The Story of the Wind

‘The Story of the Wind’ is a project that explores wearable electronics. The dress has large folds of fabric that capture the wind, along with sensors that create ambient music depending on the movement of the dress and the harshness of the wind. In our search for inspiration, we identified that the wind is a strong part of the culture in Copenhagen. The city experiences large winds that generate 20% of their energy through wind turbines. An old Danish story shows the importance of the wind. The dress we created is a reflection of this story and within this many interpretations can be reached.

The inspiration behind our dress is from a story written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1859. It is called “The Story of the Wind” or “What The Wind Told About Valdemar Daae and His Daughter.” To summarize, the story is about an upperclass family that looses a great amount of money. The father, Valdemar, spends the rest of his life trying to gain his riches back. The whole story is told from the perspective of the wind, who sometimes intervenes to tell the man that life is short and that he should not focus on money to make him happy. We based our project specifically on the beginning portion which says:

“When the wind runs across the fields, then the grass ripples like water and the fields of grain form waves like the sea. That is the dance of the wind. But try to listen to it when it sings. Its songs sound differently according to where you hear them, whether you are in a forest or listening when the wind makes its way through cracks and crevices in a wall. Look up and watch how the wind is chasing the clouds, as if they were a flock of sheep. Listen as it howls through the open gates; it thinks it is the night watchman blowing a horn. Now it is coming down the chimney; the fire in the fireplace burns higher and sparks fly. The light from the flames illuminates the whole room for a minute. It is so nice and warm and cozy in here, just right for listening. Let the wind tell us what story it wants to, it knows so many more tales and stories than we do.”

Acting as the narrator, the wind takes the reader on a journey through the time and life of Valdemar in order to reflect on how his life was wasted running after money. The author used his story as a metaphor or a representation to teach others morals, and life lessons so that others do not make the same mistakes.

We want people to experience the same wind that Hans Christian Andersen wrote about many years ago. Our goal was to tell this story in a new way for a younger millennial generation. Instead of the usual illustrations and drawings that come along side many great works of literature, we decided to make a physical performance. This creates a perception in the same way his story did for others many years ago. However, by using technology to retell the story, we modify the represented object, bringing new relevance. In addition to reading the story, people can experience it for themselves through the dress, creating a stronger connection between the person and the meaning behind the narrative. This digital mediation brings new feeling and experience about the story.

Going deeper into the performance, specific parts of our dress represent different characters from the story. Valdemar’s daughter, Anna, has a large presence in the story. Because of her connection with nature, the wind has a soft spot for her. The dress represents Anna, playing and experiencing the nature of the wind. When someone puts on the dress today, they are putting themselves in the character’s shoes, taking them back into the fantasy world that Hans Christian Anderson created. Beyond the dress, ambient sounds are generated to create a representation of the voice of the wind. Throughout the story the wind says “Whoo, whoo! …All will pass!” to show the reader the foolishness of Valdemar.

‘The Story of the Wind’ has a unique system helping the user to experience the wind in a deeper way through the interface of wearable technology.  The dress has two main inputs. First, there is input from the movement when the user shapes the dress to capture the wind. The other input is the strength of the wind as it is captured by the fabric. As the user experiences the gentleness or forcefulness of the wind, they are also able to hear the wind in different way.  We were able to achieve this system by using a Lilypad Arduino and conductive thread to connect sensors. With the intensity of the wind, data is collected by a piezo sensor that is then translated into sound. Depending on the shape that the user creates to capture the wind, data from tilt sensors also change the expression of this sound. The combination of the shapes and sounds created generates a new illustration of the narrative.