Chris Yewell

interview with: chris yewell (2005/08/30)
tags: journal, interview
journal contents

Chris Yewell.
How long have you been working in this area?
Only this year have I started to put my work on the internet. I started producing exhibits for museums and science centers in 1991. Previous to that year I was selling MIDI interfaces of my own design to musicians. I also produced custom interfaces and MIDI-trigger devices for media artists who wanted control of external devices (lights, slide projectors, etc.) from a MIDI sequencer. I began building synthesizers and Theremins in high school.

Were you an artist/ musician first who got into using computers/the net or did you respond to the net in an artistic way? My original interests were electronic music and experimental video and film making. Both interests brought me to using computers and now the internet.

What/who has influenced you in your work? (themes, other artists etc)
The artists associated with the artist-in-residence program at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Are there any other artists covering the same field as you?
Yes, the artists and exhibit designers at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

With regard to 'soundtoys' especially, why do you think the audio visual metaphor is so key to the net?
It's not that the audio visual metaphor is so key to the net -- it's also key to film and video. It's that this audio visual metaphor is interactive, non-linear and connected across the world.

Could you come up with a definition of "soundtoys"
Programs that reveal the worlds of sound and music through creative play.

Does the net promote visual awareness that is unique to it?
It could, but most web sites look like very busy magazine lay-out. Greater bandwidth may result in a new visual awareness. The "page" style of the internet is driven by a few programs from Adobe and Macromedia.

How novel do you feel generative music is?
The real question is, how can generative music be novel? Most examples of music by numbers or music by chance, don't sound novel. The idea of generative music might go back Mozart's chance (dice) music.

Would you describe yourself as a multimedia artist, a net.artist, programmer, or none of the above?
None of the above; I'm what ever I'm doing at the time. The real question is how can generative music appear novel.

What software do you use most?
Photoshop, Director, Flash, Sound Forge, Premiere and my browser and word processor.

Connie Bloom writes a review on chris's work.

Ever wonder what kind of instrument made the eerie, vibrating pitch changes in '50s science-fiction thrillers?

It's called a theremin, and your young maestros can play this interesting instrument at the Magic Music Factory, a new exhibit opening today at the Rainbow Children's Museum in Cleveland.

The factory is full of colorful music-makers that have been constructed of plumbing and machine parts and are therefore impervious to the punishments of children.

That's not the point, of course. The point is to introduce the very young (kids up to 8 years old) to concepts such as rhythm, musical intervals, tone, pitch, synchronization and melodies.

Children can't see the invisible forces such as lasers, solenoids and photo cells that make things happen in the factory. When they wave a hand, press a button, pull a rope or walk through a tunnel, they make music. Cause and effect is played to perfection.

The exhibit consists of 10 interactive stations. When kids rearrange the Musical Building Blocks, the blocks light up and vibrate and play a succession of tones and rhythms. When they are moved again, they play a different tune.

Kids can wave their hands through the empty frame of the Light Harp and produce heavenly harp music, which fills the air as if by magic.

Walking through the Tempo Tunnel at different speeds will produce different songs. Playing the keys of the Air Organ will produce notes of different durations -- quarter notes, half notes, sixteenth notes and so forth.

The Center Piece is an assemblage of motors, lights, valves and buzzers that demonstrate how parts of a whole work together.

The Instrument Machine is a computer interactive in which the user can make new instruments from different parts and then play the parts. What? Like a trumpet-guitar-saxophone. See?

The exhibit was constructed by a brother and sister team, Chris Yewell and Tracy Douglas, both of Aurora, who have masterminded exhibits for the Great Lakes Science Center and other venues. It will remain at the museum until Dec. 3.

Another new exhibit, Adventures into Books: Gumby's World, will open Sept. 29. In it, Gumby goes on a prehistoric adventure in a giant book in which kids can help solve mysteries and dig for artifacts.

They can also create their own books, adding and subtracting text and illustrations, making bookmarks and writing their own stories. Children are free to take home their creations. That exhibit will run through Feb. 14.

A final note on age appropriateness: All the activities at the museum are geared for ages 8 and younger, so worry not that Gumby will be beyond your young ones, providing they are within the prescribed ages.

Other exhibits include the popular Over and Under Bridges and Water-Go-Round -- glorified fun with bridges and fun with water exhibits -- and The Little Nest. The nest is a resting place for weary moms with toddlers or babies. A mirror near the floor should keep crawlers intrigued.

The museum has different activities every day of the week, so feel free to call and ask what's doing. Last year, 81,000 visitors tromped through. The museum's mission is "to encourage children and families to discover the world of play together."

The Akron Beacon Journal

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