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Title: Verbal percussion : lesson 1
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091767/00001
 Material Information
Title: Verbal percussion : lesson 1
Physical Description: ii, 26 p. ; ill.
Language: English
Creator: Kirker, Aaron ( Dissertant )
Slawson, Brian ( Thesis advisor )
Stenner, Jack ( Reviewer )
Hwang, Conni ( Reviewer )
Publisher: College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2009
Abstract: Comprehending the visual language system of traditional music notation can be a deterrent for people who want to participate in the percussive arts. As a trained percussionist, I too, have battled memorizing the numerous rules and symbols that comprise traditional Western music notation. In fact, it was the daunting task of translating music notation that led me to lose interest in continuing my percussion career. Shaped from the desire to reconnect with my passion for drumming, Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 explores an alternative: communicating through a different visual language called verbal percussion. Using an alternative visual language in place of standard percussion notation accomplishes two goals: it challenges conventional methods of music composition and sound visualization, and it elevates interest in the percussive arts and notation design for both the viewer and myself. To address that interest, I have designed an interactive experience that allows participants to engage with a snare drum as a part of a call and response activity (fig 1). This interaction is didactic in nature, allowing people of all ages to learn by doing. At the same time, participants actively visualize percussive sound through typography. In addition, video documentation is presented to support the definition of verbal percussion, as well as showcase how it can be used as an educational tool.
General Note: Graphic Design terminal project
General Note: Project in lieu of thesis
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 26 pages, also includes graphics.
General Note: Includes vita.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091767
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
    Table of Contents
        Page ii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Further directions
        Page 14
        Page 15
    Project images
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    Biographical sketch
        Page 24
    Signature page
        Page 25
    Grant of permissions
        Page 26
Full Text

Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the
Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Fine Arts










Committee Chair: Brian Slawson
Committee Members: Jack Stenner and Connie Hwang
Major Department: Art and Art History




A BSTRACT .................. ............. ........................................................................... 01

INTRO DUCTION ...................................................................................................................... 01

BACKGROUN D ......................................................................................................................... 02

RESEA RCH Q UESTION ........................................................................................................ 03

RESEA RCH PROCESS .......................................................................................................... 03

M ETHODO LOGY ................................................... .......................... 06

EX PLO RATION AN D DESIGN ............................................................................................. 09

THE CREATIV E PIECES ........................................................................................................ II
Installation Space
Call and Response
Video One: Instruction
Video Two: Field
Video Three: Marching
Video Four: Line
Informational Display

CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................... 13

FURTHER DIRECTIONS ....................................................................................................... 14

BIBLIOGRA PHY ....................................................................................................................... 15

PROJECT IM AGES ................................................................................................................. 16

ACKN OW LEDGM ENTS ......................................................................................................... 23

BIOGRA PH ICA L SKETCH ................................................................... ......................... 24

fig. 1 Participants interacting with Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1.

Comprehending the visual language system of traditional music
notation can be a deterrent for people who want to participate
in the percussive arts. As a trained percussionist, I too, have
battled memorizing the numerous rules and symbols that
comprise traditional Western music notation. In fact, it was
the daunting task of translating music notation that led me to
lose interest in continuing my percussion career. Shaped from
the desire to reconnect with my passion for drumming, Verbal
Percussion: Lesson 1 explores an alternative: communicating
through a different visual language called verbal percussion. Using
an alternative visual language in place of standard percussion
notation accomplishes two goals: it challenges conventional
methods of music composition and sound visualization, and
it elevates interest in the percussive arts and notation design
for both the viewer and myself. To address that interest, I have
designed an interactive experience that allows participants to
engage with a snare drum as a part of a call and response activity
(fig 1). This interaction is didactic in nature, allowing people of
all ages to learn by doing. At the same time, participants actively
visualize percussive sound through typography. In addition,
video documentation is presented to support the definition of
verbal percussion, as well as showcase how it can be used as an
educational tool.

Verbal percussion is a visual representation of an oral and aural
communicative tool used by drummers who are rehearsing
and performing music called vocal percussion. Advanced from
vocal percussion, inspired by concrete poetry and formed by
expressive typography, verbal percussion's focus is placed on using
onomatopoeia-like words to emulate the sounds of a percussion
instrument; a simplistic example is the phrase "ping-pong."
The words' phonetic value provide pitch, allowing a percussion
instrument to be dedicated to each word. Once a word is attached
to a sound/instrument, verbal percussion serves as a typographic
notation system for reading, writing, performing and visualizing
drum music.

