Project Summary

The objective of the project was to create a live electroacoustic performance where the use of a laptop does not come between performer and audience. The creation of sound is associated with the performer, who is not merely triggering sounds, but influencing their evolution with physical gesture.

My initial idea for this performance had much in common with Chikashi's -, with a twist - my interest was for physical gesture to trigger and conduct the evolution of sounds. Using gesture recognition software and sound synthesis was a practical solution more than a meaningful one, which would allow me to quickly switch from generating the sounds to controlling their diffusion in space. The downside was that the primitive gestures I could perform using my hands and the sound were not perceived as unitary and did not satisfy my artistic vision for the project.

After initial experiments with gesture recognition I decided to take a different approach and work with physical objects which would enable me to shape the sound manually. This led me to building an instrument, that allows physical gesture to become sonic gesture.

Taking a literally physical approach I started my research journey by trying to look at stringed instruments at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The instrument collection however had been taken into storage. I felt a bit disappointed but not discouraged. Wandering through the museum I discovered in the architecture gallery the tensegrity structure, designed by Sir Robert Matthew, an eminent mid-twentieth century architect. I could imagine what it would sound like made from metal, and it was the perfect complement for the project from a sonic, conceptual and visual point of view. It was perfect to satisfy the sonic gestural approach, integrated well with the physical part of the project, and followed similar lines as the processing. It was capable of creating a distinctive sound, while conceptually bridging different fields and eras.

A major stepping stone for the project was when Aidan Matthew, Sir Robert's son gave me permission to use his father's design as a musical instrument in performance. Please find more details about the actual construction here.

The digital side of my project emerged from a challenging idea presented by my tutor Martin Dupras. The idea was to project light through holes in a piece of paper which, when moved in space, would create moving dots of varying size on a screen. These would then be used to affect the delay times built into the system and create artificial space. Although this idea was soon abandoned it provided a starting point from which my controller resulted. By inverting the thought process and developing from there, the resulting implementation is a very satisfactory working setup that meets both practical and aesthetic needs. Link to specific details about how it works, videos and screenshots.

Viewed retrospectively this piece seems to have become an adaptation and reorganisation of elements I interacted with. It brings together the physical and the virtual, it is self made and it is original. It shows how something of value can be achieved with enough persistence and determination.

It is a comment that in a world more and more dominated by the digital, there is still a need for tangible things. It encourages interaction, person to person communication, getting out of the comfort of the computer screen to see, hear and even touch things. It allows serendipity to happen.

It is the transformation of a thought into immaterial (sound) – it is a thought heard.