I’ve spent years working hard, honing my craft, trying to prove that interactive sound is worthwhile art. I take this stuff seriously, and I think sound that moves and breathes and lets you know it knows you’re there is a really powerful and important and serious thing. But let me tell you about my favorite thing I’ve ever made.
I moved to Santa Fe a couple months back, and have been working with Meow Wolf in some capacity since last Fall. They’re serious about their art. They know the profound impact their spaces have on people. But it also sits in a whimsical universe and taps into the maximalism Richard described last week that can be so very satisfying.
Recently, I’ve found myself working on a lot of small installations for some upcoming things with the art team at Meow Wolf. Each thing has some sound component–some require an ambisonic mix pipeline, some need support for bass transducers in sculptures, some just need a piece of interactive music to go along with an interactive animation. But my favorite thing I’ve been working on–and possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever worked on–is this little interaction involving fart noises.
There’s a reason fart jokes have been around for so long. They’re immediately relatable by everyone. Yeah, some people pretend to be above that kind of humor, but I bet they still have some kind of internal reaction. Because we all know what that’s like.
Anyway, one of the installations calls for squishy sounds when people walk around on continuous floor sensors. And the artists involved were really into the idea that the squishes be really satisfying. So I set off making a little system to scrub around some squishy noises (which turned out to be mouth noises voiced by the artists themselves). After setting it up with a Launchpad to simulate the force sensitive resistors we’ll eventually use, we started playing with it. And then we didn’t stop. And then other people came by and played with it, and they didn’t stop. I think it’s the most satisfying sound interaction I’ve ever made. And it’s a stupid fart sound system.
If you’re curious, there’s a video of an early prototype here.
What I realized is twofold:
- A simple, but juicy (pun intended) interaction is hard to come by, but always engaging.
- It’s way easier to draw people in with something silly and relatable than with many more serious things.
Sure, we may have accidentally landed on an interaction that was particularly satisfying. But I think a big part of why it was so satisfying was that passers by felt no need to judge the thing on its artistic merits. It was just fun.
So maybe we all need to find our equivalent of a dumb fart joke to make. Maybe it’ll open us up to some awesome new ideas!