Ideally, Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 provides a means to strengthen
the relationship between music and graphic design (for both
designer and viewer) through various methods of interdisciplinary
research. The combination of graphic design, digital media and
percussive arts practices contributes to the expansion of design
research as an interdisciplinary process through topics such as
sonic design, visual language, visualization theory, notation
design, musical communication, concrete poetry, interactive
art, and didactic techniques. This combined effort of multiple
topics and influences makes Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 a true
exploration of an alternative visual language that can be used as

fig. 2 University of Florida Drumline.

fig. 3 Me and my ... I- Rock drum set.

fig. 4 Me playing the snare drum in my high school's band.

a communicative tool for both music and design. It is my belief
that discovering innovative vehicles for visualizing and delivering
information is a key component in advancing the practice of
graphic design.

With a primary goal of developing an innovative visual language
through interdisciplinary research, I have drawn from an array of
collected data from the University of Florida Drumline. Between
August and December of 2008, I followed the UF Drumline
(fig. 2) through their practice sessions, collecting a library of
photographs, video, audio, and interviews. This collection
process informed the development of ethnographic research
and offered an opportunity to re-engage with the percussive arts
from a personal standpoint. The "backstage" perspective of how
a drumline operates and strives for perfection translated into
a self-authored investigation of my work as a designer, visual
artist and musician. More importantly, this research supports
the advancement of the percussive arts and music education,
through the power of graphic design, and it reinforced my belief
that music and art education are not only vital to every child's
development, but can assist in improving mental health while
building a sense of community among all types of people.

Not every child has the opportunity to learn to play an
instrument. Luckily for me, at the age of 10 my mother enrolled
me in middle school band, where I began formal training in
music. From day one of class, I knew exactly what instrument I
wanted to play drums. My decision was likely initially informed
by the Fraggle Rock drum set (fig. 3) my parents gave me at an
early age, and solidified after watching my older brother playing
the trumpet. The trumpet looked and sounded interesting, but
drums proved to be where the action was. Together, multiple
percussion instruments had a singular mission: get loud and
supply the rhythm for the rest of the band. Being a drummer
made sense to me.

Playing drums became my passion. From grades five to seven,
I took private lessons in addition to band class at school. From
seventh grade on I became a part of the West Union high school
marching band's drumline (fig. 4). Since my school had no
football program, marching band took its place in the line up of
seasonal sports, and I participated in both.

I gained valuable experience working as a team and being a leader
in both programs, but I saw a special kind of success as a part of
the drumline. We were acknowledged across Ohio as a premier
drumline and a group of well-versed percussionists. We racked
up awards and accolades both as a group and as individuals. But
even though our accomplishments were outstanding, a feeling

r I~6ii. r4.iV
h ia~ a& 4 _

fig. 5 Members of my high school drumline.

fig. 6 Participant interacting with the call and repsonse activity.

of burnout overshadowed our success. The learning process and
intense practice sessions had grown tiresome. I felt overwhelmed
by the daunting task of reading and performing standardized
compositions. By our junior year of high school, the majority
of the drumline (fig. 5) had called it quits, including me. The
intimidation of acquiring an excellent skill set in notation and
composition comprehension necessities and requirements to
advance in music at the collegiate level led me to an another
direction. I wanted an alternative approach to engage with formal
notation and composition as a stepping-stone in music education.

I put down the drumsticks over 10 years ago. Since then, I have
been on a journey to reconnect with drumming. It wasn't until
I started creating personal work again that I noticed a desire to
re-evaluate my relationship with percussion. Additionally, the
aspiration to inform others about marching percussion through
design became apparent. With design as my instrument, my
current work provides an introduction to the percussive arts
through my eyes. Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 offers the opportunity
to strike a drum and feel the same excitement of interaction I felt
that Christmas morning with my Fraggle Rock drumset.

Letters are signs for sounds.1 Eric Gill

Traditional drum notation is effective and useful in
communicating musical ideas, but can an alternative notation
system use word-based typography to more accurately represent
drum notation? Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 tries to answer that
question, via exploration of an alternative visual language that
can be used as a communicative and didactic tool for both
graphic design and drum notation. Through an interactive call
and response exercise (fig. 6), this work utilizes typography as
a signifier for a stroke on a drum, visualizing verbal percussion
as notation and composition. To reinforce the concept of verbal
percussion and to help articulate and formalize key thought
processes, it includes research video of the University of Florida
Drumline. The primary goal is to inform others about drumming
through typography, and offer an opportunity to interact with
tactile items such as a drum and drum sticks, supporting the
advancement of the percussive arts.

