Multimedia Performances Gallery
Sounds of a

“Following ‘The Man
of the Crowd’”
  Robert J Gluck Pedro Rebelo Jack Ox Amnon Wolman Benoit Maubrey Bob Ostertag Christina Ray and Lee Walton
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Sounds of a Community: interactive installation as a populist performance model
By Robert J. Gluck

Robert J. Gluck
Director, Electronic Music Studios
University at Albany
Department of Music
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222

The interactive multimedia installation, "Sounds of a Community" (2000 - 2003), consists of a series of sculptures modeled upon Jewish religious ritual objects. The sculptures mimic the design and functionality of the ritual objects, but serve as musical instruments that can be performed by anyone.

Software interfaces, designed in Max/MSP "listen" and interpret the user's physical movements and respond with unfolding compositions based upon sounds relating to the object in question or the ritual that it references.


A collage of images, including eBook (center), eShawl (bottom, right) and portion of a Max/MSP interface (right, above)
Copyright ©
Robert J Gluck


Participants respond to what the sculpture generates by adapting and changing their physical gestures. The result is an engaging participatory artistic performance. For people familiar with the objects and rituals referenced, there is an additional level of depth possible, allowing the user to reflect upon the nature of religious ritual and personal identity.

This work draws upon a broad definition of performance as the engagement of physical gesture to convey meaning, through the vehicle of sound, image and other media. For expert musicians, a violinist may exert bow pressure upon a string to craft a musical phrase. Might not non-experts also use physical gestures to shape musical gestures? In the present case, a populist interactive system allows people with a wide range of skills to engage in creative performance. The general principle is as follows: by designing, in hardware and software, performance systems that pair simple, familiar physical gestures with pre-composed elements (sounds, visual imagery, musical structures, and digital processing), the artist / programmer creates engaging works intended to be performed members of the public.. Embedding sensors within sculptural objects that can be worn or manipulated allows physical movements such as hand gestures, body bending, objects moved in space, and walking patterns to be tracked. The resulting data can be mapped to software that translates those simple gestures into expressive and unique realizations of a work.

Sounds of a Community consists of nine elements: seven interactive sculptures and two listening stations. The interactive sculptures include two prayer shawls (eTallit1 and eTallit2), a sacred manuscript (eChant), a staff with attached greenery utilized during a harvest festival (eHarvest), a Hanukah menorah (eMenorah). User movements in the interactive sculptures are tracked by a variety of sensors, including tilt sensors (biaxial accelerometers), piezo buttons and a computer graphic tablet. Accelerometer data is digitized and converted to MIDI format by Basic Stamp II microcontrollers (miniature single-board computers) and the piezos are treated as external drum heads by a MIDI drum module. The resulting MIDI data can be read and interpreted by the Max/MSP software interfaces.

The listening stations are fixed pieces, a small Sabbath dinner table, each object of which serves as a headphone, and a series of "sound pillows" upon which one can rest their head and within which is embedded headphones. The audio aspects of these stations includes, respectively, a series of narratives about life among early 20th century Jewish immigrants Europe to the United States and a soundscape composition based upon the life of a synagogue community.

Documentation of this project, including mages, Quicktime movies and sound files, as well as descriptive text and user responses, may be found on the web at:

Artist Biography
Robert J. Gluck
is Assistant Professor of Music at the University at Albany, where he directs the Electronic Music Studio and is an Affiliate Faculty member in Judaic Studies and in the College of Information Sciences. He also serves as Associate Director of the Electronic Music Foundation. Gluck received the Bachelor of Arts in Music at the University of Albany (1977), Masters in Fine Arts in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2001), Masters in Social Work at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work (1984) and Masters in Hebrew Letters and the title of Rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (1989). He has studied at the Julliard, Manhattan and Crane Schools of Music.

Robert Gluck is a composer, live electronic music performer, instrument designer, sound installation artist and pianist. His work has been shown and performed internationally, including, most recently, at Brown University, Dartmouth College, Bard College, NIME 2003 (Montreal), Deep Listening Space, Mobius Gallery (Boston), Lotus Music and Dance (New York), SIGGRAPH 2004 (Los Angeles), ACM Multimedia 2004, ICMC 2004 (Miami), the Jewish Museum in Prague (Czech Republic) and elsewhere. His recordings include 'Stories Heard and Retold' (1998) and 'Electric Songs' (2003). He is currently at work on 'Electric Brew', a series of live electronic adaptations of the music from Miles Davis's 'Bitches Brew' period.

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