This evening I had to wait for the N train at 34th Street for about 20 minutes.  It is, by far, my favorite station to wait for a train, thanks to an interactive art installation on the track.  The interface is quite simple, there are 8 holes placed about 4 feet apart approximately 7 feet above the platform.  Coming out of each hole is a red beam of light, which, when broken by, say, a person’s hand, creates a series of sounds.  These sound range from marimba to pipes to birdsounds.  The notes change with each wave of the hand, so you can create interesting melodies by varying the rhythm of your hand swipes.  There is another device on the opposite track, and the sounds from the speakers play their interactions along with yours.  I have experimented with playing two holes at once, but it is no different from just playing the one.

With this setup is that you can have up to 16 strangers interacting and playing music together on two seperate platforms.  Tonight there was a moment where a guy joined me on my platform while a couple was playng the other.  I had already set a rhythm, and they were able to work within it, so at some point I stared counterpointing their rhythms, creating the experience of playing music with others.  Which is one of my favorite things to do on this planet, make music with others.  The non verbal communication, the experience of the sum being greater than the parts, the intense attention to the present moment, and the instant gratification of hearing beautiful sounds being made are among the things I love about the experience.  The installation at Herald’s Square is called Reach, aptly named in that you reach up to play it and that the experience of playing music is a reach for something greater than oneself.

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