Project Summary: Beep Goes The Weasel is an interactive project that will engage individuals (who may never think of themselves as remotely musical) in playing electronic instruments. The project is designed to draw in curious spectators and turn them into band members, one at a time, playing unconventional instruments such as circuit-bent fruits and vegetables. The venue will be at local drive-in theaters, and will use the FM speakers for sound transmission and the screen to display synchronized 8-bit images – as well as video of the performers.
Project details: Beep Goes The Weasel will be a summer series at local drive-in theaters in the Kansas City area. The interactive music project will take place before the movie starts, and then between movies. David Cedillo and Matt Hawkins, dressed in hospital scrubs and custom paper toy masks, will invite people to join them near the bottom of the screen. Hawkins and Cedillo will start out with conventional instruments like guitar and mandolin, and will play familiar songs like Pop Goes the Weasel, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, On Top of Old Smokey, etc. There will be pauses in each song where an unconventional instrument will be introduced. Hawkins or Cedillo will play it first, then they will ask onlookers (one at a time) to put on scrubs, a mask, and fill in the blanks by playing the unconventional instrument. As they play these songs, synchronized 8-bit patterns will undulate on the screen.
Angie Wolford is the sound engineer, and will use a mixing board to ensure everyone can hear each other. After they have played “fill in the blank” music with a few individuals, the team will engage the movie-going motorists in similar fashion. Kansas City drive-in theaters have an FM transmitter, and the audio for the project will be connected to that sound system. This connection will allow the musicians to communicate to people parked further back who won’t be able to see them. They will play a song that the audience can hear over their car stereo (or drive in speaker), and every car in the theater will be instructed when to honk in unison for songs like Pop Goes the Weasel or Tainted Love.
One of the goals of this project is to encourage ordinary people to discover something artistic inside her or himself. It is designed so that a seemingly non-artistic person can see his/her own potential at the push of a button, the flip of a switch, or the touch of a carrot. Playing an unconventional instrument can shift someone outside her normal way of hearing things.
Another goal is to create a sense of community with an impromptu band. Each individual that plays should enter into the experience with the knowledge that they have something to gain, and something to offer. Bands are very communal: every member shares something and listens, in addition to playing something that warrants attention from other band members.
David Cedillo started making noise with electronic gadgets near the corner of 18th Street and Baltimore, KCMO, on First Fridays a little over two years ago. He started out with a light-sensitive, handheld theremin, and each month he would bring something new (handheld synths, circuit-bent toys, a drum shirt). He called it Mondo Beep, and during the first year a few people would stop, talk, and ask questions. Only a handful of them would pick up a gadget and make noise with him.
Then, last April, he bought a ‘makey makey’ circuit board. This device made it possible to play vegetables, fruit, metal, and people like a keyboard. Once he brought THAT to First Fridays and connected a laptop to carrots, pizza and squash, it grabbed people’s attention and almost everyone stopped and played. Some of them were musicians, but most of them weren’t.
David didn’t really play an instrument until he was in his mid twenties. He always thought that musicians knew how to play something before they picked it up, that they were born with that gift. His little sister learned to play the flute in high school. Later she told David that she didn’t know how to play it before then. This made him want to help other people be as brave as she was, and not wait forever to pick up an instrument of some kind and enjoy its unique sound.
Matt Hawkins is a paper-toy-making, toy-designing, illustrating, banjo-picking, incessant doodler working away in an attic in Kansas City. Matt weaves humor and energy into bold, whimsical paper toys for humorous and often surprising results. He shares his work and offers free paper toys to download and build at his site http://www.custompapertoys.com. Matt’s work has been shown in art galleries and exhibitions from LA to Amsterdam to Tokyo, and his paper toys and paper sculpture illustrations have been featured in many books and magazines.