Simply put, designers who can harness the power of research will
help design become a more muscular discipline, acknowledging and
,,.: ... its implicitpower in explicit ways.2

'Alan Fletcher, The Art of Looking Sideways (London: Phaidon, 2001) 474.
2Brenda Laurel, Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (Cambridge,
Mass: MIT Press, 2003) 18,19.

fig. 7 Drum Words, 2006, Vinyl on wall.

fig. 8 The Lyrical Battles ofthe Civil War, 2007, C II ,

fig. 9 Gait Rhythm, 2007, Digital video.

During the past three years, design with a focus on informing and/
or educating has been my "design power" and theme. Because
of my belief that transcription of information is the basis of a
designer's role in society, much of my experimentation has been on
developing visual language systems that can be applied to sonic or
rhythmic-based information such as drum notation or human gait.
Designer Sam Gray said it best: "The biggest challenge in graphic
design is making sense of the information in the world today
instead of just being overwhelmed by it. We're the ones organizing
all that content and data and giving it a face that's approachable."3

I first experimented with verbal percussion and made an attempt
to transcribe sonic or rhythmic-based information in a piece
entitled Drum Words (fig. 7). This work displayed vinyl letterforms
and glyphs to represent drum notation. A listening device was
attached to assist the viewer in following work as a musical piece.
Experimenting with materials and interactivity proved to be
a valuable exercise in terms of lending to my following work.
During the creation of Drum Words, my design aesthetic was
influenced by researching the Futurist art movement, including
Filippo Marinetti's work Zang Tumb Tumb. His work changed
my perception of the written word, and challenged me to use
typography in more expressive ways.

The work that followed Drum Words again used typography to
visualize information this time, though, it mapped battle songs
of the Civil War. Focusing on mapping practices, The Lyrical Battles
of the Civil War (fig. 8) is a lyrical investigation of the Northern
and Southern armies. In book form, each song's lyrics are used
to map the battle sites and imagery of the American Civil War.
Influenced by the writings of Edward Tufte, I acquired guidelines
in formulating a mapping framework to use in my future work.
Tufte explains, "Mapping helps tell why the image matters."4

Two works that concluded my visual experimentation and
preparation for my project in lieu of thesis combined both visual
language and mapping systems through video analysis. Working
with video would prove to be my medium of choice to articulate
my ideas. As an introduction to using video, Gait Rhythm (fig. 9)
investigated human gait by comparing beats of a bongo drum to
the footsteps of a person. Colored dots marked the footsteps to
arrange a gait composition. This work immediately influenced an
additional experiment (stairs 1) that utilized verbal percussion to
map the sounds of person's footsteps on a stairwell. The result of
using verbal percussion as a mapping tool to describe the sound

3-": 11, c .. Design," Esquire Aug. 2008: 108.
4Edward Tufre, Beautiful Evidence (Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press, 2006) 45.

fig. 10 Me at the Musee du Louvre, Paris.

hg. 11 Wassily Kandinsky, Un White 1, 1923.
Oil on canvas. 105 x 98cm.
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

of a footstep sparked a question could verbal percussion act the
same way in analyzing the action of drumming? With this question
in my mind, I went to Paris, France (fig. 10) to gain a different
perspective and reflect on my research and experiential work.

Learning to look around sparks curiosity encourages serendipity.
Amazing connections get made that way; questions are raised -and
sometimes answered that would never be otherwise.5

While staying in Paris, I was privileged to see the works of Pablo
Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Liszl6
Moholy-Nagy, and current installation artist Sophie Calle;
their work heightened a desire to expand my research outward,
inspiring me to capture connections along the way. I found those
connections soon after returning home from Paris; my attention
turned to experimental music/sound and notation design as I
reflected upon Kandinsky's On White II (fig. 11), a work that
expressed visual music through graphic elements. Kandinsky's
synesthetic technique led me to other artists who proved to
influence my research and creative interests: John Cage, Steve
Reich, Norman McLaren, Hans-Christopher Stiener, Gyirgy
Ligeti, and Evelyn Glennie. Each contributed to contextualizing
the experimental music/sound process for me. Their work implied
that it is acceptable to see and hear music/sound in alternative
ways, which gave me confidence that the concept of verbal
percussion could be validated.

