Musical Clay

Overview

In this project, I tried to design a system in which by playing with clay, you could also produce music. After experimenting and researching different ways of achieving this goal, I decided to use camera motion sensors and compile the coding in Python.

Camera capturing the motions of the clay and resulting in musical notes
The Final setup for my presentation

The Story

In my last project, I developed a game in Unreal Engine, inspired by the recent protests in Iran. In that game, I chose a paragraph and divided it into 13 sections, and put each section on a virtual wall. Because I wanted to show that it will get easier when you start to question and disregard the ideologies that have been embedded in our minds by a totalitarian system like The Islamic regime, I made each wall thinner and easier to break than the last.

Continuing my search and dialogue with my peers and friends, I was constantly asking myself: what is next? what do you do when you break down all these walls?

Observing that everyone is having a discussion around this matter, I answered myself: you can start by having a dialogue
And for me to have a dialogue, is to sit around a tablecloth name Sofreh. Sofreh is the Persian translation for a tablecloth. It is a hand-painted/sewn piece of cloth that usually sits on The Persian carpet to avoid stains on the carpet while people are dining. Another usage of Sofreh is at weddings when you decorate this cloth with flowers and sweets as a part of the traditional ceremony. Sofreh has always been an initiative for dialogue and interaction among Iranians. From dining to New year traditional settings (haft-sin) to putting it on a Korsi (a table that has a heating device under it and people sit around for warmth), Sofreh is a symbol of connection and story. The design and labor in making a Sofreh are the embodiment of love and care in Persian culture.

Ghalamkar (قلمکار) Table cloth – Sofreh

I decided to start my dialogue around a Sofreh that has been hand-painted with the words from my previous project. I think re-reading and re-evaluating those ideologies, can help us move forward as a society to reconstruct our country.

After making the Sofreh, it was time for me to start the conversion. but what should we talk about?
To answer this question, I decided to focus on the interaction between our body and our mind. For me, every physical object has an abstract representation. We all experience this interaction on daily basis; singing while washing the dishes, imagining scenarios when going on a walk, and …
I think by focusing on this dialogue between our body and our mind, we can reconstruct what we have destroyed, and it is a necessary step for us to understand what we want and what we should do.
This is why I decided to make Musical Clay. To demonstrate this interaction and emphasize that it doesn’t matter where you want to stand, be it making an object or creating something abstract like music, what matters is to have this conversation in a safe place within ourselves.

To achieve this, I designed a system using a webcam. Clay is the representation of the broken walls in my last project, and music is the representation of our minds. With the help of my friends, I developed a motion recognition system using Python that could trace light and color changes as well as movements.
I defined an area of work and piano keynotes in which the person using the clay can hit each not by making a move in that area using the clay.

My first attempt on checking the motion recognition code.

Reflection

For me, this project was an opportunity to share my story and perspective. It was a way of dealing with my frustration and anger; and how to cope with those emotions while learning new subjects and languages such as coding in Python.
Unlike my other projects that were more permanent, this project was a performance that needs preparations before demonstration. The audience for this project is broader and compared to my previous project, it has a massage and a possible solution. I think moving forward, I want to explore other types of dialogue. My work has been about stating and questioning the current situation in Iran. I hope I can design another series of performances or products and use them as the ending of my story.

Note: Thanks to my friends (Ariya Eini, Behnood Momenzadeh, Mohammad Naseri) and my brother (Yahya Asl Soleimani) who helped me learn Python and develop this system.

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