The Thing: What is Hill?

Hill is a visual and musical software accompanist to live poetic performance.

The Big Idea

Spoken word poetry is my side-passion. There is something about the art form that speaks to me better than any other art form knows how to do. I want to see what can be done if we take a crack at spoken word through the lens of music software.

Music alongside spoken word poetry has been done before. Anis Mojgani included "Window", by The Album Leaf, in his poem, "Milos". Countless poets have hummed or sung short melodies at the beginnings and middles of their works. Music is not foreign to poetry. But software is, and music software is further still.

The Vision

Hill presents you with a colored hilltop on a solid back ground. As you speak the words to a poem, those words will drift into frame and fade out, into the clouds. Your poem can be accompanied by a musical ambience. This ambience will be created by you and will affect the visual temperature of your hill and its sky.

Hill will read in files of a custom schema yet to be defined. These files will act as a "score" for poetic performance and will be written in JSON, XML, Markdown, or another easily parsable markup language. The data in these scores will tell Hill when in the poem to make certain visual changes such as direct manipulation of scene colors, speed of cloud movement, and text animations.

The Inspiration

Hill is inspired by a couple of things. Hill is named after "World's Tallest Hill", a poem by Oklahoma poet Lauren Zuniga. The poem is framed by introducing the audience to Cavanal Hill in Poteau, Oklahoma. This hill, Lauren says, is "1,999 feet. One foot shy of a mountain." "World's Tallest Hill" is a deeply meaningful poem, especially to a queer Oklahoman like myself.

"Mountain" - image by The Verge

The secondary inspiration for Hill is a slightly-interactive video game called Mountain. Mountain is often talked of as a "mountain simulator." The game asks you a series of questions about your mountain at the beginning and then proceeds to build a mountain tailored to you. For the rest of the game, you watch the mountain. It changes. It grows. It dies. It makes noise. It thinks out loud. Mountain is the aesthetic inspiration for Hill.

The Features: What does Hill do?

The Guts: What's Hill made of?

The plans are all tentative at the moment

The Tests

The measure of Hill's "goodness" could be viewed as a rather subjective study. However, I want to provide something concrete to measure. Therefore, as I work with speech recognition in Voce, I will attempt to measure how "responsive" and accurate the speech recognition is. I will also be testing how noticeable and understandable the scene changes based on musical intervals and volume can be.