Building on the concept that music/sound can be separated
from conventional methods of display, my research became more
dedicated to alternative notation and composition systems and
how they can be presented. I found similar concepts in composer
Ed Sueta's systematic method for teaching drumming based on
syllables, which leads to a sound rhythmic perception. I also found
parallels in George Grant's Drum Talk, a modern approach to an
ancient method of combining drumming with talking in order
to teach children how to play drums. Additionally, I noticed
how the video game Rock Band (produced by Harmonix Music
Systems) incorporated a karaoke-type interface that uses game
play to introduce notation as a color-coded system. Among the
three methods I explored Sueta, Grant and Rock Band- Rock
Bandseemed to be the most intuitive due to its visualization
techniques, seemingly answering critics who have expressed that
a lack of visualization graphics can be a barrier to success in
enjoying producing music from notation compositions. But at
the same time, Rock Bandlacks notational qualities, which may

'John R. Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in
Everyday Places (New York: Walker and Co, 1998) 5,6.

fig. 12 Marching snare drum.

fig. 13 University of Florida Drumline at rehearsal on campus.

hinder the experience of performing music. As an improvement
on music-oriented game play, Nintendo released Wii Music as a
more accurate performance-centered interaction. All four methods
provided examples of alternative notation systems and interaction
with composition that I could infuse in my work.

As a result of my research process (experimental design, the trip
to Paris, exploring alternative notation systems and modes of
delivering information for educational purposes), I was eager
to start toward the development of verbal percussion, and in
particular the goal of employing verbal percussion as a visual
language to assist participants in learning to play drums. I
wanted to combine my research with personal experience of
using vocal percussion, morphing vocal into verbal by instilling
typographic words as percussion notation. These typographic
compositions would hopefully allow participants to be more
accepting of engaging with this form of music notation. To avoid
overwhelming participants who might shy away from multiple
percussion instruments, I narrowed down the selection to just one
drum a marching snare drum (fig. 12). This decision allowed
research to be more focused and intense, and it also provided a
stable jumping-off point for introducing the concept of verbal
percussion; the snare drum is the instrument I was trained to play
as part of a marching drumline. The snare drum is a key part of
a marching percussion ensemble (also known as a drumline or
battery) that requires the ability to play fast at multiple heights.

With the snare drum as a focus, I began video recording and
photographing practice sessions of the University of Florida
Drumline (fig. 13). During this documentary process, I found
vocal percussion to be an integral part of the group's rehearsal
regimen. Excited and with direction validated from that finding,
I began sketching notation compositions, transcribing instances
of vocal percussion into verbal percussion via typographic words.
I also began to video myself performing these new typographic
compositions. Along with the captured footage, photographs
and sketches, my documentation also included interviews of
friends and family ones both with and without percussion
backgrounds. Obtaining their feedback and suggestions as an
outside perspective on verbal percussion assisted me in advancing
my creative process. Analysis of my documentation and feedback
resulted in the identification of some core areas of importance
that needed to be highlighted in explaining verbal percussion.
Before embarking further into the creation process, I divided these
areas into three main categories: ones visualizing the typographic,
communicative and didactic qualities of verbal percussion.

7 .. ..

fig. 14 Filippo Marinetti from Words in Liberty, 1919.
C I on paper.
Milan, Italy.

Humans cultivate the ability to create and respond to rhythm
before they are confronted with the complexities of written and
spoken language. The pulses, beats and vibrations of structured
rhythm and melody -music represent a language that is
naturally and universally felt by individual, no matter what
their geographic origin.6

Structure, motion and time are common aspects of both
typography and music. Combine these three aspects and the result
is rhythm, which is described by music theorist Carl Schachter
as "the organization of time, more significantly as organized
movement in time."' Organization lends to structure, driven by
a system of motion and time. Speech relies heavily on rhythmic
structure, and since typography is the visualization of a spoken
language, verbal percussion can manipulate motion and time to
form typographic and musical compositions.

An example of how verbal percussion could operate in a
composition is concrete poetry. According to author Johanna
Drucker, "the term concrete poetry is used to designate all manner
of shaped, typographically complex, visually self-conscious
poetic works."8 It is from concrete poets like Filippo Marinetti
(fig. 14) that we see typography expressing sound, action and
movement through onomatopoeic language, birthing a specific
visual aesthetic for compositions and verbal languages. Designer
and author Frank Armstrong writes: "verbal languages can be
both denotative (a communicative function, as in prose) and
connotative (an aesthetic function, as in poetry). Like language,
typography can also communicate on an aesthetic or semantic
level, higher than its syntactic surface structure."9

Typography and music can both be poetic in structure, combining
the visual qualities of motion and timing to produce rhythmic
compositions. Verbal percussion borrows from these ideals to
assist in visualizing percussion notation as a graphic design
composition. The notation system of verbal percussion provides
a visual documentation of the temporal action of a spoken
language and music.

'Matt Woolman, Sonic Graphics: Seeing Sound (New York: Rizzoli, 2000) 12.
7Carl Schachter, Unfoldings: Essays in Schenkerian Theory and Analysis (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1999) 36.
8Johanna Drucker, Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual
Poetics (New York: Granary Books, 1998) 110.
I. ..I ..... ... "Hearing Type," American Institute of Graphic Arts 27
June 2005, 17 Sept. 2008 .

fig. 15 Instructor Chip Burkner utilizing vocal percussion.

