Triggering sound and light

ELECTRONIC PERCUSSION RECENTLY formed the basis of an Australian university demonstration of “sensory technology”.

Monash University’s SensiLab and the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) Animal Logic Academy teamed up to showcase a next generation audio-visual experience in live performance.

The 60-minute live performance called Trigger Happy ‘Visualised’ showcased the use of innovative technologies including the AirSticks which convert movement into sound.

Developed by Dr Alon Ilsar, an Australian-based drummer, composer, instrument designer and researcher at SensiLab, the AirSticks may look like simple controllers, but are a unique audio-visual instrument that allows the performer to produce sound and graphics out of thin air.

“The performance not only demonstrated the technology we’ve been developing, but it also gave audiences the opportunity to experience the possibilities of this technology first-hand, and challenge their notion of what can be achieved between movement and sound in live performances. In the show, I purposefully keep the audience guessing as to what is real and improvised, and what is predetermined and composed,” says Ilsar.

SensiLab, which is part of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, has been investigating the many practical applications of the technology within AirSticks, ranging from music therapy and real-time online mixed reality collaborations to cutting-edge live performances.

SensiLab researchers are leaders in the field of practice-based research – a mode of inquiry that seeks to generate new knowledge through practice itself.

“Trigger Happy ‘Visualised’ epitomises the work we do here at SensiLab, particularly in its practice-based approach to drive the project with deadlines and real-world outputs that lead to further knowledge gained and further knowledge shared,” says SensiLab director and acclaimed digital media artist Professor Jon McCormack. “This performance showcases how our research projects can be offered up to the public to experience, challenge and validate.”

In the performance, audio-visual artist and researcher from UTS’s Animal Logic Academy Matt Hughes digitally visualised Ilsar’s music live through his custom-built interactive audio-visual software. This allowed Ilsar to seemingly pull shapes, colours and textures out of thin air with hypnotic, pulsing beats, using his body as an invisible drum kit.

Ilsar has performed with the AirSticks both in Australia and internationally, including at New York’s MET Museum with actor and performer Alan Cumming, and at Splendour In The Grass alongside The Thundamentals. He has also collaborated on a number of new shows with local artists living with a disability.

“AirSticks allow everyone the opportunity to unlock their creativity with this innovative technology. Whether you’re an experienced percussionist, music lover living with a physical disability, or a child exploring music making for the first time, AirSticks are a fantastic tool to get started with,” he explains.

An excerpt of the show is featured on YouTube.


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