Posts Tagged ‘james sullivan’

My mother took in renters, and the last guy who rented my brother’s old room was a serious tinkerer.

There was no space to move around among all the gadgets and spare parts, but he did manage to squeeze us in when we were around and show us a particularly cool invention.

It was a colorful display on a computer screen that responded to sound, loudness, and rhythm of music.

I was thinking about that guy as I read the story that James Sullivan wrote for the Boston Globe about Bill Sebastian, inventor of “a kind of optical synthesizer called the Outerspace Visual Communicator, or OVC.

“Designed to let the user ‘play’ with images as part of a musical composition, the original OVC was a custom-built keyboard featuring an array of sensors to be brushed with fingertips (‘like fingerpainting’). It created dynamic color changes in the lights on a structure overhead, such as a dome over a concert stage.

“Sebastian performed with the OVC in a few extended runs with Sun Ra and his big band, the Arkestra.”

Now Sebastian has built “a new visual synthesizer — this one in 3-D…

“For the past several months, two fellow engineers and computer programmers have been working …  on proprietary computer programs and prototypes of the new OVC, which, in place of the keyboard and buttons, is operated by hand controllers that look a bit like robotic arms fitted with valves (like those of a trumpet) and sliders (roughly analogous to the frets on a guitar). Sebastian envisions applications for the 3-D OVC ranging from planetariums to virtual reality headsets.” More.

Whatever happened to that guy at my mother’s house? What was his name again?

Photograph of Bill Sebastian, Visual Music Systems, by Dina Rudick, Globe staff

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I was thinking about houses this past weekend.

First, there is this house on the grounds of a private school near where I live. I snapped it on my walk.

Concord Academy Treehouse

Second, there is this house on a Hudson River Estate falling down around the ears of the latest, impecunious generation.

Photo of Rokeby, a 43-room house on the Hudson River, by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times. New York Times story here.

Third, there is a tiny house that a Hampshire College student is living in as a senior project.

James Sullivan writes, “As a child, Hampshire College senior Nara Williams hated being told to pick up after herself. This semester, she’s learning to keep things tidy — very tidy.

“For her senior project, she is living in a 130-square-foot house to explore the realities and benefits of living small.

“A few weeks ago, Williams took delivery on a model home used as a showcase for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., a leader in the burgeoning ‘small house’ movement. …

“The housing project, Williams said, is her inquiry into ‘viable alternatives’ to the American dream. Blogging about the experience, she is raising questions about property ownership, material goods, consumption, sustainable living, and other issues in an era marked by housing and environmental concerns.”

Read about Rokeby, the Hudson River estate passed down through too many generations, and read about the tiny house, and pray that no one bequeaths you anything like the former. A tree house or a tiny house are what you want if you prefer to own property and not have property own you.

Update: Omigosh, a scathing memoir is just out on what it was like to grow up at Rokeby — reviewed in the Globe, here

Photo: Darren Durlach/Globe Staff
Boston Globe story here.

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