In Communicado

This piece was a collaborative effort between myself, artist Eunsu Kang, and choreographer Rhonda Cinotto for the Dancing in the Digital Domain collaboration between the Dance program and DXARTS. The idea behind the piece is an examination of communication and miscommunication between people.

visual design

In an attempt to experiment with shadow communication, the stage was prepared with a hanging screen located center stage left. Lighting was applied to the space in order to minimize the visibility of the edges of the stage. Two video loops were projected, one from the rear of the hall over the entire stage, and the other from behind the hanging screen. The origianl design was for the second video to only be visible in the dancers shadows, but lighting and projector problems limited our options.

dance design

The dance was designed in conjunction with the music composition and visual design. It featured repeating canonical forms, with anywhere from 1 to 4 dancers. The dramatic curve of the piece was defined by the form of the dance.

sound design

Because of the communication theme, I developed a system where the dancers would be the source of the sounds using small iPods and a custom speaker rig. This had the advantage that each dancer would have their own ‘voice’ on stage and could affect the spatial quality of the sound with their movements.

Because of the limited volume and range of the sound output, I had to be careful with the sound materials I used. I chose vocal and breathing sounds as the basis for all the sound material to maximise the use of the limited frequency range and to further the communication theme. I recorded Eunsu, Rhonda, and myself deeply breathing. I also recorded Eunsu reading Korean poetry.

Each 'voice' was composed as follows:

  1. Male breathing sounds, starting slowly, building in density, and then tapering off to a spareness towards the end.
  2. Female breathing sounds, acting in counterpoint with voice 1. Density curves similar, but more dense overall.
  3. Silence followed by a filtered and heavily reverbed sound of Eunsu reading. Last half of the piece uses glitchy Warped version of Eunsu reading.
  4. Same as voice 3, but starting later and with a different 'run' of the random materials.

The SuperCollider3 source code is here:


  1. voice 1
  2. voice 2
  3. voice 3
  4. voice 4

speaker rig design

The speaker rig was a simple design consisting of an iPod Shuffle connected to two speaker pairs. My original design included an LM386 based amplifier circuit and 9V power supply. However, I developed some distortion problems that I later discovered may have been related to impedance problems. To solve the problem, I simplified the rig by removing the amp circuits and batteries. Through the use of maximized volume settings and liberal compression of the source material, I was able to compensate for the lack of an amp. It is worth noting that the dancers were much happier with the simplified speaker rigs, and remarked that they forgot they were wearing it!

This amplifier circuit was used in the initial design, but discarded after distortion errors crept in!

Each speaker rig consists of an iPod Shuffle connected to two speaker pairs

invisible speakers
Costumes concealing the speaker rigs

speakers exposed!
Detail of speaker mounting


In Communicado was performed May 18-21, 2006 at the Meany Studio Theatre, UW campus.

future work

I am happy with the outcome of the collaboration, and I intend to pursue further developments using small sound systems. I would like to work with another choreographer in the development of a piece that better features the sonic possibilities of these small sound systems, and further develop the technology as possible, to get a wider range of sound possibilities and refine the speaker to be louder and more directional.