Songs of the Elastic Halloon

Documentation of Performance: Version 2


Artistic Conception John Toenjes, David Marchant

Performers David Marchant, John Toenjes

Programming Ben Smith

Performances: (version 1)

  • Nov. 2007 UIUC Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Performances: (version 2)

  • Featured Performers at the Ingenuity Festival, Cleveland, OH, July 2008

Songs of the Elastic Halloon is a sort of a four-ring circus of music, video, and dance improvisation. Performers sing a vocal loop, improvising on randomly appearing lines of the lyric, and record their singing by pressing the buttons of a Wii controller. This video is immediately made into a balloon-shaped head floating in a 3D theaterscape, and loops its song. The performer in the middle of the stage who is simultaneously both onstage and in the 3D theaterscape, then "grabs" a floating head, choosing which one he wants to manipulate with the Wii controller, and moves it and reshapes it according to his movement. The sound of the vocal also changes in response to this movement, and the sound travels around the audience in relation to its position in the virtual theaterscape. When the performer is satisfied with the new musical mix, he "parks" the head by pressing another Wii button. The object is to create an evolving musical and video texture for a new way to imagine the poetic speech, one which I call Recurring Strophic Form. This means that various strophes of the poetry can be reinvigorated by "grabbing" the floating head which is intoning them, and reamplifying them to bring them to the forefront of the listener's attention, thus creating an ever-evolving poetic soundscape.

In version 1 of Songs of the Elastic Halloon, the walls of the 3D theaterscape were "painted" in real time by other performers, using a version of John Toenjes' "Flying Pixels" motion-capture spray painting station to apply brightly colored graffiti in an "action" painting response to the dance they were observing in front of them. In version 2, the walls of the 3D "Imagination Space" were painted by the computer, responding to the pitch and amplitude of the performers' vocalizations.