Musical Hula Hoop – Fact or Fiction?

Hoola Hoop Controller
Hoola Hoop Controller
While we may never be able to agree on what music we enjoy hooping to the most, pretty much everyone can agree that music certainly takes hooping to the next level. But have you ever considered what it would be like if our hooping itself made music? During Future Week on Hooping Idol, Rebecca Phipps did. She choreographed a musical hoop recital in the year 2035 where her hoop dance moves created sound, and thus generated her own hooping symphony, as it were. While the idea may sound absurd to some, we may not have to wait 24 years for it to become a full-fledged reality.

Chances are you’ve never heard of a Kaossonome Touch Arp, but Alexander Randon invented a touchscreen laid on top of 256 LEDs, encased in a aluminum-wood-plexiglass box 8 chunky, that delivers push-button laced knobs of musical technology. While none of the elements in and of themselves are particularly new, his whole package and execution of them together charts new territory. And it’s just one of a wave of new musical instruments that could play a role in the future of a musical hoop. The most interesting development so far, however, is an invention by Tulane graduate student Peter Leonard called the “Hula Hoop Controller”. In this case the musical artist is making a very electro-sounding composition, doing so simply by waving a wand inside a hoop – and then an attached computer “translates” the artist’s gestures into music.

Leonard’s music technology invention was one of the finalists in the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech this year, a competition designed to “create something new that will really inspire us,” said Gil Weinberg, head of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology. Weinberg noted, “We push the envelope on how we humans can create music with new kinds of instruments and new kinds of musical expressions.” One of the things the judges cared about was how likely people would be to buy and use the instrument – and thus the $5000 grand prize went to Interlude Consortium for their transformation of everyday kitchen objects into musical instruments.

Leonard’s Hula Hoop Controller, however, remains very interesting to us as the idea of a musical hoop moves forward. He explains, “We feel that the hula hoop controller is a novel yet practical application for human computer interaction. When playing a hoop, one is forced to move in visually entertaining ways, but more importantly the actions of the performer affect the musical outcome in a way that is clear to the audience. In a general sense, we feel that the circular movement associated with the controller is desirable because it allows for continuous motion by a performer. Furthermore, this proposed version of the interface includes the following features which make it more musically expressive: smaller size at each sensor point, independent triggering at each point, control over timbral change, ability to switch between different playing modes, detection of direction, and tempo tracking.”

The Hula Hoop Controller: Hoola 2.0

Rebecca Phipps’ entry for Future Week on Hooping Idol.

The Kaossonome Touch Arp

Interlude Consortium’s Musical Kitchen Appliances

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