Ouija Board

The Ouija Board’ is a group musical instrument based on the real-time analysis of the movements of a group of people by video camera. It is musical instrument for live group improvised sound performance, based on ideas initially developed by the poet James Merrill (‘The Changing Light at Sandover’, 1982) which documents ‘voices’ experienced by means of an ouija board.

The research is located within a number of paradigms within sound art that span the divide between practice-led artistic research and engineering-led human computer interface.

The electronic musical instrument has at its core an innovative interface modelled on the ouija board which enables the hand movements and gestures of its performers to be translated into audible sounds events. The aesthetic and operational philosophy that animates the instrument ensures that, firstly, it is the relationship between the reciprocally acting performers which are rendered into acoustic events and, secondly, rather than behaving in the more conventional fashion of an individual tactile device, ‘The Ouija Board’ works as a communal visual instrument. In this sense its operation reverses the assumptions that underpin Pierre Schafer’s concept of ‘objet sonore’ since the instrument makes sound active and visibly responsive to social relationships.

Ideas for developing an interface along the lines of ‘The Ouija Board’ were initially scoped in a paper for ‘Southwest Review’ in 2003 (88.2-3) which is referenced in Claudia Ingram’s paper in ‘Twentieth Century Literature’ in 2005.

Alte-Schmiede, Vienna, Austria, Curated by Volkmar Klien

: Seth Ayyaz (ney/daf), 
Peter Coyte (ouija), 
Kirsten Edwards (ouija)
, Thomas Gardner (cello), 
Stephen Preston (baroque flute)

Film by Alexander Doliner


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