On the expressive potential of suboptimal speakers

On the expressive potential of suboptimal speakers is a piece of interactive electronic music for any number of people with mobile devices. The sound responds to the position of your phone or tablet, so tilting your device (left and right) or tipping your device (right-side up and upside down) will sculpt the music in real time. You can also explore the music on a laptop or desktop computer.

Does my device require any special setup?

Once the page has loaded, you can set your device to Airplane Mode (to prevent phone calls and text messages during the performance) and you can set the Orientation Lock (so that the interface doesn't keep spinning as you move your device around). On an iOS device, you can access these settings from the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
You can also turn the volume up, and you might choose to turn down the screen brightness. No other setup is required.


device-volume-up device-settings

How should this be performed?

This piece is intended to be performed in a concert setting, with all members of the audience navigating to this site and tapping the play button at roughly the same time. (It's okay to be a couple seconds off.) There are no additional performers. The piece progresses through five sections, in which the specific aspects of the sound that are controlled by device motion are explained in the instructions below. Because device motion can be simulated on other platforms, this can really be experienced with any combination of compatible browsers; you could have a number of people on laptops and others with phones and tablets.

What if there's no data connection in the venue?

You can load the page outside the venue and it will continue to work (even in Airplane Mode). Make sure not to hit the refresh button.

The button below will produce a filtered sawtooth wave (a buzzy sound) with the oscillator frequency controlled on the x-axis and filter cutoff frequency controlled on the y-axis. (When you tilt your device to the left, the sound will be lower; when you tip your device upside down, the sound will be more buzzy.)


Please wait while the page is loading.