Sound Frond : An autonomous interactive light and sound installation.

Reminiscent of live viola and cello music from Burn in the Forest 5 years ago, this sculpture will recreate these hauntingly beautiful sounds using sensors to detect the position and activity of people in its environment.

The basic Frond sculpture is complete and was installed at the Squamish Burner event 2009 and Burning Man 2009. This time was the development of the basic platform – the laser lighting, structural form, and power gathering capabilities. These two outings allowed us to iron out the core functions of the Frond in extreme environments and prepare for adding an interactive layer to the project.

The next iteration of the design appeared at Recompression 2010 in Gibsons BC and showcased a prototype interactive pedestal adjunct to the frond. We successfully field tested the interactive component and anticipate integrating the pedestal into the frond itself and displaying the project at Burn in the Forest in Squamish BC July 2010 and at Burning Man again in 2010.

The sculpture itself is in the shape of a small palm tree and it has 5 solar panels in place of the palm fronds. It has a large deep cycle battery and power control hardware that automatically gathers power during the day and turns on the lighting and interactive installation at night. In this way, the Frond is completely autonomous and does not require additional power or support infrastructure.

There is a ring of lasers under the Frond top that point down to converge on a quartz sphere suspended underneath. Like low hanging fruit, this glowing object creates ambient lighting that attracts people to investigate. The design also has other metaphysical properties that, according to crystal metaphysics, contribute to generating a field of clarity in communication and intention.

People can see the laser light from a distance and are attracted to the installation. As they approach the Frond and enter the general area (approx 5 meter radius) the frond can detect their presence and begins to play ambient music. Several levels of proximity zones and sensors are activated and, although invisible, are used to inflect changes to the music according to the movement, the magnitude of activity, and the proximity of people to the Frond itself.

A theremin is attached to the sculpture and adds the inner most layer of interactivity. As a hand or body nears, the theremin adds mysterious wailing type of sound in conjunction with the viola. The frond selects music to accompany the sounds of the theremin, the laser lights pulsate intensely, and the atmosphere is charged. Removal of the quartz ball is encouraged, and holding it ‘energizes’ it. The Frond reacts to the presence or absence of the Quartz sphere.

The goal is for the intensity and tempo of the music to match the activity of the participants in the Frond’s environment. Low or slow rhythmic activity correlates to mellow music. Intense and high levels of activity correlates to congruently high tempo sounds. Participants may even play along and position themselves in such a way as to make musical outcomes in conjunction with the Frond.

The Frond’s interactive qualities are night time operation only. In the daytime the frond conserves its energy and recharges the battery. When the light level sensor detects darkness, the frond automatically turns itself on. When dawn light levels rise, the frond turns itself off.