Kinect used to create a musical performance with the Seattle Symphony

Brad Stephenson

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Seattle Symphony performance uses Kinect to conduct

It’s been an interesting month for creative implementations of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor. Just a week or so ago there came news of it being used to control water features in China and now it’s being used in the U.S.A. to create a musical performance with the Seattle Symphony.

Bay Area interactive design and computer vision researcher, Dimitri Diakopoulos, wrote a computer code that allowed a user to control the motion of chimes and volume of a piano, which itself was controlled by a separate computer program, with body gestures during a one-time performance in the Seattle Symphony lobby earlier this month. The performance also included a soprano and nine human musicians which surrounded the audience to create a more immersive experience.

Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot, who conducted the performance, admits to having used Kinect before with his two daughters on their Xbox but that using it for music production and performance was something entirely new for him. “It’s taken me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been old-fashioned in a way, studying music. The element of bringing technology to it is foreign to me,” he says. “That’s what attracted me to it.”

While a one-off performance, it was apparently well received and those involved are already thinking about potential future performances and the possibility of using Kinect to control instruments’ tempo in addition to volume.

Those in the area can see the setup as an art installation in the Seattle Symphony lobby throughout the month of June between the hours of Noon and 2pm and several student composers will also be using the Kinect to control instruments in a special performance on June 1st.

What are your thoughts on these alternative uses for the Kinect sensor? Do you think it adds or takes away from traditional art and are there any situations where you think it shouldn’t be used? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments below.