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Leonardo's Chimes:
Interactive Improvisational Environment

John Toenjes,
David Marchant

Programming and
Video Effects Mixing:

Ben Smith

Artist Bios:

David Marchant has been a Senior Lecturer on the faculty of Washington Uni-versity in St. Louis since 1994. David is Co-Artistic Director of Zo Motion Arts with partner Holly Seitz, developing site-specific installations in natural en-vironments, including tree climbing as a dance form.

Ben Smith is currently working toward a DMA in Composition at the Univer-sity of Illinois. His recent work involves interactive, 3D, computer generated environments in combina-tion with real-time music composition/ performance systems.

Links to Movies

Leonardo's Chimes is an interactive dance, music, and video piece wherein the movement creates the music and the music simultaneously informs the movement choices and vocabulary. Video effects also influence the quality of the movement. The “dancer” triggers music via hot spots on the stage, and the “musician” and computer interactive system together decide which sounds will be heard. The system makes pitch decisions based upon number of times the “dancer” intersects each hot spot. The “musician” records sequences in real time on a custom made, light sensitive interface. The “dancer” then responds according to what he hears and sees, altering his movement to carry the musical improvisation forward, spontaneously creating a layered large-motor-movement-generated composition.

Leonardo's Chimes is in its second version now, which premiered at the 2008 Cleveland Ingenuity Festival as part of the Inventions Suite, consisting of Leonardo's Chimes, version 2 of Songs of the Elastic Halloon, and Soundwave Surfing.

The technology used in Leonardo's Chimes can be thought of in four categories: Motion Tracking, Custom Instruments, Video Display, and Interaction Programming:

  • Motion Tracking is done via an overhead camera whose image is fed into either Max/MSP/Jitter/SoftVNS, or Isadora® interactivity software (depending on which version of the dance). We use either presence tracking or color tracking to determine if the dancer comes into contact with the hot spots that are drawn within the video frame. In version 1, the hot spots are arranged in a horseshoe pattern around the dancer. In version 2, these hot spots have become dynamic, themselves moving in relation to the dancer and to each other, giving him many more possibilities for interacting with them.
  • Custom Instruments have been designed and built by John Toenjes for Leonardo's Chimes. There are two in use: the Control/Recorder which effects the music, and the VideoLyre which controls the video. These instruments were designed for theatrical effect, and to blur the distinction between dancer, musician, vee-jay; and between performer and technician. You can read more about these instruments in the Instruments and Art Works section of this website.
  • Video Display is integrated into the conception and realization of Leonardo's Chimes. It is present in the same physical space as the dancer, and the quality of the video effects influence the way the dancer moves, much as a painter reacts to his creation as it unfolds.
  • Interaction Programming is the mechanism for making the environment responsive to movement, for integrating the instruments into the creative mix, and for controlling the inteeractive computer system's realtime response to the myriad changing situations throughout the dance. The software for this is again, Max/MSP/Jitter/SoftVNS, and Isadora.



Oct. 2006, Washington University, St. Louis (premiere)

Nov. 2006, University of Illinois Krannert Center
for the Performing Arts
(more evolved version)

March 2008: SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Media, Minneapolis

July 2008 (version 2): Ingenuity Festival, Cleveland, OH

Performance inquiries:

Leonardo's Chimes is available for performance. We can also do workshops and lecture demonstra-tions with your community or students. Also, a DVD is available of either version of the dance. Contact me to request a copy, and to schedule a performance and/or other activities re-volving around this dance, or technologies employed.

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John Toenjes

907 1/2 W Nevada St.
Urbana, IL 61801



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