From Sept. 28th-30th, middle school students in two states will take part in an experiment that combines an artist's images, a rapper's music and the students' movements.
The joint, interactive performance, called MiX TAPEStry, will take place in Duke's Fitzpatrick-CIEMAS studio and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Krannert Art Museum. The name of the project plays on the "mix tapes" of hip hop culture and is part of an effort to interest middle school children in science and technology. It's also part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Katrina: After the Storm Summit and the HASTAC InCommon project.
At Duke, students will be in the studio, a part of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics in the Pratt School of Engineering. The room has computer monitors along the walls and webcams wired to the ceiling. Motion is captured by the webcams and channeled through computers to trigger sounds. The result is a space you can "play" like a musical instrument by moving around.
Hip hop recording artist Robi Roberts, who teaches in Duke's music department, will contribute an original rap called "Lemonade." At the Illinois site, artwork depicting historical African American leaders by graphic artist John Jennings will be projected on an interactive 3-D canvas.
Students in both locations will be able to see the images, hear the music, communicate with each other, and manipulate the resulting "tapestry" of musical and visual elements using motion sensors, webcams and the Internet.
Roberts - who goes by J Bully as a rapper and WXDU radio dj - said he's excited about the mixing of hip hop and science.
"If these kids can find an interest in science, if it gets them interested in the practical applications, then great," he said, "I have a solid, applied understanding of these things, but if I had gone to school for it, I would be that much better at everything that I do."