This is a copy of the orignal webpage found here.
The idea for 440 developed in a late night conversation between it's two composers: J. Anthony Allen and Noah Keesecker. The problem presented was that concert music is much of the time very boring to watch, and if it could be combined with something like a magic show, perhaps to excitment would be raised. So the goal became to lead the audience into a state of confusion, similar to a magician leaves his audience guessing what is really happening. To accomplish this, we realized that we needed to perform, yet make the sound occur without any instruments in our hands. The sounds would seem to be pulled from thin air.
With the help of Craig Sapp, we built 8 sensor controllers. All 8 controllers were wired into a single circut board, and then sent MIDI information to the computer (circut board shown here). Each of the 4 performers had one flex sensor on each hand, covered with a glove.
From Craig's website:
The flex sensor pictured below changes resistance when bent. It will only change resistance in one direction (out of the screen in relation to the picture below). An unflexed sensor has a resistance of about 10,000 ohms. As the flex sensor is bent, the resistance increases to 30-40 kohms at 90 degrees. The sensor measures 1/4 inch wide, 4-1/2 inches long and 0.19 inches thick.
If R2=33 kohm, and the input voltage is 5 volts, then the output voltage will be in the range from 2.8 to 4 volts. The positive power to the op-amp can be 5 volts and the negative power to the op-amp can be 0 volts.
The sensors are made by Abrams/Gentile Entertainment, US patent 5,086,785 They are available through Jameco, Part #150551, and cost about $10 each.
More information on Craig's website.
Each performer had 2 sensors, that went under their clothes and joined into one wire around their waist. The wire ended as a stereo 1/4 in. jack. Along the floor ran a longer wire that had a stereo 1/4 in. female jack on one end, and 2 mini-plugs on the other end. This was done so that the performers could walk out on stage with minimal wires. They just needed to bend down and pick up the longer wire, and plug themselves in. At the end of the piece, they unplugged quickly, dropping the female end on the floor and exiting the stage. The other end of the wire, with 2 mini-plugs, attached directly into the circut board.
The circut board recieved 8 mini-plugs, and output MIDI aftertouch data on 8 different channels.
The software behind the piece is very simple. Becuase the piece only uses pure sine waves, the computer is simply needed to as an interface for the control data. The Max/MSP patch takes in the Aftertouch data, and uses it to control the frequency of a sine wave for each player (8 sine's total).
The frequency was altered based around 440hz (hence the name), and all 4 performers had a different range. For example, perfformer one had a range of 100hz. This meant that his right hand would be able to control the sine to move between 440hz and 540hz. His left hand would move the another sine down, so the left hand range was 340hz-440hz. Player 2 had a range of 140hz, player three 185hz, and player four 215hz. The changing in ranges was to make it nearly impossible that any of the two sine waves end of on the same frequency.
Also added was a foot pedal. The foot pedal was used as a "kill switch" to enable performer 1 to disengage the sensors temporarily in order to lock into a certain rhythm. The thought was that the noise and generaly interference with the circuts would make it too difficult to hold onto a certain frequency. In practice, this turned out not to be true, and the in the actual performance the pedal was only used once to end the piece.
Lastly, the Max patch allowed the audio to be output in quad sound. Each performer was sent to different speakers, surrounding the audience and ensuring headaches abound.
As a last minute decission, we decided to perform the piece in the back of the hall. This was because the concert setup was so large, we thought the cluttered stage would detract from the creepy-minimalism of 440.
Since 440 was the first piece on the program, while Dr. Boyle gave his welcoming speech, (pictured here), all the performers snuck in the back and were able to click into the wires unnoticed.
To help with the air of confusion, we all wore all black, white gloves and white masks. The masks helped, we though, with the "magic" connection. At the end of Greg's speech, he asked the audience to turn around and enjoy the first piece.
Suprisingly, everything went smooth and it all worked. References were made to Mime's, Robots, Woody Allen, and Eyes Wide Shut.
The best reaction was from our own Chryssie Nannou: "You are lucky I didn't puke!"
An Mp3 of the performance is available HERE.