Tonight an exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in Rittenhouse Square will host an experimental dinner theater featuring electric ice cream.
The desserts will literally be wired for sound, a kind of surrveillance food.
“We’re saying the NSA did it very effectively,” said Jon Shapiro, the producer of the evening. “But we’re doing it very artistically.”
The technology is similar to that of a lie detector test, but instead of your secrets and evasions pushing a needle across graph paper, it’s your sweet tooth pushing signals through a MIDI converter.
Here’s how it works: A sugar cone is slipped into a sleeve outftted with aluminum leads where your fingertips touch — leads that are tethered with electric wire. The cone is adorned with a brimming dollop of ice cream (in this case, Salty Chocolate Malted flavor from Little Baby’s in Fishtown) and an electric probe is slipped into the cold cream.
When your tongue hits the ice cream, your body completes an electric signal.
“By graphing the conductance across a person’s skin, and graphing the changes of that conductance, I produce musical notes,” said Sam Cusumano, a sound artist in Fishtown who last year, wired up plants in a similar way with the electronic music label Data Garden at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The system, called Music for Ice Cream, is one part of an evening of multi-media dinner theater called “Shooting for the Stars,” including an art installation by Candy Coated (a.k.a Candy Dupree), live ambient sound art by New Paradise Laboratories, and a play performed in the Twitter-verse.
“The old paradigm of sit down, shut up, and watch the show doesn’t apply to this music,” said artist Jon Shapiro, who produced the event. “It’s about a larger experience. The more I can curate an environment where something else is going on, the music works subliminaly.”
Music for Ice Cream is designed to work best with two users. Cusumano can program each cone to create a different set of tones. When two people eat ice cream simultaneously, their tongues produce random but complementary notes.
“Ice cream is best experienced with friends,” Cusumano said.