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Conference paper Open Access

Machine Tango

Brown, Courtney D

Argentine tango dancers generally react to musical recordings with improvised steps, each action arising from an unspoken conversation between leader and follower. In Machine Tango, this relation between dancers and music is turned upside down, enabling tango dancers to drive musical outcomes. Motion sensors are attached to dancer limbs, and their data is sent wirelessly to a computer, where algorithms turn the movement into sound. In doing so, the computer inserts itself in this on-going nonverbal conversation. Instead of traditional tango instruments such as the violin, dancers generate and transform the sounds of aluminum capsules, typewriters, and other found sounds. The musical response of the interactive system to dancer movement transforms during the dance, becoming more complex. The two dancers must traverse the resulting volatile sound landscape as one, responding with stylized tango movements. The effort involved in performing this task, such as how the performers are required to listen to one another’s movements with even more attention, and the contrast between the traditional with the experimental are essential to the performance aesthetic. The work is performed by myself and my tango partner, Brent Brimhall, who has contributed greatly to the structures of the dance.

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