June 29, 2018

Voice your celebration on Canada Day: Create a maple leaf through sound

Werklund School researchers partner with National Music Centre on new immersive exhibit

The Voice Your Celebration installation allows participants to create a maple leaf through sound.

Werklund School

Celebrating diversity and creating a sense of community is at the core of a new installation that will be unveiled at the National Music Centre (NMC) on Canada Day.

Designed by a team of Werklund School of Education academics and graduate students led by Dr. Pratim Sengupta, PhD, the Voice Your Celebration installation allows participants to become part of a virtual flock of singing maple leaves that speed across a large monitor situated in Studio Bell. By sharing a story or composing their own version of O Canada, visitors can generate a maple leaf that joins the virtual flock. Each maple leaf plays its own song and interacts with other maple leaves based on the song’s pitch.

“Creating music becomes a way of hacking the code for the participants,” explains Sengupta, who holds the position of research chair of STEM education in the Werklund School. “Visitors also get to flock with other members of the public — their fellow citizens — through their music and through coding together.”

Sengupta believes the exhibit will help attendees view technology through a different lens. “The common image of technology is one that is intimately tied to scientific work and knowledge. Less common is to think of technologies as harbingers of togetherness, but as technology becomes more and more public, I think we can begin to imagine a life of technology, one that is fundamentally about togetherness.”

This exhibit builds upon the success of the Hack the Flock installation Sengupta and his team recently developed in partnership with TELUS Spark. The immersive nature of the experience and the incorporation of user-generated music into the flocking algorithm to allow participants to hack the code made Voice Your Celebration a good fit for the National Music Centre. Sengupta has been working closely with NMC Education Program Leader Evan Rothery, BMus’12, and says plans are in the works for a permanent installation.

In addition to bringing members of the public together, Sengupta says creating the installation gave him an opportunity to collaborate with an outstanding group of Learning Sciences experts.

“The significant contributions to the technology design by graduate students Peter Mattingly, Stephanie Hladik and Jordan Kidney; Werklund School alum Weston Sandberg, BEd’17; and my colleagues Dr. Beaumie Kim, PhD, and Dr. Marie-Claire Shanahan, PhD, have been simply invaluable. This work is a celebration of our togetherness and a commitment to open source technologies. The journey of designing together has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life.”

Sengupta and his team will be on hand for the Voice Your Celebration launch and he says visitors do not need any coding skills to engage with the installation, just a willingness to explore and connect.

The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission to Studio Bell is free on Canada Day. Details can be found on the National Music Centre website.