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Day 2 - Puppet Portal Phase 2 - Link-up with Hospital B from studio

My involvement in the Puppet Portal Phase 2 is to explore the role of music and technology in the project. My first day in Puppet Portal Phase 2 was Day 2, where I was based in my studio. This was an interesting first day. I am aware of my independence as a contributor to the work and that I could maintain full control over my setup. I was essentially being a composer and performer for my collaborators (children in Hospital B), without directly facilitating the creative work of children in a hospital. However, while this meant that I could be more prepared and ready to perform, the hospitals needs and expectations certainly dictated what I could or couldnt do.

On Day 2, I linked up with Emma in Hospital B. Emma and I had communicated via text and through the online chatroom text facility in the morning and I was aware that the children were working on an African-themed day. It was then up to me to react to their creations and performance, and enhance their experience, if possible. Emma and I discussed the idea of a musical soundtrack for the performance which would take the form of introductions of each of the characters made by the children and a dance. I have a number of percussion instruments that could be used for this style but performing live seemed like it might be a challenge! In deciding whether or not to perform live, I was trying to imagine how much I was going to be able to see and hear, as this feedback is very important in live performance. I hadnt linked up with anyone before so I wasnt sure what to expect. While Emma and I had discussed, via the text facility, the various ideas, I wasnt sure exactly what was going to happen when it came to performance time. For example, I know that some artists use the webcams onboard the laptops and this situation restricts the children to performing in front of the laptop. Other artists have roaming webcams on long USB cables, which allows for more of the room to be used and  for children to stand in different locations. As it turned out, Emma has a roaming camera. However while this setup may seem better, it also has its drawbacks as the camera can tend to move a little too much and it can be hard to establish what exactly it is that youre looking at. So, once I had thought through the various setups, I decided it was best to keep the music to loop-based sampled audio on the computer rather than try to follow the children in a live performance. So, with that in mind, I created a long musical soundtrack in an audio sequencer based on a Brazilian style rhythm using various percussion and drum samples.

The actual link-up went ok except for the slight hiccup: Hospital B could hear me but I couldnt hear them! When the time came for the children to perform, I played the audio from my computer  and watched as they moved around in time with the music. It was only after the performance was over that Emma confirmed for me that they could actually hear what I was playing!

I found that the children seemed to enjoy the music and certainly seemed to get into the atmosphere. They were smiling a lot and at the end of their performance, took time to individually say hello to me on the webcam. Pity I couldnt hear them but the experience was fun. It was nice to be able to contribute to their performance and add something else to the experience. I think they were genuinely intrigued by the idea that another person, in a separate location, might be joining in on their performance.

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