Tea Four Two

An interactive teapot and teacup that can be played by you. When you lift the lid of the teapot to various heights, you create a melody on the overtone scale, which is as old as if not older than tea itself.

If you play for a just a little while, you will hear harmonies coming out of the teacup. The more you play, the faster or slower you play, will all determine how the music will sound. To stop the music, just place the lid on the teapot and let another person try it out.

In this work, I wanted to work with the idea that both music and sharing a cup of tea are universal methods of communication. I recently read that people who drink tea together tend to talk together and talk more, and in a time of international conflict between apparent differences in religion and politics that is slowly but surely leading to conflicts between cultures, drinking tea and talking together "sounds good."

Tea, like music, is found everywhere. However, unlike musical styles, which tend to stay put where they were developed, tea has made its way from the farthest corners of the world onto the most ordinary of shelves in almost every store around the world. Chinese, Russian, Indian, English, Indonesian teas etc. sit all together peacefully on those shelves without fighting. This work concentrates on the fact that we have things that are different, and we have things in common, and by emphasizing what we have in common, like music and tea drinking, without disrespecting those aspects that are different between our cultures, like religion, we may find ourselves drinking more tea together in harmony. Tea and music are multinational. Should not peace be international, also? More information

Technical Overview
The piece is constructed from a teapot and a teacup on a triangular shelf. Inside the lid of the teapot and inside the teacup are small high-quality loudspeakers. Both speakers are connected via cables to a small computer located inside the shelf. The computer runs a small program that creates the music heard when the lid of the teapot is being "played." An ultrasonic sensor located inside the teapot measures the distance between it and the lid of the teapot. By moving the lid up and down, the player can create melodies based on the overtone series (the oldest scale in human history). Since most of the tones of the overtone series harmonize with themselves beautifully, part of the computer program functions to select pitches in the melody.

Several features of the program are designed to guarantee player engagement over a period of time. The more the lid is "played," the more the role of the teacup as "harmonizer" comes into being. If the lid is left off the teapot, the sound is brought down to the level of silence until someone moves it back into the area of the sensor located in the teapot.

Arthur Clay
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
Tonetext (at) bluewin.ch