Q&A | Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK

We’ve got the super talented team behind Studio PSK and a commission by Fashion Space Gallery to thank for this dynamic installation, created with the Touch Board and Electric Paint. This interactive playground scaled to adult size, is a refreshing investigation into multi-sensory play, pulling in beatboxing from Reeps One and inviting participants to trigger and distort the soundscape.

We caught up with Patrick Stevenson-Keating, who has already done some beautiful things with Electric Paint, to find out more about this project which is both fun and beautiful in equal measures.

Images: Carlos Jimenez

You worked with beatboxer Reeps One. How were his beats triggered, and was there a mix of pre-recorded and live sound? 

We really loved working with Reeps! His approach to the project really matched our own, and it made the whole process a lot of fun. Reeps recorded a number of different sound banks of samples which were loaded onto Ableton Live. Each of these were then mapped onto a trigger on the playground. For the triggers, we used Electric Paint, screen printed onto paper tiles, covered by protective acrylic. As people clambered over the structure or slid down the slide, they would touch the triggers, and set off the sounds. Reeps One also did a number of live performances with these pre-recorded sounds creating unique tracks harmonising with himself.

How did you get on with the Touch Board? Do you have any advice for others out there taking on interactive installation projects? 

The Touch Board really made this project possible, without it, it would have been a much bigger technical challenge. The project was always ambitious from the start – I don’t think anyone had done a project using Electric Paint and Touch Boards at this scale before, so it was a bit of a step into the unknown. However the simplicity of working with the board, made connecting such a large number of sensors easy. We did a first iteration of this project during Design Miami last year, and completely re-wrote the software for Milan. We used Max MSP as an intermediary between the Touch Board and Ableton, and this was a massive improvement. It let us tweak the response levels at a very fine resolution, and easily filter out noise. This made the system a lot more reliable than the first version.

Miami, Milan, London …What’s next for the playground? 

We will be showcasing the Playground as part of this year’s London Design Festival, and challenging NTS Radio curated musicians to come and put it through its paces. We are really excited to see how a range of musicians, with different musical styles, will react to the piece. It will be open for public viewing on Wednesday 23rd – Sunday  27th September at the LCF Mare Street Campus. We’d love to see as many people there as possible! After that, we have a few more possible interesting venues, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about these I’m afraid …