A creative elixir! Reflecting on HD•BPM

The following post was written and contributed to our blog by artist Ryan Edwards, reflecting on the execution of his Public Art Accelerator project, HD•BPM, which had its debut at the shipyard in East Boston on August 30th and 31st. To read his reflection on the creation of his piece, click here.


A report back from the field on the debut of HD•BPM - as with most creative-tech-based artworks, the first thing we like to share when the piece wraps is: “It worked!” The software ran smoothly, the video feed to projector stayed solid, the drum pads performed beautifully and the LEDs lit with every drum stroke of the public. The few technical bumps we did have were minor and circumvented with quick reboots or a jiggle of a wire harness. 

The presentation partners that were involved with the piece all came through - even though there were some scary moments in the week leading up to the events - but what would a public presentation be without a few scary moments in show week!? Kudos to Dan at Coastal Marine Management, Matt at the HarborArts Shipyard Gallery and Max at Downeast Cider. We also had awesome sponsors come through from Boston Harbor Now, the ICA, Zumix, East Boston Main Streets, State Rep Adrian Madoro and KO Pies. 

 Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Photo by Aram Boghosian.

We chose two big nights to present and the vibe each night was high. The first night coincided with the Boston Harbor fireworks and tons of people were out and about for that. There was about 30 minutes where the fireworks were blasting, our piece was up, the ICA was open, Downeast Cider was poppin’ - it just felt like a wonderful nucleus of creativity, color, openness and inclusivity happening. One of my proudest moments to be an artist here in Boston, truly. The end of that night there were still many people participating, while a group of 15 or so tourists from France danced to the music being made, off to one side. I believe they came to the pier to see the fireworks, and afterwards stumbled on the piece, and had their own dance party, just in front of the ICA. It warms my heart to think they head back to France and share about that night, and summarize the wild, playful, colorful, public energy of our city to their family and friends. 

The piece itself was fun and it seemed to be a real creative elixir for many. I ended up making DJ-style beats to provide a backdrop for the playfulness of the public’s drumming on the pads. I created sound banks that ranged from synthesizer chords echoing to big hip-hop bass drum sounds, to long reverberant chimes all triggered by the public. Every painting being revealed was like a song, with its own preset beat and sound banks. Through a few unique preparations, I was able to create musical scenarios that were success oriented for the public and still retained expressive agency for each drummer. We had many people walk away celebrating themselves and their friends for their new found musical skills… sharing how they drummed so much their shoulders were tired, or that they always wanted to drum and this was the first chance they had ever had! We had one man come up just as the fireworks started who laid into the drums, clearly having played his whole life. Suddenly this lone elder had an audience and a spotlight - every drum stroke the drum lit him up. 

 Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Personally I was excited to see that the public did not need my or my team’s advocacy to play, nor to keep playing. It turns out drums, as I suspected, are a big welcome hello, an invitation in a circular form, a party waiting to happen. As well, I was stoked to observe the many artists whose work was included in the event attend and observe their pieces being projected at a massive scale. One highlight was Cyrille Conan and his daughter Coco playing together, while his piece “Diwezhat Goañv” was drummed into existence. Another was my son and his high school buddies attending and playing for a while, taking turns showing off and alternately being cool and goofy. 

Please enjoy the photos and short video, viewable both here on the Now + There site as well as at my studio website www.MasaryStudios.com. Big thanks to Aram Boghosian for the photos (one of his photos was featured in the piece as well! “Swimmer” - the guy jumping into the Charles River) and Ernesto Galan for the video work. 

Video by Ernesto Galan.

Ryan Edwards of Masary Studios developed HD•BPM as a fellow of the Now + There Public Art Accelerator. Masary works to awaken the built environment through musical performance, projected video and interactive installations. Ryan is trained as a drummer, holds a degree from Berklee College of Music and spent much of his 20’s playing djembe in West Africa. He has written extensively for dance and is interested in the intersection of sound and physical forms. Ryan is a father and lives with his son in Watertown, MA.