By Thomas Williams
Interactive art event Musify+Gamify gave everyone at this year’s Vivid Sydney celebrations the chance to perform alongside some of Australia’s most forward-thinking musicians, video game designers and artists.
Curated by Sydney University researchers Dr Lian Loke and Dr Oliver Bown, Musify+Gamify hosted two concerts and a free exhibition during its 11-day residency at Chippendale’s Seymour Centre in May.
The event featured a performance from Hans van Vliet, the brains behind Brisbane “indie bitpop band” 7bit Hero, whose mobile app lets audience members interact with the group’s live show.
“We have multiplayer games that are timed up with our music,” says Mr van Vliet. “There are lots of visuals and lots of boss battles, and then everyone works together to take them down while I provide a soundtrack for it.”
Dr Bown says Mr van Vliet’s interactive performances — which also emulate 8-bit Gameboy sounds — work at the edge of what’s typically acceptable when it comes to audience participation.
“I love how dangerous and crazy 7bit Hero is. It’s just interesting because it obviously crosses a boundary where you’re not supposed to have your phone out,” he says. “I mean, depending on what kind of concert you’re at.”
Musify+Gamify also included performances from the likes of Australian new music group Ensemble Offspring and local musician Austin Buckett, who performed a new interactive audiovisual piece by American video game soundtrack composer David Kanaga.
Adding to the opportunities for performance, the free and interactive Musify+Gamify exhibition showcased experimental video games, musical furniture, game controllers re-purposed as musical instruments, guitars controlled via a pinball machine, and more.
“Everyone becomes a performer when they step into that kind of context,” Dr Bown says. “It’s very much looking towards the future. It’s very much thinking about what a musician might be in 20 years time.”
Musify+Gamify began with a panel discussion on the future of music, games and their interaction. The panel featured Vivid Sydney Music Manager Stephen Ferris, who says opportunities to interact with Vivid’s annual light installations were matched by opportunities to “play” with music at Musify+Gamify.
“I’m very keen to see the breadth of possibility on show,” Mr Ferris says. “Musify+Gamify is an island in Vivid Music, and one we’re proud of,” he says.