMUL and engineers, musicians and designers from East London. Louis McCallum is a current PhD student in the MAT programme at QMUL. Becky Stewart and Adam Stark completed PhDs within the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at QMUL in 2010 and 2011.
BRIDGES AND HARPS
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Di Mainstone was inspired by the cacophony of sounds that she heard – the clonking of footsteps on the walkway, the whirring of bicycles, the drone of traffic and chatter of visitors. It struck her that all of these journey sounds were resonating through the steel cables of the bridge and she wondered if she could collaborate with specialist researchers to develop an instrument that would enable pedestrians to release and play these deep hidden sounds.
“…Looking up I noticed that the Brooklyn Bridge was shaped like a giant harp – it was then that I realised that I would need to bridge brains with the scientists and musicians at QMUL to find a way to play it!” Di Mainstone
HUMAN HARP STORY SO FAR
On returning to London, Di discovered that the 130th Anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was imminent on 24th May 2014. She saw this as an opportunity to realise this vision and so approached QMUL to fund the development of the first version of the Human Harp. Collaborating with digital start-up Anti-Alias, students from the University’s Centre for Digital Music and Media and Arts Technology group, as well as twenty MA students from Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design – the Human Harp was made and ready for its first outing.
“On the 130th Anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge, we connected dancer and movician Hollie Miller to the Human Harp and she played the bridge. Intel’s Creators Project made a film to illustrate how our instrument worked and the project went viral…” Di Mainstone
Human Harp is open source, with the creative research processes and resulting data documented continuously online. Followers will be able to use this to engage with developments and events remotely, exposing digital sound design and experimental interfaces to audiences around the world.
Monday to Friday 12-5pm
Come and visit us on the 1st floor of the Roundhouse
FUTURE HUMAN HARP EVENTS
Look out for us in Bristol March 2015 where we will be playing Clifton Suspension Bridge like a giant harp in celebration of the bridge’s 150th year! Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow these links for more information on this and other Human Harp events: