12th Ave Arts played host to a unique musical experience during Thursday night’s Capitol Hill Art Walk. The “Be Bop Bars,” designed by Encore Architects in collaboration with JazzED, is an “interactive musical experience powered by people!” designed for the musician in all of us. A safe, low-voltage electric circuit completed by human touch, helps create a melody as you move from bar to bar.
Architects Rob Deane and Scott Mead were on hand to help with instructions and talk about the installation. “We all have a little bit of charge in us,” Deane said about how the installation works. The “Makey-Makey,” a microcontroller that commands the Be Bop Bars, works by opening and closing circuits, like clicking the buttons on your mouse or keyboard. You, the public, open and close the circuits by interacting with the Be Bop Bars. Opening and closing the circuit when you touch the metal poles, causes the Makey Makey to send a signal to a Raspberry Pi, which in turn controls the production of a musical note.
The three colors represent three octaves. According to the creators, “each bar [is] a representation of the frequency of the wavelength of the associated note.” Not all the bars were working on Thursday night. According to Deane, there may be loose wires, as it had been sitting “in a pile in the office” since the Seattle Design Festival Block Party in Pioneer Square.
Designed to be collaborative, one of the hopes at the Festival Block Party was seeing how people interact with strangers. “At one point, we had a line of 20 people holding hands and two ran down the octaves [at the festival]”. It’s a wheelchair accessible installation, and, “even if you can’t blow into a trumpet or sax, you can still play notes.”
The project is now making its temporary home in the Capitol Hill Housing building’s lobby. “Capitol Hill Housing has been awesome at hosting,” Deane said. The installation will be at 12th Ave Arts near 12th and Pine through December 16th with hopes it will move to the Pacific Science Center soon after.
With reporting by Kelsey Hamlin