Communication through language is about presenting a
comprehensible message to the user, as well as understandingpeoples
use of language.10

To present a comprehensible message to its user, verbal
percussion visualizes the spoken language of vocal percussion
through typographic words. As a part of a visual language, verbal
percussion represents the sound of a percussion instrument
and communicates this verbal notation system developed by
drummers. The design challenge is to give a face to this notation
system by presenting a language that both a percussionist and
non-percussionist can comprehend.

Verbal percussion's language is constructed by the visual form of
vocal percussion, which consists of producing drum sounds via
voice. The typical users of vocal percussion singers, beatboxers
and drummers use its functionality as a rehearsal and didactic
tool. Of these users, the one particular group my research
investigates are percussionists: marching drummers. From
collective research and personal experience as a trained drummer,
vocal percussion is a working oral and aural language for both
the instructor and performers of a marching drumline (fig. 15).
Through a call and response activity, the instructor gives a call
(vocal or drum stroke) and the performer reacts by mimicking the
call. Basically, a follow-the-leader exercise is established between
instructor and performer. This type of communication activity
builds rhythmic, improvisation and reaction skills, contributing to
the participants' elevation in confidence and musical awareness.

The communicative and didactic relationship between instructor
and performer can be seen in other communities of the world.
The lead drummer of the Jabo tribe of Eastern Liberia controls the
precession of group meetings by signaling participants to perform
certain rituals. Additionally, the Jabo's lead drummer is an official
of the town's law-enforcing authority."

In North India, Tabla drumming is a form of hand drumming
that is based on oral traditions. To facilitate learning and
communication, tabla uses a syllable system that allows a word
(bol) to identify a particular stroke on a drum. The syllables have

Kukulska-Hulme, Language and Communication: Essential Concepts
for User Interface and Documentation Design (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1999) 4.
"David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997) 400.

fig. 16 Overhead view of me playing the snare drum.

fg. 17 Kinetic typography applied to video.

no literal meaning; therefore bols can define a composite
or improvised phrase. As a part of improvisational drumming,
tabla uses a call and response activity as a performance and
didactic tool.12

Verbal percussion can borrow from both the Jabo tribe's signal
system and tabla's syllable system to construct participants
wanting to learn to drum in a more improvisational way. Through
typographic signifiers (notation) and verbal representation
(syllables), verbal percussion can utilize a call and response
method to communicate a visual language that is comprehensible
and approachable. Building a communicative link between
instructor and performer allows a co-dependent relationship
to form, strengthening verbal percussion's ability to assist the
educational process by way of visualization.

As my research process concluded, I began to review possible
means of production and presentation for my project in lieu
of thesis. From my previous experimental work and research
of music's space, time and rhythmic motion, a time-based
medium seemed to be an appropriate method of production.
In addition, learning new technical skills to enhance my design
work contributed to my interest in digitally inspired methods and
presentation. I challenged myself to rethink my design process
and incorporate new channels of communication by blending
video, sound and interactivity into a multi-sensory experience that
would showcase verbal percussion.

Using Herbert Zettl's book Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media
Aesthetics as a guide to video production, I began filming myself
playing the snare drum (fig. 16), and applying kinetic typography
(fig. 17) to that footage as verbal percussion. Around the same
time I began to document practice sessions of the University of
Florida Drumline to capture instances of verbal percussion. To
frame the information I was collecting as ethnographic research, I
turned to television. New media author Jessica Helfand writes, "As
the screen becomes a stage upon which media of all kinds must
perform, our collective cultural experience of watching television
offers innumerable cues for deciphering the alleged innovation
of contemporary media."13 Video and kinetic typography are
elements of contemporary media that complement the ability for
verbal percussion to be delivered as a multi-sensory experience.

12 Robert S. Gottlieb, Solo tabla drumming of north India: Text &
commentary (India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1998) 17.
3Jessica Helfand, Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual
Culture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001) 8.

fig. 18 Paul Klee, KNder Schmied, 1922.
Oil on canvas, 33 cm. x 36 cm.
Musee d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, France.

fig. 19 Multiple computers communicating via Max 5.

