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sarah nicolls

24 Nov


'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

25 Jan


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Future of Sound – the 'prepared piano'

January 25, 2009 | By | No Comments

Tilly Automatic - setup

Tilly Automatic - piano

On Friday I was in Leicester with Tilly Automatic for another Future of Sound event. It was another strange and interesting mix of artists, designers, scientists and sound recordists presenting work, ideas and inventions. I was made up to meet Chris Watson, who presented his immersive recordings of the Galapagos waters, and Mike Faulkner of D-Fuse who is a pioneer of VJing and video performance.

Our own stuff went really well again, with Tilly and myself both trying new things in the performance. This time I managed to take some pictures of the setup and the insides of  Sarah’s ‘prepared piano’. The top hat houses a bluetooth device that senses tilt, and becomes a performative way for sarah to distort the sounds. The pieces of wood on the piano board have motors attached which spin round and tap the string, the speed of which is determined by a midi device. There are also a few random items housed in there which Tilly can use percussively on the strings and frame of the piano. At the moment she smuggles all this bomb-like machinery to the venue and inserts it into a grand piano, however she has been busy making her own upright model, hung on a custom made frame, which she affectionately refers to as ‘the beast’.

10 Jan


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Tilly Automatic – 'Machines Within Machines'

January 10, 2009 | By | No Comments

Pianist Sarah Nicolls (aka Tilly Automatic) performs her piece ‘Machines Within Machines’ at the Futuure Of Sound conference. The piece uses a variety of motors paced within the body of the piano, as well as a bluetooth sensor embedded in her magic top hat to mix, distort and pan the sounds of the piano. Developed in collaboration with programmers Samer Abdallah, Kurt Jacobson, Andrew Robertson and Adam Stark, the piece is a hybrid of the acoustic and the digital. I provided the live feed to reveal her work inside the piano body and also interpret some of the more distressed effects.Filmed at Future Of Sound, Bexhill Dela Warr Pavillion, 22nd November 2008. www.futureofsound.orgCameras – Neringa Plange, Sam Meech, Adam Stark. Sound recording – Adam