St├ęphane Perrin
 August 2008


Description

In a dark room, eight Soundrops (small keyholders that emit sound when pushed) are hanging from the roof. Only one of them is lighten up as an invitation to be pushed. When pushed, all the Soundrops are lighten up and a video of a pre-recorded play of the video game Super Mario Bros. is displayed on the wall.
It can be noticed that the video is dark and the background sound is barely audible. Moreover the sounds related to the actions of Mario himself are muted.

The participant has the possibility to restore the sound and the image to their original settings through the Soundrops (each representing a given action of Mario in the original game and emitting the related sound sample through a built-in speaker) by acting in perfect synchronization with the actions of the character Mario on screen. The  volume of the background music is gradually increased and the original luminosity restored each time the correct Soundrop is pushed at the right instant. If the participant fails to do so, the background music is decreasing at the same time that the display becomes gradually darker. The sounds related to the actions of Mario are emitted by the Soundrops themselves. In this manner, in addition to restore/remember the game, the audience reconstructs the soundtrack using the Soundrops as an instrument and the display as a score.
Artist statement

By emitting sound samples of the video game, the Soundrops trigger memories of the original video game and more precisely memories of having played the game or just having heard about it. But it will not necessarily create the urge to play the game itself.
Sonata per Mario acts in a similar but extended way than the Soundrops by making people interact with a representation of the video game (pre-recorded plays) if they want to keep it from falling into oblivion. If they fail to play the instrument constituted by the Soundrops accordingly to the score that is shown to them, the video game is gradually distorted, both auditory and visually. Slowly, the game is fading out from their view, their hearing and eventually their memory. The audience becomes more of a restorer than a consumer that must call on his/her own memories to keep Mario alive.


Technical statement

Sonata per Mario was developed using an Arduino board to connect the Soundrops to a computer running an application initially built  with the free software Processing and then ported to openFrameworks. The lighting (high luminosity LEDs) is controlled by the application.
The pre-recorded plays were recorded using the re-released original video game on a Wii that is identical to the original game.


drawing by A. Cassinelli
Setup

The setup of Sonata per Mario as an installation is very simple. The interactive part itself is constituted of the Soundrops, a Bluetoooth Arduino, the power supply and LEDs that are all integrated into a single device that can be easily hung up. In addition to this interactive part, a display and speakers are needed. The computer that is communicating wirelessly through Bluetooth with the Arduino is hidden to the audience.
The audience interact with the installation as follows:
(1) In a dark environment, a light is illuminating the START Soundrop only,  the display is dark and the sound is muted.
(2) As soon as someone pushes the START Soundrop, all the Soundrops are illuminated, the display is still darken but the character Mario can be seen and the sound is slightly increased.
(3) The audience can then interact with the installation for a while before it returns to the initial state waiting for someone else to push START.


Media

Video 2'09" [640x480 5.6MB wmv] [320x240 4MB mov

Exhibitions

Sonata per Mario was presented at the Dorkbot Tokyo on 2008.07.26.

Notes

A "game" version of Sonata per Mario was developped with all the features of a real game (points, highscores). The description of this version is available here.



Acknowledgement

Many thanks to Alvaro Cassinelli and Monica Bressaglia for their help, valuable comments and inspiration, and to Thomas for showing me my first Soundrop.

September 2008, St├ęphane Perrin