Through kinetic typography, motion enables verbal percussion
to represent sound's movement. Since typographic words were
now moving as sound could, I began contemplating whether
verbal percussion was more about the absences of sound maybe,
in fact, verbal percussion did not need the accompaniment of
sound. After experimenting with verbal percussion with and
without sound, I concluded that a balance of both assisted in
understanding their close relationship. However, the use of
sound can be a crutch when constructing visual communication.
To see how other artists have treated this subject, I looked at
abstract painters Paul Klee (fig. 18) and Wassily Kandinsky's
painted canvases as visual sound. Klee's polyphonic layering and
Kandinsky's geometric compositions stretched my imagination of
two-dimensional work projecting sound through shapes and color.
After seeing their work, I began exploring how visual sound could
be represented through kinetic typography, and reviewed the
qualities of music: structure, motion and time producing rhythm.
Of these, time, which I see as the space between objects, is a
major element that can allude to visual sound. Therefore, if verbal
percussion uses typographic words as notation, then letterspacing
can produce sound or, importantly, the absence of sound.

It doesn't matter whether the object is a toaster, an email program
on your laptop, or a networked database. All of these objects can be
connected ifyou can figure out how they communicate.14

Object-oriented programming is a term described by professor
Tom Igoe as "a style of software developed in which programs
and subprograms are thought of as objects.""15 Until the beginning
of this project in lieu of thesis, I had never been exposed to
programming concepts. But for verbal percussion to become truly
interactive and communicative, a programming environment
had to be introduced. Recognizing verbal percussion's potential
to interact and communicate with an audience, digital media
professor Dr. Jack Stenner assisted in the development of a Max
patch via programming software made by Cycling '74 called
Max 5. With Max, I experimented with multiple computers
communicating actions among each other through Ethernet
connection (fig. 19). Additionally, the Max patch incorporated
a live microphone feed to capture and react to sound. This
experimentation was a breakthrough and the final piece to the
puzzle in completing my design process. Verbal percussion could
now be a true visual and communicative language, opening up the
pathways for machine and human to interact.

"Tom Igoe, Making Things Talk (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media, 2007) X.
15 Igoe, Making Things Talk, X.

fig. 20 Computer one (caller) and computer two (responder).

fig. 21 Computer two (responder) reacting to a drum stroke.

fig. 22 Alexander Rodchenko, Dobrolet, 1923.
Poster. Offset color lithograph, 34.9 x 45.4 cm.
Museum of Modern Art, New York.

I. Installation Space
Management of the installation space where my work was
presented played a crucial role in the success of the overall
experience. Because sound is an important element of my design,
I decided to present my work as a solo installation. Visual
segments such as a call and response exercise, process videos
and an informational display all benefited from the openness of
the individual space. Utilizing the area's square footage and wall
space, I was able to resemble a musical arch, as well as project
large format video. More importantly, the space provided the
opportunity for participants to engage with each segment, which
made the installation more approachable (plate 1).

2. Call and Response
Hierarchy plays a major role in the exercise to designate caller
and responder. The projected screen (caller) is run by computer
one, and the smaller monitor screen (responder) is controlled by
computer two (fig. 20). Connected by Ethernet cord, the software
Max 5 directs computer one to play a video, while computer two
waits for its conclusion. Once computer one finishes the video
computer two then plays its video. This activity continues and
is looped to guide the participant through a call and response
exercise. Computer two's video acts as a cue for the participant to
respond to computer one's call, as well as, provide direction for
hand placement and drumstick grip (plate 2).

To incorporate interactivity, computer two (responder) captures
live sound from a microphone attached underneath the
drum. Max 5 is programmed to read the live feed and apply a
mathematical equation to control the contrast of the color that is
produced by the participant's drum stroke. As a reward for hitting
the drum correctly, typography is illuminated in red, an accent
color that contrasts with the grayscale color scheme represented
throughout the whole body of work (fig. 21).

Using grayscale video and red typography was inspired by
research of the constructivist color palette, where red was marked
as the color of the Communist Revolution in Russia. (A strong
example of the constructivist aesthetic can be seen in Alexander
Rodchenko's poster titled Dobrolet (fig. 22)). I investigated
constructivist style, led by designer Paula Scher, as a compliment
to the Futurist's written work I had already reviewed. Both
works use typography to demand attention and speak at a high
volume. Scher's work can be seen being loud as well. Borrowing
her typeface (Knockout) used in the 2008 redesign of New
York's Public Theatre, I captured the deep but sharp sound of
the marching snare drum. The sans-serif typeface is versatile,
suggesting modernist structure, while referencing wood block type
used in many poster and book cover designs. Designed by Hoefler

fig. 23 Composition 1.

fig. 24 Composition 2.

fig. 25 Composition 3.

fig. 26 Video two showing verbal percussion in action.

& Frere-Jones, Knockout provided me with a variety of widths to
express the powerful sounds of a snare drum, cymbal and rim-click.
Knockout's well-organized structure and modernist voice assisted
in the visualization of typography representing percussive sound,
within multiple compositions.

