Oberlin Blogs

Bowling, Oberlin Style

April 3, 2008

Max Strasser ’09

As I assume most college campuses do, we have a bowling alley at Oberlin called College Lanes. It's not the nicest bowling alley in the world--it's a bit shabby and feels somehow too narrow--but it serves the needs of the college. (I have a friend who is enrolled in a one-credit course that meets there a few days a week.) But on Tuesday night, some students for the TIMARA department in the Conservatory transformed the College Lanes into something different. They managed to make our boring old bowling alley into a space for contemporary music. Sounds weird? It was.

TIMARA, in case you don't know, stands for Technology in Music and the Related Arts. I usually enjoy TIMARA events, which are typically multimedia experiences that can include psychedelic video projections, ambient sounds, improvised dance, or drums, and always involve a lot of wires. For this event, the TIMARA class was using a program called Max/MSP. (Don't worry if you haven't heard of this before. I hadn't either.) What they did was use some sort of microphone to collect theThis is what Max MSP looks like. sounds of the bowling alley--pins crashing, balls rolling--and then ran these sounds through a computer (with Max/MSP on it) and altered them. The altered sounds were then played into the room on big speakers. Loudly. It was cool.

I obviously can't explain this as well as a TIMARA student would. But the effect was impressive. The crashing pins melded with the droning ambient noises, and the video projections, which I believe were also controlled by the sounds of the pins, altered the shape of the room. I don't usually listen to electronic new music--I prefer Delta blues--but it's nice to see what people are up to in one of the most progressive corners of our Conservatory. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night.

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