Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Music for Yoga on the National Mall

Each year, thousands of yoga practitioners gather in front of Sylvan Theater on the National Mall as part of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to take part in the largest public yoga practice in the area. This being the 100th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossoms to the US from Japan, they are expecting an even larger crowd than in previous years -- as such, the organizers decided to do something a bit different with the accompanying music. A few months ago, we were approached about the possibility of creating something sonically that would have some relationship to the actual routine as it was being performed. After batting around some possibilities that ultimately weren't going to be feasible (ones that would involve the audience, for instance which wouldn't really work for obvious reasons) we decided on an idea of using the actual data from the instructors body during the practice as a basis for the music -- essentially, using the heart rate of the instructor as the map to which we would compose an original piece, based entirely on the ebb and flow of the actual routine.

Realizing this would be difficult to do live, we met with instructor Alison Adams (pictured below) who attached a heart rate monitor as she went through the routine that she had already planned for the event in advance. This data is then used as a tempo map for the hour-long session that, ideally, will rise and fall generally in connection with what Alison is doing on stage, even integrating the sound of the heartbeat at various different speeds at different points. It's been a very fun experiment in using a different set of parameters to write to. Interestingly, unlike previous events that we've held that require the participants to be aware, if not bring actual props to the event in preparation, it's likely that many of the attendees here will not realize what they are listening to -- and maybe that's the point. I remember reading an interview with a film director, saying that if the audience stops to take note of the music in a film, the composer didn't do a good job; meaning that it should serve to move the film forward and not be a distraction to the viewer. Not sure if I completely agree with this statement, but I sort of like the idea of being able to influence the experience of a few thousand participants without them knowing that, for instance, the music is speeding up at a more strenuous point in the workout or becoming more sparse during a more relaxing one. But for those that do know, perhaps it will add a new layer to the experience.

Cherry Blossom Yoga will be held on Saturday, April 7th 2012 at the Sylvan Theater Stage on The National Mall in Washington DC. For more information, visit their Facebook page. 


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