Desert Improvisation Experiments – Day 5

For our last day we decided to get up before the sun, hike in, and record dance and flute alone without the projections and sound manipulations. It was a beautiful way to end our wonderful time in a magical place.

We also captured some “singing sand” sounds by causing small avalanches to happen while walking down a soft steep dune. This is an interesting effect that happens in this desert where sand particles rub against each other and resonate at audible frequencies producing trombone like sounds:

Starting out:

Kiori hiking up with the setting moon (that’s not the sun!):

Pre, during, and post-recording, the sun is up!

Sunrise and moonset at the same time:
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Dune texture:
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Desert Improvisation Experiments – Day 4

We returned to the Day 3 location. We were satisfied with the setup and wanted to explore further. The wind was stronger, but we persisted. We decided we wanted to experiment with some other visuals to see what we like.


After trying out many different projected visuals we found ourselves attracted more to projecting the code, oddly enough. The water visuals were also nice, but without a brighter projector and a more deeply adequate low-light camera, we weren’t able to capture those images so well. We realized that we’re starting to reach the limits of what we can do with the equipment we brought on this trip.


Lat/Lon: 23°00’36.5″N 53°45’39.6″E

Wind speed: ~21 kph

Desert Improvisation Experiments – Day 3

The wind was still going, but much less than yesterday. Projecting down onto a dune was a good strategy, the results were much better.

Setup: We used some wood to angle the projector down. We’re up on a cliff adjacent to another dune across a small valley. Part of the dune we were projecting onto was above us, but because the projector was an ultra-short throw, it could cover the entire dune.

Far shot:

Results: We were very excited. We’re starting to move towards something we like, though it is hard to capture good video in such low light with the cameras we have (it’s also hard to play the flute in strong wind!). We tried Kiori dancing with the live code environment projected, as well as in water footage. The water footage was much dimmer, even with a 5000 lumen projector.





Lat/Lon: 23°00’36.5″N 53°45’39.6″E

Wind speed: ~19 kph

Desert Improvisation Experiments – Day 2

On the 2nd day we scouted some areas we could potentially project down onto a dune from above. This seemed like a good strategy to get a more even projection. We also prepared more for all the sand by doing some plastic wrapping:

Unfortunately, there was very strong wind during the night. We went to our selected spots in the evening but the wind and resulting sandstorms were too much for us and our tech. We’re determined to return and try again on Day 3.

Strong wind:

One of our selected spots for projecting down:

A beautiful full moon though:

The dune sea is alive and moving:


Lat/Lon: 23°03’50.5″N 53°46’36.7″E

Desert Improvisation Experiments – Day 1

Objective – Kiori Kawai and I are in the UAE desert for 5 days to improvise in our respective artistic mediums. The plan is to project on dunes, live code sounds and visuals, and dance in the dunes and projections.

Location – UAE empty quarter (part of the largest dune sea in the world):

Scouting – We rented a 4×4 and go out during the day each day to scout locations to work with at night. The landscape looks like Mars:

We have to be careful not to get stuck:

Set up: We marked some spots on google maps and then returned at night. We brought a deep cycle boat battery and an inverter to run power for the projector and sound equipment.

All sounds are generated in real-time with my bansuri flute going through the live coding sound environment Tidalcycles. I love Tidal, it’s really easy to improvise in and generate some amazing sounds quickly. It’s built with Haskell and uses Supercollider as a backend. I’m using the great tidal-looper library to sample my flute sounds in real-time to manipulate them in Tidal.

Results Day 1: The results were not very great for day 1. We learned that projecting upwards towards a dune slanting away from the projector is not such a good strategy. We experimented with projecting some water video as well as just the code. Because of the angle of the projector and dune the results didn’t come out very well:


Lat/Lon: 23°01’59.9″N 53°46’49.6″E

Hardware: Bansuri flute w/ contact mic; Art Studio V3 preamp; Apogee Duet audio interface; Macbook Pro; Xiaomi – Mi Laser Projector 150; Black & Decker 500w inverter; deep-cycle boat battery

Software: Tidalcycles; Supercollider; Atom; Atom-Hydra; Tidal-looper; Mutable Instruments Ugens