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This project was stimulated by many sonic interaction design workshops I have conducted and participated in. Although the need for an embodied sound-gesture sketching tool was present, the deciding moment were the THS (tracked hand-held speaker) experiments at the SID meeting organized by Gerhard Eckel in Graz (for videos and images see http://sid-musicart.wikispaces.com/THS). During the explorations with the THS, I realized how important it was to actually have the speaker in the hands while exploring the expressive and social potential of the object's sound. Different ways of handling a sounding object strongly affected the interaction with invisible sonic architectures developed by Gerhard Eckel and Trond Lossius. The position of a bare loudspeaker was tracked by motion capture system in a room. The person holding the THS device would activate sounds when he or she would cross the invisible sonic boundaries and enter certain areas of the room. Within the active spatial fields, the sound would grow louder as the speaker came closer to the center of the invisible sound source. These invisible lines would create short sounds if crossed orthogonally, and if the line was followed in a parallel fashion, the user could play with the speed of the sample that was “placed“ on the line.
Even when the complexity of the setup was reduced to a homogeneous acoustic field in which the THS would activate continuous abstract sounds every time it was moved, the variety of personal and social behavior appeared to be wide ranging. Holding the object in contact with the body, or directing the sounds towards oneself induced sensations of intimacy and privacy. Seen from the outside, such gestures were interpreted as the need to be left alone, as the person appeared to be in dialogue with someone or something embodied by the speaking object in their hands. The same object held on the rope and spun above the head became an instrument affording expressive gestures. If the sounding artifact was left laying on the ground and was pulled on a rope, however, it acquired zoomorphic qualities and was perceived like a pet on a leash. In the setting in which two THSes were used, the object turned into a communication device or a weapon as participants directed the speakers towards each other, blasting loud sounds activated by fast throwing gestures. The THS experiments showed that the same physical affordance within an invisible sonic architecture can activate a variety of personal and social behaviors, even within an empty white box environment.