The typographic compositions are produced by drum strokes
and incorporate spacing as a musical element. The movement
is sharp and direct, as the typography builds into three separate
compositions. Each symmetrical composition has a degree
of difficulty regarding drum rudiments composition one is
the easiest; composition three is the most difficult. All three
compositions (fig. 23-25) layer the typography to provide a sense
of vibration. Reducing the opacity of the letterforms allows the
composition to overlap, producing a texture that activates the
background. "DA" is the sound word used to represent each stroke
on the drumhead, and utilizes a heavier, weighted version of the
typeface. "CLICK" represents the wooden stick hitting the metal
rim of the drum. This stroke is a higher pitched sound, requiring a
thinner version of the typeface.

3. Video One: Instruction
Featuring the University of Florida's Assistant Band Director Chip
Burkner, this video captures the essence of verbal percussion in its
natural state. Mr. Burkner performs vocal percussion to his students
as a didactic tool. He calls out his representation of drum notation,
expecting an identical response from the drumline's collective sound.
This video introduces the concept of vocal percussion, leading into
verbal percussion's visual appeal, showcased in additional process
videos included in Verbal Percussion: Lesson 1 (plate 3).

4. Video Two: Field
Comparable to "Call and Response", vocal percussion is now viewed
as verbal percussion. In this video the drumming motion is slowed
down, displaying expressive typography. Represented by verbal
percussion, the sound of a cymbal and snare drum are examined.
"TING" acts as the signifier of the sharper pitched metal cymbal,
and uses a lighter weighted version of the typeface, in comparison
to "DA" and "CLICK" (fig. 26). Masked boxes are introduced to
center the focus and eliminate unwanted background noise
(plate 4).

5. Video Three: Marching
Much like "Field," this video uses verbal percussion as a signifier for
a drum stroke. What differentiates this examination is that multiple
drummers are in view, including the snare drum and bass drum.
This view is an opportunity to see how synchronization is a part of
a drumline's ultimate goal. Also, the drumline can be seen moving
and playing, another element of what makes marching drumline
unique (plate 5).

fig. 27 Video four capturing quick hand and stick movements.

6. Video Four: Line
To summarize the high-energetic action of a drumline, this video
captures the snare drummers "jamming" at the end of rehearsal.
Additional process photographs are incorporated as stills, freezing
the quick movements of their hands and drumsticks (fig. 27). A
visual rhythm is set up between the stills, motion and sound of
the drums, highlighting their movements (plate 6).

7. Informational Display
In the corner of the gallery project information is presented to
guests. In addition, sponsor Studio Percussion of Gainesville, Fla.
provided free drum lesson certificates to give away. A comment
booklet accompanies the project statement and certificates,
providing an opportunity for participants to leave feedback
(plate 7).

Discovering innovative vehicles for visualizing and delivering
information is a key component in advancing the practice of
graphic design. Making sense of information is why visualization
design is so important and relevant to the development of
verbal percussion. For many, standard music notation can be a
barrier for participation in the percussive arts. As an alternative
language, verbal percussion assists in the visualization of musical
information. My investigation has led me to conclude that
typographic words have proven to be a stronger representation of
sound than a graphic note. Additionally, an onomatopoeia-based
system tends to be more natural, since it is connected to speech -
therefore making verbal percussion a fun and approachable way to
interact with the percussive arts.

As an investigation of interactive design, VerbalPercussion: Lesson
1 proved to be fun and approachable, as many participants
engaged with its offerings. I noticed people of all ages and skill
level attempting to follow along with the call and response
activity. One participant wrote in the comment booklet, "I find
this very interesting. I think I will start learning to drum after
seeing your show." Many were excited to have the opportunity
to interact with a drum and drumline in a gallery setting. An
audience member wrote, "Finally, I can listen to a drum in
a gallery." More importantly, participants acknowledged the
interdisciplinary portion of the installation, as one viewer wrote,
"Music and community, something that is vital to our youth and
is consistently being cut back. Thanks for highlighting music at
all." Overall, I was pleased with the outcome, due to the large
amount of interest the installation acquired throughout its
creation and display.

fig. 28 VerbalPercussin: Lesson 1 opening night.
fig. 28 VerbalP rusin:Lesn peningnight.

Through the creation of VerbalPercussion: Lesson 1, I reconnected
with percussion by sharing a language and experiences of a
community that I was once a part of. The research process urged
me to contact past instructors and old friends that I haven't
spoken to in many years. Working with the University of Florida
Drumline contributed to new acquaintances, and allowed me to
reflect on my times as a member ofa drumline. More importantly,
this process has challenged me as a designer and person, expanding
conceptual thinking, visualization methods, new media practices,
and ethnographic research. The skills gained from this investigation
will contribute to my future practices as an educator and designer
by reinforcing the potential of typographic research and design.

