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An Arcade of Reflection

Music for a secular service, played communally on PlayStation controllers

The composer Bryant O’Hara participates in the Sunday Assembly — a kind of non-religious church, as it were — in Atlanta, Georgia, where some aspects of the secular service involve music. He wanted to think of another means to introduce music into the communal activity, and came upon the idea of a collaborative video game system that uses game controllers to collectively build a composition in real time. As he describes it in some extensive documentation of his process, which also goes into his choice of programming languages, among other details:

I started thinking about this project after attending the first two meetings of Sunday Assembly Atlanta. There were several parts of the meeting where we did karaoke, and I was wondering whether there was another form of musical interaction – perhaps even unique to the organization – that we could do as a body. That got me thinking about new ways of looking at how music could be made and how it could be experienced.

This “shared” instrument, as he calls it, involves PlayStation controllers, and he has posted the above audio recording of a nearly half-hour performance, which dates from the end of last month. The result is a kind of meditative game parlor, an arcade of reflection, the steady beat layered with an ever-changing amalgamation of colorful beeps and bloops, whirry static, and other largely percussive sonic elements.

Here’s some silent video of the interface in action:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/bryant-ohara. More on O’Hara’s project at intimateandintricate.wordpress.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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