Juggling Multimedia Tools With Creative Expression
Jane Bianchi, Wake Forest University

For my final project in my First Year Seminar, I created a digital poem accompanied by a musical composition that I wrote and performed myself.

Beginning this project, I was skeptical about displaying my poem in a multimedia fashion. I was under the impression that the beauty of poetry arises from the fact that the interpretations are left completely up to the reader. I thought adding photos, artwork, and sound might take away from the ambiguity that often makes poetry so interesting.

I learned how to compose my own musical composition using a keyboard and turning a MIDI file into an mp3 file. By writing my own piece of music, I was able to more fully express the tone and mood of my poem. The beginning of the piece is slow and delicate, gradually builds to be more cheerful and upbeat, and ends the way it begins by subtly fading out. This structure mimics the audience's reaction to my poem, "Street Juggler." At first the tone of the music and the poem is gentle, as in line three-- "like newborns in his palms, he cradles and caresses." The poem becomes more active in the middle section where the objects the juggler is tossing are compared to "air-popped kernels" and "beanbag planets." There the reader gains a sense of motion as the speed of the music picks up. Towards the end, after the audience sees the connection between the airborne objects and the planet Earth, they begin to worry about their own fate while the music slows and grows faint.

In my first version of my digital poem, I included pictures and interactivity. Using Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Director, I discovered how to modify my photos and my artwork. Through Photoshop, I was able to "paint" three colorful balls and using Director, I "animated" them and made them bounce around the screen randomly. I also was able to use Director to adjust the timing and the transitions. I made my pictures "dissolve" or "fade" on and off the stage, pausing before each change for as many seconds as I chose.

My professors liked the first version of my final project, but the part they liked the best was the originality of my poem and musical composition. They suggested that I do a second version of my poem emphasizing just these two elements. This is the version I present here.

From this project, I realized what unique possibilities lie within the realm of multimedia art. I found that multimedia elements do not necessarily hinder expression, but rather can broaden it. The computer offers electronic tools that are useful in further developing ideas that were originally conveyed only through the poem itself. These elements can also highlight or emphasize certain portions and provide new angles of interpretation. However, a combination of media -- including photographs, sound, text, and interactivity -- can sometimes scatter the reader's attention and dilute the effect of the most important elements of a work. In some cases, simplicity is more effective.

About the author...

The author's poem,"Street Juggler", and her music composed for this poem. (~2.3 MB)
Requires Shockwave plugin.

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