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Natural Optical Water
ISMN : 979-0-2325-2090-2
A synergistic project connecting music, science, computer science and technology
Optical Natural Water is not only a musical composition, but a multidisciplinary project that brings together music, computer science and advanced photonic technologies developed by scientists and applied to the food industry. This approach is multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral and innovative, as wished by the Theme Guide of Expo Milano 2015.
One of the main challenges of Expo Milano 2015 can be summarized in the following question: “How can technology improve the quality of access to nutrition?”. This is an important task for science and technology in the near future. Could art be associated with this challenge ? How the latest technologies connected with nutrition and human health could be linked to music ? The idea of Natural Optical Water come from these questions and these challenges.
Independent tunings and tempos: a complex sound texture interacting with water
Natural Optical Water is in five sections: Surface, Source, Spring, Still and Stream, each with a unique texture quality. Each instrument of the ensemble is tuned to a different frequency (spanning from A = 425 Hz of the flute, to A = 440 Hz of piano and percussions); in some sections, each musician even plays at an individual tempo. Single instrumental parts are thus similar to independent “organic sound structures” – each with his own tuning and temporality – cooperating in a larger “sound organism” who is himself interacting with water. Natural Optical Water is therefore not a stable musical entity, but a constantly changing organic texture that reacts in real time, in contact with water.
The unique synergy between music and science of Natural Optical Water come from a collaboration with the DNAPhone, a startup founded in 2014 by three young researchers and two professors from the University of Parma (Italy) (www.dnaphone.it/en/). Made available following years of university research in the field of biosensors based on optical and photonic technologies, the DNAPhone Smart Analysis is a portable hardware associated with a revolutionary software for the detection and measurement of biological and chemical parameters in the food industry. Furthermore, it is able to carry out analyses simply using widely available devices, such as tablets or smartphones.
I believe that in a very near future, everyone will be able to have a “portable laboratory” within his smartphone allowing to analyze in real time the biochemical parameters of the foods and beverages one wish to consume. For example, it will be possible to immediately check their quality and safety and to detect the presence of a specific allergen.
New rites of food consumption
I am convinced that this progress in science and technology will considerably change our eating habits, introducing those new “rites of food consumption” evoked by the official documents of Expo Milano 2015. In addition, the Smart DNAPhone Analysis device uses photonic and optical technologies based on “light-matter” interaction: 2015 has been designated the “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies”!
Water is one of the key elements of the Vivaio Italia (“Italian Nursery Garden”) – the concept of the Italy Pavilion – and water is perhaps the element which best symbolizes life and nutrition. The musicians performing Natural Optical Water have five water samples (some of which drinkable) related to the mythical/symbolic water imagination described by Bachelard and Levi-Strauss. The different samples represent three classes of water: Terrestrial water (or Groundwater), Surface water and Celestial Water (or Atmospheric water). In five key-points of the score, the musicians in turn analyze in real time each one of the water samples, using the Smart DNAPhone Analysis.
The results of the analysis determine some important parameters of the music.
In particular, the results of the analysis of the water samples affect the generation in real time of the electronic music: some characteristics of water (such as pH) determine the quality of the synthesis, the re-synthesis and the relationship with the “texture” of the ensemble.
The synergy between music, water, photonics and computer technology goes even further. The results of the analysis of the water samples are transmitted in real time to a patch (written for Max/MSP and INScore) able to “translate” the data received from DNAPhone Smart Analysis into a musical score. The traditional score in “differed time” (printed on paper) is thus placed beside a score “in real time”, generated according to the quality of the water samples, which three of the seven musicians read on several video displays.
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