Microsoft Band entered the fitness tracker business in 2014, delivering a new and effective tool to people striving to live healthier lives. But its developers probably never imagined that the wristband meant to track workout goals and calorie burn would become an integral piece of performance art.
“We’re really interested in showcasing the way that people in the music industry are considering how technology is impacting their work,” said Amy Sorokas, Partnerships Director for Microsoft Brand Studios. As part of the Music X Technology program, in partnership with creative music agency Listen, Microsoft has been teaming up with artists around the world who use Microsoft technology to create innovative works of musical masterpiece.
“With all of these projects we are working with a variety of artists and experimenting with the technology to see how we can create new music experiences,” said Steve Milton, one of Listen’s co-founders.
“We had been hacking the Microsoft Band and discovered some great potential, but we were still looking for the right musician to work with. We knew that Broods were developing a video for ‘Heartlines,’ so this seemed like a perfect fit.”
Microsoft Band, in turn, got itself a double meaning: the band that wraps around the wrist to measure physical activity now functions as part of the musical band Broods, a New Zealand brother-sister duo whose song ‘Heartlines’ captures the emotional journey of a lover longing to feel her partner’s “heartlines.” During the music video performance, vocalist Georgia Nott wore the Microsoft Band 2, which captured her biodata readings and were then translated into a beautiful geometric display in post-production. The interface picks up data points from the Band, including from the heart rate, galvanic skin response and accelerometer sensors. Broods are taking the customized Band on tour, meaning every performance will be a different experience for the band and the audience. Broods launches the bio-interactive show on its U.S. tour this summer.
“The visual effects are driven by Georgia’s energy and her performance,” Milton said. “We’re translating her experience as a performer into the visual effects for the video as well as for their upcoming tour.
“We’re kind of building an abstract piece,” said Dan Moore, the media artist working on the project. The pulsating heartbeat, he explained, will be represented moving across the stage, right to left and left to right, with the help of led light strips.
“Music and a person’s physical response has always been interesting to me,” said Moore, who moved away from what he calls “bank software” to create innovative visual systems and installations.
“It’s really fun to see a brand like Microsoft do this. They gave us complete creative freedom to make something cool.”
“Whether it’s Microsoft Band or Kinect or Azure, we’re interested in telling stories about how folks in the music industry are using technology to do exciting work,” Sorokas said. “You think of art installations of old – you had to go to the gallery. Now technology is allowing these artists to do interesting things that people can experience in many different places, and they have all these tools to express themselves in amazing ways.”
“Music isn’t only about satisfying one sense (hearing) anymore. It’s a whole experience,” said Nott. “‘Heartlines’ is about feeling something that you can’t see, so using Microsoft Band is perfect to portray that.”
As an electropop band, working with technology is crucial to Broods.
“Technology is a massive part of creating and performing our music,” Nott said. “Art has no boundaries, and the more technology develops and intersects with art the more we’ll be able to create.”
The whole experience of seeing the biodata projected into abstract, morphing shapes is “kinda buzzy,” said Nott.
“There’s so much we can do with technology like this,” Milton said, “taking human gesture and human biology and translating that into music and sound and visual.
“I’m excited to see how far we can push this.”
This is the latest artist collaboration in Microsoft’s Music X Tech program, an initiative that celebrates forward-thinking artists who are using technology to transform the way we create and experience music. Through monthly artist collaborations, the program seeks to empower artists with unique opportunities to create one-of-a-kind experiences for their fans. Learn more at microsoft.com/musicxtech