“Harmonic Fugue” is an interactive sound and light environment conceived as a place to experience creativity – not just by looking at or walking around an artwork, but by actually walking into and through it, an “immersive experience”.
Designed by artist/composer/architect Christopher Janney as part of his “Urban Musical Instrument” series, the artwork consists of a series of interactive “touch” sensors, audio speakers and colored LED lights. As one reaches up and waves a hand in front of one of the “white dots,” both an LED light and an ever-changing soundscore from the audio speakers is triggered. The score is composed of a palette of melodic instruments and environmental sounds indigenous to Arkansas including the song of a Mocking bird and the Honeybee. All the sounds are pitched according to certain laws of harmony so that no matter what is played, the sounds in each tunnel play in concert with one another.
Also designed into the artwork is “a riddle” created by Mr. Janney, adding an additional experience for the returning participant. Placed somewhere in the tunnel is a text etched on a plaque. If a participant deciphers the riddle and “plays” the sensors in the order denoted by the puzzle, the piece will respond with a special “dance” of its own!
“It is the role of ‘Harmonic Fugue’ to make this passageway not just a transition space, but a destination place for creative play at all hours of the day and night,” Mr. Janney said. “Hopefully, I have conceived an icon for Hendrix College and the City of Conway that speaks to the social interaction of public spaces and to the open classroom.”
Because the piece is on a college campus, students interested in art, media, music, choreography should be allowed to experiment with the artwork under faculty supervision. They should be encouraged to study the history of synesthesia and the visual artists and musical composers who have experimented in this media in the last century. From the Russian composer Alexander Scirabin, who in 1910 composed “Prometheus: Poem of Fire” for both “light organ” and orchestra to Robert Rauschenberg and his “Experiments in Art and Technology,” to the immersive lights shows of the psychedelic ’60’s music, there is a rich history to this genre of work. With today’s expansion of technology, it is now possible to create artwork that one does not just look at or walk around, but actually walk into and, through interaction, affect its elements. In the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, this work challenges the viewer’s role in the creation of this work of art.
“Harmonic Fugue: Hendrix” is in this tunnel to help solve the design problem of encouraging students and faculty not to cross the state highway and to use this new pedestrian tunnel. But, it is the role of art not just to solve problems, but to ask questions; to make this passageway not just a transition space, but a destination place of creative play new kinds of learning at all hours of the day and night. The idea is to create an icon for Hendrix College and the city of Conway; to create a place that speaks to the social interaction of public spaces, to the “open classroom.” As part of my “Urban Musical Instrument” series, this underground tunnel should become a place for hatching creative imaginations.
“Harmonic Fugue”- ©2011, PhenomenArts, Inc., Christopher Janney, Artistic Director