Wii Expands Musical, Educational Opportunities for WIU Music Professor James Caldwell

James Caldwell explains Wii composing on YouTube.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are ways that people can unleash their inner Slash and Eddie Van Halen personas, but the Wii can go well beyond those two popular games to be used for innovative - and educational - opportunities within music education.

Western Illinois University Music Professor James Caldwell has used computers since the 1980s to make music. A few years ago after reading an article in Electronic Musician about using the Wii to make music, he decided to try it out.

“I borrowed a Wii remote from my son-in-law, and spent a weekend playing around with possibilities,” Caldwell said. “I really was intrigued at the ways physical motion could be captured and used to control music generated within a computer and played through speakers.”

Caldwell, an active composer, has played two of his solo Wii pieces on national festivals of electronic and digital music. “Alternative instruments and controllers are an important part of the scene of experimental computer music these days, and I’ve seen a lot of interest in my work with the Wii controllers,” Caldwell said. His most recent piece, “Texturologie 12: Gesture Studies,” was premiered on the WIU campus November 16, 2011.

Caldwell’s wife, Nancy, thought that some of the sounds he was exploring when he started composing with the devices and the gestures he was using reminded her of handbell music, so she proposed they work together on a piece for the Knox Bell Choir, an ensemble of 7th through 12th grade students that Nancy directs at First Presbyterian Church in Macomb.

Read more and link to the YouTube videos.

Caldwell performed Texturologie 8b: Hyperbell, one of his pieces for computer-generated music controlled by Wii remote, at the Studio 300 Digital Art and Music Festival at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, on September 16, 2011. He also gave a presentation, “Interactive Performance with Wii Controllers.”

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