EOS Pods

In 2003, David Bianciardi, Eric Singer, and I developed a set of musical controllers for Eos Orchestra. Eos conductor Jonathan Scheffer wanted to stage a performance in which the audience participated in the performance of the piece. The team settled on Terry Riley's In C, and brought Eric and I in to work on the project. Rather than being a fixed score, In C is a loose set of instructions for the conductor and the orchestra to follow. The actual note-to-note performance is never the same twice, but the piece has a recognizable sound nonetheless. It's well-suited for performance involving audience participation.

Jonathan commissioned us to build the instruments for the orchestra's annual fundraising banquet in April 2003. The plan was to build a series of networked banquet table centerpieces that would be used as triggers for the audience to play In C under the direction of the conductor. Each table would control a different instrument. Tapping the centerpiece would trigger a remote sampler to play a phrase from the score on the table's instrument. Speakers were positioned above the tables so that each table could hear their own instrument loudest, as if they were in the middle of a performing orchestra. The conductor could cue each instrument to play or rest by changing the color of lights emanating from the centerpiece. The overall goal was that the audience members would be able to have the experience of being part of an orchestra, and be able to generate music under the conductor's baton without having to have musical training. While they would not have the fine control over their performance that a trained musician would have, they would nonetheless know get a sense of what it's like to perform as part of an orchestra.

The pods had to be wireless and battery powered, so they could be served to the table conveniently. Each pod had a wireless ethernet connection back to a main computer controlling the samplers, and was powered by a motorcycle battery. Technical details can be found in this paper, written for the ACM Ubiquitous Computing Conference 2003.

The pods were first presented on April 7 2003 at Eos' annual banquet at the Ritz-Carlton ballroom, New York City. Jonathan Scheffer conducted the performance. They were presented again in October at Ubicomp '03 in Seattle. The images here link to videos from the ubicomp presentation (these are large files). Thanks to Eric Paulos for these videos and images.