The andantephone: a musical instrument that you play by simply walking

Proceedings of the 14th annual ACM international conference on Multimedia

Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Pages: 181 - 184, 2006, ISBN:1-59593-447-2

Author: Steve Mann, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

ACM: Association for Computing Machinery

SIGMULTIMEDIA: ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia

ACM Press, New York, NY, USA

Bibliographic information in:


I present a new way of teaching musical tempo and rhythm by writing out the music on a timeline along the ground, with, for example, chalk, in a form in which each beat of the music corresponds to one footstep. In some setups I use computer vision to track participants so that the music is actually generated by their footsteps moving through the space. In other embodiments I installed patio stones, leading to a musical garden, and outfitted each stone with a pressure sensor. I connected the pressure sensors to a central computer, which I programmed to step through a song, as people walk to the garden. Each footstep activates the next note in the song, so that there is perfect synchronization between the music and the speed of your walking (i.e. if you walk faster the song plays faster, if you stop walking the song stops, etc.). In one embodiment the computer controls an outdoor pipe-organ sculpture that I made from PVC pipes. Another provides a MIDI output to control a piano or other sound-producing device. Some versions of the sculpture are human-powered, either electrically, or wholly acoustically without the use of a computer.I also arranged various musical compositions suitable to this new form of art.This teaching method, together with various sculptural embodiments of it were found to break down social barriers and create cross-cultural and cross-generational ties. For example, children and their grand parents enjoyed walking through the gardens at Pine Hill Estates where a version of my sculpture is permanently installed.Other variations of the sculpture include arrays of hydraulophonic fountain jets that play a song in a water park when a person walks on the water. Each note or beat is triggered by a water pressure increase when one of the water jets is blocked by the foot of a user stepping on it.


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