Coming To Paradise: Heaven and music as a means of interaction
A motif in my recent interactive work has been pushing it beyond the bourgeois modes of interaction typical in the mainstream: paperwork, telephones, and meetings.
This has involved creating beverages, drawing, singing, and other such things, usually as offerings or gifts for various supernatural beings.
Such creative means of engaging with a show have created delightful moments. People really trying to please the character by genuinely trying their best in forms of expression they’d rarely show publicly; people being vulnerable enough to tell stories and sing in public; people genuinely enjoying dancing as a group and being recognised.
For that is another part of such mechanics: that they are recognised and warmly valued, not merely “oh wow, you’re so talented!”
[In the inverse: I hated being mocked for my bad drawing skills in one show I attended; I hadn’t been told I’d need to draw when volunteering for something, and then ended up feeling ashamed about it. Not the best feeling, especially when for nothing more than the cheap gag rather than any especial tonal or thematic value.]
There is a very, very fun mechanic in Paradise Craved, however, which I want to write about a bit.
Music is used in many interactive immersive shows, primarily as a means of setting tone (Happy music! Sad music! Tense music!) or world (80s! 1920s! Now!).
I do not think it outrageous to suggest that my work on Come Bargain With Uncanny Things places me at the edge of experimenting with music in interactive spaces. There, it was a means to express tone (uneasy), world (bargaining via singing rituals), and also communicate between performers through musical choices.
An audience member could try to interpret the evolving styles to try and sense some of the deeper undercurrents, but was never asked to (and would be unlikely to succeed unless they stepped entirely out of the show).
In Paradise Craved, however, that act of interpreting sound has become a major mechanic, and a very fun one (to me).
There is a wash of eight different lines of singing in Heaven, stated to be the Voice of God. They flex and vary in accordance with secret behind-the-scenes things, but crucially lack fixed, definite intentionality. That is to say, rather than one line meaning “yes” and another “no”, or “I hate this”, each line has a distinct emotional quality that is not specified to the audience.
Then the audience ask questions of it. Listening to how the audio changes, they, as a group, seek to interpret the Voice of God.
That is to say, they listen to the echoes of the music inside their own heads and try to find meaning.
It is a delightful chance to take a very abstract prompt, and watch a group of people come together and essentially speak their own rough answers to quite profound questions. They may dissent from one another, or reach consensus, but it is a very enjoyable use of music as a mechanic for stimulating conversation.
P.S. It fits better here than any other of my reflective blogs, but another fun mechanic is, in the darkness of the Gulf, having the single instruction ‘don’t get caught in the light!’. Hide and seek may be childish, but it certainly allows the audience the opportunity to move around.