Puncture is a collaboration with Marcel Wang. It is a musical interface and performance that explores pressure, tension, and release.
This piece expands on Marcel's previous work entitled “ ” that employs the distortion and crumpling of paper to reflect on emotional stress that cannot be undone. In her words:
The initial idea comes from my unfortunate experience when I was in senior school. The reason for the box is because it has a similar shape to the student locker in my school. It took me a long time to get rid of the shadow of the locker because something bad happened which deeply affected me at that time. The intention of the paper is pretty obvious as its materiality: easy to be broke and tortured which makes me feel it is fragile like a human being. Although it is from my personal experience, I don't want it to be "my personal" somehow. I didn't include any specific direction in either description and project title. I intend to encourage the audience to recall their own memories, some painful and broken moments in their own lives instead of thinking like "this is the experience of the artist, having nothing to do with me".
Our piece extends this theme into the sonic realm. The paper (and box) becomes the interface through which we create sound and music.
The title Puncture, or "cause a sudden collapse of (mood or feeling)", provides a blueprint for how we wanted the experience to feel. The words we used to describe the feeling were "uncomfortable, annoying, chaos, anxious, not beautiful". "You have to push it very carefully to touch the boundary and breaking point."
Performing with this device involves exploring the paper's texture and resistance by inserting 'prods' into holes in the back of the box and pressing against the paper surface. From the front, the audience sees a paper sheet being poked and stretched from under the surface. The sound of the paper crinkling, stretching, and tearing is blended with synthesized and recorded audio that is modulated by the pressure being exerted on the different prods. The harder you press, the more intense the sound becomes until eventually you puncture the surface and are left with silence. Our performance also features a second box, an early prototype that we repurposed to create a duet. The second box is positioned flat on the table and is played like a percussion instrument, using the box frame and paper surface to create texture and rhythm.
The sound consists of a mixture of raw audio from the contact microphones and synthesized/recorded audio from Ableton Live. We use Max/MSP to map the pressure sensors to various parameters in Ableton. In addition to the raw pressure values, we also calculate the velocity and acceleration of the values. This allows us to explore many more sonic avenues than with just the raw values -- for example, quick presses affect the sound differently than long slow presses.