Nio is a terminally-ahead-of-its-time interactive audio/visual piece I created in 2000 with a commission from turbulence.org in New York. I wrote it in Director.
It is now available as a 32-bit executable for Windows. For the real experience, download it, unzip it, and double click on the exe to start the interactive app. To exit, press the Esc key.
Here's a video about Nio and another interactive audio piece I did called Jig-Sound.
Nio, like Jim Andrews's earlier visual poetry, explores the idea that poetic experience is not the exclusive territory of words and lines. The work casts the interactor in the position of composer, mixing and sequencing doo-wop voice audio samples and corresponding lettristic animations that swirl about in three dimensions. Without providing any form of explicit representation, the piece creates a playful environment for evocative synesthesia.
Jim Andrews’ work Nio presents the reader with a complex aesthetic experience that
makes use of phonemes and letters but not of words. Andrews’s piece is a cross
between a sound poem, kinetic visual art, and an interactive musical
instrument. In two verses, Andrews provides the reader with two different ways
of mixing clusters of letters, each of which have a musical voice track
attached to them. In the first verse, those clusters of letters then do a kind
of animated dance in the center of a circle as the voice loop they signify is
sung. The loops are layered on top of each other, allowing the interactor to
compose a shifting doo-wop melody/animation. In an accompanying essay, ‘Nio
and the Art of Interactive Audio for the Web’, Andrews explains that he’s ‘trying
to synthesize and transform image, sound, and text, not simply juxtapose them.
I seek some sort of critical mass to fuse them’. He describes the work as a ‘synthesis
of literacies’. In Nio and in much of his other work, including his
visual poetry, Andrews attempts to rethink the relationship between poetry and
language, creating interactive poetic experiences that utilize texts of various
kinds that don’t rely on words to provoke a response from the reader. Letters
in motion and the human voice alone, devoid of explicit denotation, can impart
a great of emotional and semantic content. Nio is proof of the idea that
poems needn’t be composed of words in order to be poetic and evocative.
Jim Andrews’ Nio (2001) is a digital “lettrist” poem that not
only combines different medial processes, but also merges art with
technology and technological applications. Here, as in much other
digital poetry, the concept of play has pride of place as a bodily (re-
)activity: Nio only materializes in a ‘ludic’ interaction with the
reader/user. Displayed as a circle of icons issuing images and sounds,
Nio’s design and appearance is to a certain extent dependent on my
actions and interferences as a reader/player: the icons I bring to live
participate in a dance of letters that change their shape with every
new addition or deletion, the music changing only minimally in its
repetitive gestures. If Wallace Stevens once claimed that «poetry is the
subject of the poem», Nio performs this quite literally as the constant
(re-)creation of lettrist shapes acting as the protagonists of the poem.
Jim Andrews, who gives us the term "langu(im)age," works with individual letters which he can animate and
overlay with sequences of sound loops in his Nio engine. He is not primarily, or at all, concerned with providing a
reading experience. He says:
Much of my work is lettristic in the sense that rather than working with words and extended texts, I work
with individual letters. Part of my attraction to working this way is philosophical and sonical... but part of it is
also out of interest in treating literary objects/material, and individual letters are quite well suited to such
treatment. Individual letters are graphically more interesting than whole words... [they] take up less memory, and are
thereby manipulated more quickly. And they spin nicer than words do, for instance, because of their shapes. There is
more variety in their shapes than there is in words. And they are quite mysterious to me. Geometry and basic
architectures of language. (E-mail to Webartery list, February 10, 2001, on thread "re: teaser 2" [2001b])
Later, he says: "... it's really when you get down to the word and the letter, rather than the paragraph, that language
cracks open and code spills out" [Webartery list, February 24, on thread "checkout counter"]. One feels the difference
from the stenographic model, a model of accommodation rather than breaking and entering. But one also feels, and can
sympathize with, an attraction to a different arena, the world of the purely sonic and visual, where compounds stay
themselves and are thereby experienced more fluidly. However, oscillation does occur in Andrews's Nio, between the
visual and the sonic elements, and this oscillation is elegant, playful, and deeply pleasing.