Skip to content ↓

Tech Night promises to be a real sensation

Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops, will be wired for Tech Night at the Pops, even if he skips his coffee that day.

When hundreds of MIT alumni/ae and their families show up at Symphony Hall to see the Boston Pops perform on Thursday, June 4, they will get an unexpected addition to their program: Mr. Lockhart wearing a sensor-embedded "Conductor's Jacket" developed by Media Lab doctoral candidate Teresa Marrin working with Rosalind Picard, the NEC Career Development Professor of Computers and Communication, and Tod Machover, associate professor of music and media.

The futuristic, metallic red-and-silver jacket created especially for Mr. Lockhart contains a web of physiology and motion sensors, some of which were developed by Media Lab graduate student Jennifer Healey and several undergraduates at the Lab. These sensors provide detailed feedback on Mr. Lockhart's conducting gestures.

From sensors mounted to his torso and arms, researchers will record the 3-D position of Mr. Lockhart's elbows, wrists, shoulders, neck and waist, as well as heart rate, respiration, skin conductivity, temperature, and muscle tension. These data will be recorded at the rate of 1000 readings per second. Ms. Marrin eventually hopes to use these empirical, quantitative data to build digital musical systems that not only reflect information on beat and timing, but also expressive natural gesture.

Another element of the performance will be a real-time graphical display of Mr. Lockhart's gestures and movement, which will be projected on a large screen above the orchestra. Developed by graduate student Jocelyn Riseberg, this visualization represents a new approach to understanding and communicating emotional response.

With this system, Mr. Lockhart's heartbeat, his breathing and his gestures prompt abstract images on the screen to move, change and grow, and Mr. Lockhart's own body becomes the driving force for the artwork. The display will give the audience a fuller, richer understanding of the physical and emotional experience the conductor shares with his orchestra during each performance.


The featured soloist for Tech Night at the Pops will be Assistant Professor Thomas DeFrantz in the unusual and rarely performed Tap Dance Concerto, written in 1952 by the American composer Morton Gould.

Professor DeFrantz, an active choreographer and director, created his own choreography for the piece using rhythms as notated by Mr. Gould which interlock with the music of the orchestra. "It's a devilish piece of music and I've been working on it like a fiend!" he said.

Professor DeFrantz is also the archivist and coordinator of the dance history program for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the author and director of Ballet Hispanico's "Crossing Borders" arts-in-education program. He has written performance criticisms, essays, and articles on dance and is currently writing a book-length examination of Alvin Ailey's choreography.

The program for Tech Night at the Pops will also include Chabrier's Espa���a Rhapsody, Enesco's Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1, a tribute to John Philip Sousa, selections from The Sound of Music, and the love theme from the film Titanic.

Although the concert is nearly sold out, any available tickets will be sold on Thursday, June 4 at noon in Kresge Auditorium. Prices range from $13-28. For more information, call x3-5729.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 3, 1998.

Related Topics

More MIT News