Terpsichore for Kansas City


This public art installation transforms the parking garage of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (Kansas City, MO) into an instrument of light and sound, a complementary venue to the performances at the Center. Our artwork extends throughout the entire space of this thousand car, four-story garage.
The main feature is The Light Organ, a vertical sculpture of light and sound, penetrating through the stairwell of the garage. LED’s within the Light Organ pipes produce white and blue light to create compositional patterns in different rhythms and intensities. These patterns choreograph sound compositions playing in the stairwell.
Sound from 112 speakers, activated by motion sensors, also plays all through the garage for people to experience as they move in the space. Composers David Moulton, Roberta Vacca, and Kansas City’s own Bobby Watson were commissioned to create the sound works for this project.

How did this project use Max?

There are three major Max/MSP patches that make Terpsichore work: Light Organ Player - It allows composers to create sound/visual collections (projects) that respond to the many motion sensors throughout the building. A specially configured home automation system communicates sensor data to this patch. There are 20 channels of audio going out to 112 speakers. Visuals are made up of Quicktime movies recorded especially for this installation. They can be played on the light organ pipes singly, or layered. The pipes are controlled using DMX. Sound and Visuals can be triggered in a number of ways including random, cyclic, sequential, or a combination of those ways. Sounds and visuals can be locoed in sync, or can play independently depending on the wishes of the composer. Projects can be created using this patch (as a standalone application) on a composer's Mac. They can then be saved and transferred to the computer that directly runs the installation. Light Organ Composer - Visuals are created with the composer patch. Input can be pre-recorded video, live camera input, and/or graphics can be triggered by various aspects of a multi-channel audio file. When it is time to record the final visual (movie), it can be affected live by the use of an OSC or HID device. Composer sets up the output so that it is ready to be imported into Light Organ Player. Sessions can be saved and reloaded later. Light Organ Scheduler - Terpsichore Kansas City plays projects from a number of composers. These are played consecutively each day, but there may also be special events programmed into the schedule as well. Scheduler presents the user with a weekly calendar, allowing hourly blocks to be filled in with project files. A day's schedule can be copied and pasted to make repetitive scheduling easier. The same is true for weeks. Each project can have a playbill image assigned to it. These playbill images are displayed on a digital signage display near the lobby of the Kauffman Center. Scheduler keeps track of the Composer patch. If it does not receive a heartbeat from it, it assumes that Composer has crashed and attempts to resolve the problem. Max's handling of audio, video, DMX and OSC made it the perfect platform for operating this installation. The user interface makes it possible for composers to add more projects to the repertoire without additional coding in Max. It's brilliant.