While assembling documentation of Alvin Lucier’s work for my sound art class at TCD, I found this ICE performance on Vimeo of Alvin Lucier’s Opera with Objects. There are a number of performances of Opera online. But it seems to me that this one engages something of the work that others miss.
For a start, it’s performed outdoors. The sight of floating ice, to the right of the frame, fossilizes the algid ‘snap’ of the chopsticks. The visuality of the performance renders the sound osseous and frail. This is canny because it necessitates some form of resonant amplification for the beating. The mise en scène validates the purpose of those objects. Cold, bone-like sound needs plenty of volume.
But what interests me even more about this video is the particulate nature of the group’s performance: 1; 1+1; 1 + (1+1) etc. Lucier’s piece is a meditation on physical contiguity in the production of sound: the possibility of one vibrating object exploiting the resonant properties of another. The quality of that amplification is a function of the object’s nature. Opera with Objects is also an ensemble piece. At 03:10, there are eleven players. One enters, two rise, then three, four, five. Some players move around. Two kneel, to connect with certain objects. Another player enters. So what we see is a series of configurations of individuals. With each new grouping, a new configuration (i.e. connection: network, even) is formed. And so we get these parallel situations: chopsticks + object; (player + chopstick) * M + same * N. The connection inheres through the performance situation as it does through the contiguity of objects.
I’d like the camera to come off grip and get right in with the performers – to step across the line. It seems to me the wide shot (and occasional close-up) are rather passive, treating the action as if it were a concert on stage, in a hall. I wonder what it would be like to get the reverse shot – to get right in amongst the performers, break up the ensemble and bring out those configurations.
Even so, this is amongst the best of the Opera performances/documentation I’ve come across so far.
I’ll be giving three performances of Vanishing Points, my 2017 work for clavichord, electronics and mobile phones, at this year’s Sonorities festival in Belfast on Sat 21 April.
Free, but sign-up required. More information here
I’ll be presenting On the Generation of Sounds, the second in my series of Grosseteste projects, at 1.15pm on Tuesday 14 March at the Arts Technology Research Lab, Pearse St, Dublin 2.
The event will be hosted by the School of Creative Arts Research Forum at Trinity College Dublin.
Here’s a recording from 2014 of a live performance-improv/duo with Natasha Lohan, vocal artist and composer.
Two performers move around a bespoke performance space. Each performer’s voice is recorded and processed using the electronic music software, MaxMSP. Meanwhile, their physical movements are captured by a Kinect camera and used to control the sound processing.
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On the Operations of the Sun (2011) from Nicholas Brown on Vimeo.
Here is the animation-model, made in Processing, for my new choral piece, On the Operations of the Sun for twelve singers.
On the Operations of the Sun explores the interrelations between science, music and architecture with reference to medieval thought and the development of Western polyphony. The title comes from De Operationibus Solis, a tract by thirteenth-century philosopher, Robert Grosseteste. The structure of the piece (see image) derives from the South Rose Window of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A computer animation of the window’s tracery was programmed in order to determine the ‘progression’ of the voices through the performance, from the ‘centre’ to the ‘circumference’. The use of a computer model during the process of composition resembles architectural practice: the animation makes a spatial proposition – a ‘blueprint’ for each singer to ‘inhabit’ and make real. For Grosseteste, light was the first form of things. Here, the tracery of a rose window gives structure to the sound of twelve voices.
The piece will be premiered at this year’s Three Choirs Festival on 13 August 2011. Information here.