By Victoria Stunt
Karen Cochrane created an instrument, and those who play it are able to master it in seconds. But this instrument isn’t anything like your typical guitar.
“It almost feels like magic to people,” she said.
Cochrane’s instrument tracks one’s body movements, and through those movements, music is created. It’s called a Play On.
The fourth-year new media student programmed an Xbox Kinect to recognize body movements while a fellow student Olivia Kolakowski composed the music. It was their final year thesis project.
Cochrane studied music growing up. She took singing lessons and piano lessons at a conservatory, and said learning both took years of practice. With this project, she wanted to make music more accessible.
“Creating an instrument that you can literally learn how to use in five seconds is phenomenal,” said Cochrane. She said it is also designed to get people dancing.
“It’s a great way to explore your body,” she said. “We wanted people to be more aware of their movements. The best way for people to be aware of their movement is to get an auditory response from them.”
To use Play On, you stand on a mat and look at a screen. When you move your arms, a melody and harmony is created. When you move your feet, you make a beat. The faster you move, the more complicated the beat gets. There is also a projection on the screen that makes shapes to go along with the music you are making.
Cochrane said she loves to watch people use Play On for the first time.
“It’s kind of disappointing to know how it works because you don’t have that same experience of people being able to be wowed by [the art piece].”
Although the piece took a lot of technical expertise, Cochrane insists she is an artist, and not a computer scientist.
Her career goal is to work with musicians to create different technology-based instruments for them. She’d also like to see the artists put the Kinect to use in live performances. Right now, she’s waiting to hear back from grad schools.
“Being an artist is being able to wow people and to make people feel like… it’s magic. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world,” she said.