Balloon Band: Rock Edition

Sound Design: M. Anthony Reimer; Interaction Design, Visualization and Implementation: Benjamin Smith.

Rock out... with balloons!

Recently, video games that purport to give the user the experience of playing in a band, or being a guitar hero, have captured public attention. However, playing in a real band (with real instruments) is centrally concerned with expression and interaction. The amount of expression that the players are able to create in the current wave of games is exceedingly limited.

At the Ellnora Guitar Festival on September 8, 2011, part of opening night at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Champaign, IL, Tony Reimer and myself created an interactive installation exploring the guitar band aesthetic from a different direction: balloons.

In the balloon band the playing field is partitioned into four equal quadrants (reminiscent of school yard games) with each area virtually containing one of the four pillars of rock: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. Movement of a white balloon within a square (tracked by an overhead video camera) informs the algorithmic generation of that instrument's musical line. The band can be played by one individual or many: the more, the merrier (and frenetic) the music becomes!

A brief look at the installation in action!