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24 Nov

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'A nail, its hammer, and the concrete'

November 24, 2009 | By |

Images from Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival where Sarah Nicolls performed 3 experimental compositions by Michel van der Aa (‘Transit’), Atau Tanaka (‘new work for pianist and sensors’), and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay (‘Un clou, son marteau, et le béton’). I was lucky to be working with Sarah in presenting Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s composition, and expressing it visually through the use of reactive lighting.

Sarah had originally asked me to change the atmosphere of the space using multiple screens and projections, but this wasn’t possible due to the numbers in the audience. Being restricted to a more traditional audience layout, eventually my thinking turned to how lights would help to make the experience more immersive. I settled on the image of huge icicles, or stalactites that would add an architectural dimension to the lighting, both channelling colour into physical space and then softly radiating light outwards to change the general atmosphere. The 6 giant tracing paper icicles (tracing paper rolls are very cheap and therefore idea for theatre) were hung from 6 LED Par cans, arranged on the periphery of the performance space so the audience would feel encapsulated, but not distracted.

Sarah’s performance used a mixture of sound cues and MaxMSP midi signals which were fed to me from her laptop, and then I brought them into my Isadora patch, which then sent them out to a LanBox and so on to the lights. It allowed for extremely sharp changes in lighting states to occur in an instant as triggered by the MaxMSP patch, meaning that Sarah’s performance was truly linked to the lighting, triggering changes in the atmosphere. This felt fitting as a lot of Sarah’s work is an investigation into the way technology becomes an extension of the pianist in the context performance. The other two pieces performed that afternoon, a film soundtrack, and a sensor-led piece based on electrical signals in the pianists muscles, further developed the theme