Artist and inventor Remo Saraceni knows how to use music to bring people together. The trick is a tiny piece of technology he invented decades ago, a little switch that he created called the occupancy sensor, a motion detector that will turn electricity off or on. With that bit of tech, for which he holds the patent, he has created some of the most engaging and entertaining interactive musical installations, like the one opening in the Miami Children’s Museum this weekend.
The music starts on the staircase, with a motion-activated device that lines the stairs, chiming out scales with each passing step. At the top of the stairs, next door to the artists workshop, is the Music Maker’s Studio, where there’s going to be a whole lot of music getting made.
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Saraceni’s most iconic invention, the Big Piano made infamous by Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in “Big,” is the heart of the new attraction. This particular piano was created to allow kids of all needs to enjoy music making. There’s an added feature that allows children with hearing disabilities to feel the vibrations being created when notes are played. The piano also can be used to teach songs and kids can follow the notes on their own.
The Music Maker’s Studio has two additional areas, one to feature a digital karaoke that is sure to be a hit. The other studio is a digital symphony that plays an orchestral piece composed for the Museum while children stand in specific stations. The more kids participate, the more instruments are heard and the more layers of the song can be enjoyed. They can watch the instruments come together on a screen as each section of the orchestra is summoned.
The piano staircase at the Miami Children’s Museum is the longest Saraceni has created so far, though perhaps the one he installed at San Francisco’s Pier 39 is one of his most widely-known. “They told me nobody ever goes upstairs, it’s like they don’t even know there are businesses up here,” Saraceni says of his project in San Francisco during a break from installing the sensors for the symphony. “When I put the musical stairs in, people couldn’t stop going up and down.” Miami parents are about to experience this same phenomenon at the Children’s Museum.
The Music Maker’s Studio is part of the Museum’s $20 million-dollar redesign that is focused on integrating technology into the interactive installations to engage a generation of digital natives. Saraceni is a believer in the ability of technology to engage and even unify.
“These things inspire social interaction. They bring people together. I have always been fascinated with how we interact with technology as well as how technology causes us to interact with each other.”