UPIC-3D performance

in Blog

4 November 2011

A staged performance called UPIC-3D at the Iannis Xenakis – In Memorium International Conference, Cyprus. The performance is a visually striking homage to Xenakis’ own UPIC system utilising new real-time technologies that are now readily available to musicians and brings the tactile manipulation of waveforms to live performance.

By manipulating two custom-made handheld ‘light wands’ on a darkened stage, the performer improvises within a confined physical space, creating a virtual sonic architecture in which waveforms are recalled, manipulated and projected through a three-dimensional surround sound system. The moment-by-moment position of the light wands and the brightness of light they emit (detected using two video cameras) determine which waveforms are played back, the playback speed, the three-dimensional spatialistion, as well as other parameters of other processing algorithms such as granular synthesis. The performer’s virtual space reflects the actual performance venue so that using the light wands, sounds can be spatialised through and around the audience with a clear cause-and-effect.

The performance, lasting fifteen minutes, begins with simple, quiet sounds giving the audience time to become aware of the relationship between the performer’s physical movements and the resulting sounds. The piece gathers pace by interweaving a diverse range of waveforms into a complex sonic tapestry, the individual threads of which eventually being spatialised around the audience. The piece ends with a simple physical gesture that replays a waveform in more-or-less its original form, demonstrating that all the preceding sounds were in fact derived from recognisable sound sources.

Sometimes the resulting sounds are recognisable, other times not. This ambiguity of sonic identities is reflected by the ambiguity of meaning of the physical gestures the performer makes – why does a certain abstract gesture result in a certain sound, for example?

In collaboration with Tychonas Michailidis

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