Threshold: reclaiming technology through music

Want to make sweet music, but don’t know how to play an instrument? Well now you can, thanks to two new media students here at Ryerson.

The university’s third-year new media students are preparing for a multimedia show that started yesterday with a soft opening and will run until Feb. 25.

Threshold is a collection of multimedia pieces that showcase the continuous influence of new media art within Toronto. The pieces demonstrate the depth of developing artistic minds.

Nicole Glassman and Kathryn Barrett created the piece called Hand Symphony, which is a two-person interactive game that allows the users to create music.

“It’s designed for kids who are first learning music,” Barrett said. It uses your body in relation to where notes are on a scale. “High notes are in the air, low are near the ground.”

It’s a stepping stone to learn how to read music,” Barrett said.

These students, as well as 10 other students featured in the show, have been tasked, as artists, with a role that is twofold. They are meant to relay a message that is often heavily influenced by the medium they choose.

They are also challenged with uncovering the business incentives of scientific advancements in an attempt to reclaim the technology. Since society is so intertwined with technology, these pieces are meant to use modern technology in a way that is not corporate driven.

Glassman and Barrett use an Xbox Kinect to tract movement. The pair chose to use a Kinect instead of a webcam because the newer technology was superior and had more motion sensors.

But by using the newer technology they were met with a number of challenges when it came time to write a code for the program. Since they are using a new library and an extension of Java code, the code library isn’t complete.

“All of these elements we’ve had to code,” Glassman said, adding that it was especially difficult because it was hard to find children they could test the technology on.  The students are grateful for having professors David Green and David Bouchard encourage and assist them with the challenges they faced along the way.

The pair would like to expand the project after the show is over. “We’d like to make it a network,” Glassman said. This way, players would not have to be in the same room to play with each other. They would also like to expand it to have different levels and songs.

Threshold is being exhibited in the I.M.A. Gallery at 80 Spadina Ave., Suite 305.  The opening is this evening from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m, and then the gallery will be open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

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