VerbalPercussion: Lesson 1 (fig. 28) is an introduction to the visual
language of verbal percussion focusing on a marching drumline.
Eventually, this language could expand to additional percussion
instruments and include higher levels of difficulty regarding drum
rudiments. To engage more participants through interactivity,
multiple live actions could be introduced, such as: digitally
documenting participant's interaction, providing a menu of options
for user control and enhancing typographic manipulation to better
reflect the participant's response on the drum. As an opportunity
to involve the public, I plan to develop a website from my research
that offers a shared experience of verbal percussion.

Armstrong, Frank. "Hearing Type." Loop. 27 June 2005. American
Institute of Graphic Arts. 17 Sept. 2008 content.cfm/hearing-type>.

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing,
and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary Books, 1998.

Fletcher, Alan. The Art of Looking Sideways. London: Phaidon,

Gottlieb, Robert S. Solo tabla drumming of north India: Text &
commentary. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1998.

Helfand, Jessica. Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media,
and Visual Culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

Igoe, Tom. Making Things Talk. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media
Inc., 2007.

"Intelligent Design." Esquire Aug. 2008.

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes. Language and Communication: Essential
Concepts for User Interface and Documentation Design. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Laurel, Brenda. Design Research: Methods and Perspectives.
Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003.

Schachter, Carl, and Joseph Nathan Straus. Unfoldings: Essays in
Schenkerian Theory and Analysis. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1999.

Stilgoe, John R. Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and
Awareness in Everyday Places. New York: Walker and Co, 1998.

Tufte, Edward R. Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire, Conn: Graphics
Press, 2006

Woolman, Matt. Sonic Graphics: Seeing Sound. New York:
Rizzoli, 2000.

Plate 1 Installation Space, 2009.


Plate 2 Call and Response, 2009.

Plate 3 Instruction, 2009, Digtal Video.

Plate 4 Field, 2009, Digtal Video.

Plate 5 Marching, 2009, Digital Video.

Plate 6 Line, 2009, Digtal Video.

Plat / Informational I-I 2UU9.

First I would like to thank my committee members Brian
Slawson, Jack Stenner and Connie Hwang for their guidance and
support before and during this process. I would also like to thank
faculty and staff members Maria Rogal, Katerie Gladdys, Lauren
Garber Lake, Mary Lane Rockwood, and Mike Christopher for
their assistance over the years. I respect you all as educators and
consider you my friends.

A special thank you should be given to my graduate classmates
Doug Barrett, Matt Grady, Kyle White, Nancy Schreck, Abby
Chryst, Gaby Hernandez, and Patrick Lemieux. Thank you all for
challenging me to be a better student of design. Good luck to you
all in your future endeavors.

Additional thanks goes to Studio Percussion Inc., Stephen
Rockwood and the University of Florida Drumline, Carrie Smith,
Mike Barnhart, and Jennifer Rogers. Thank you for assisting me
in the development of my ideas. It's been a pleasure including you
in this process.

This project would have not been possible without the love
and support of my friends and family. Michael, Brandon, Ross,
Cameron, and Danielle I thank you for always being there for me
in my times of need. To my grandparents Kirk, Jean, and Jessie,
thank you for your support and interest in all that I do. Lastly,
I would like to thank my brother Adam and parents, Tom and
Janie, for their continued support of my dreams. Thank you for
taking this journey with me and for always believing that I could
do it, even when I didn't. Words cannot describe how much I love
you all. Thank you.

Aaron Kirker was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1980. He
received his Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with emphasis in
Graphic Design and a minor in Advertising from Morehead State
University. After completing his undergraduate research in 2004,
Aaron worked as a designer for a sports marketing/association
management firm in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2006, he enrolled
in the M.FA. program at the University of Florida. While a
graduate student at UF, Aaron studied graphic design and worked
as a Teaching Assistant for the course entitled Experimental

I certify that I have read this document and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a project in lieu
of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.

Bri Slawson, Chair
Associate Professor of Art

I certify that I have read this document and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a project in lieu
of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.

Jack Stenner
Assistant Professor of Art

I certify that I have read this document and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a project in lieu
of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.

Connik wang
Assistant Professor of Art

This project in lieu of thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College of Fine Arts
and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.

May 2009
Aaron Kirker

Anna Calluori Holcombe
Director, School of Art & Art History

Lucinda Lavelli
Dean, College of Fine Arts


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