Rain Drum Programming Class

Sunday, May 15 and May 22; 12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Watershed Education Center
19901 Cedar Falls Rd SE,
North Bend, WA 98045

Rain Drum Courtyard is an enchanting and engaging public art installation at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center near North Bend, created in 2001 by artist Dan Corson. Set around a forested stream, it is made up of 17 drums which are played by drops of water. The intricate rhythms they create are powered by a custom computerized system. For the first time the public is being given the opportunity to become part of the art. Artist Tom Mattausch, primary conservator for the installation since 2011, will be partnering with electronic musician Son Vardy to teach a class on how to program, or “conduct,” new songs for the drums.  This presents a unique experiential opportunity combining equal parts of music, art, and technology. ​

The first class session meets Sunday, May 15 at 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. onsite at the Watershed Education Center facility. We will begin with a tour and a complete overview of the installation including the control room and service vault, then head to a classroom to explore how to create MIDI files (electronic sheet music) that can be interpreted by the custom microcontroller. Finally, Vardy will debut a new rain drum song and lead a discussion on the finer technical and artistic points of electronic composing. The following Sunday, May 22 at 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. the class will meet to enjoy listening to their creations. Each student may opt to have one of their songs’ performances recorded on video. Recordings will be shared online and will be considered by Dan Corson for addition to the permanent playlist, thereby becoming a contributing part of the public art installation.

The class requires access to a computer at home or elsewhere, and a desire to learn basic composition in the MIDI format. Limited to only 12 students. Contact tom@ungenda.com with any questions. You can register here.

Sonic Bloom Inspires Musical Streetlights in South Korea

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom, a solar powered artwork commissioned by Seattle City Light that delights visitors to Pacific Science Center has inspired the Seoul Municipal Government in South Korea to install musical streetlights.

According to Korea Times, the planned Seoul streetlights “will include playing tunes that best match the weather of the day, and changing them based on the movement of people underneath it.” Read the full Korea Times story here.

Sonic Bloom was created by Seattle Artist Dan Corson, who has been exploring green design and new technologies and how these tools can frame and amplify the natural world and our shifting relationship to it.

The artwork consists of five giant flowers that are powered by solar panels on the tops of the blooms and the science center roof. When people walk by, the each of the flowers “sings” a different musical note. At night, the blooms light up in a variety of colors.

A grant from City Light’s voluntary Green Up program and in-kind donations paid for the Sonic Bloom installation. Green Up allows customers to invest in renewable energy and sets aside some of the money collected from participants to promote awareness.

Among the other numerous projects locally and nationally that Corson has created are “Wave Rave Cave” under the Alaskan Way viaduct for City Light, the “Rain Drum Courtyard” at the Cedar River Watershed Visitors Center in North Bend for Seattle Public Utilities and the green and black striped “Safety Spires” at the Sound Transit maintenance facility.