Puppetry by music

I was watching Jaron Lanier play jazz piano with a small ensemble recently, and it occurred to me that in his freeform, shambling, yet artful way, he was radiating the same energy that suffuses his talks about technology: A kind of extreme casual intelligence, seemingly spur of the moment but actually the product of years of thought and contemplation.

And suddenly I decided that when I give talks about the future, I need to be improvising on a piano keyboard. The words I speak about virtual reality, cyber-connections, neural implants, should be complemented by freeform improvised jazz.

The hybrid format I’m contemplating probably breaks at least twenty different rules that keep CP Snow’s two cultures safely apart. Which means I will probably piss off quite a few people. On the other hand, I think Bob Dylan was totally on target in Newport in 1965 (you could look it up).

So today I tweaked my Chalktalk program, the one I’ve been using for all my recent teaching and presentations. Normally, when I use Chalktalk, I sketch as I talk, and those sketches then turn into animated ideas and creatures, which act out whatever topic I’m talking about.

But today I added a new feature: The animated creatures can appear in response to certain chords I play on my (midi) piano keyboard. Now, in addition to puppetry by drawing, puppetry by music.

So I guess I’m already working on that talk Jaron inspired. And if I do it right, the visual ideas that show up and move about on screen will appear to flow naturally not just from the words, but also from the music.

Which, in a way, is exactly right.

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