Soft Revolvers (2014)

photo: Myriam Bleau

photo: Paved Arts

Soft Revolvers is a music performance for 4 spinning tops built with clear acrylic by the artist. Each spinning top, 10’ in diameter, is associated with an ‘instrument’ or part in an electronic music composition. The tops are equipped with gyroscopes and accelerometers that communicate wirelessly with a computer where the motion data collected (speed, unsteadiness at the end of a spin, acceleration spikes in case of collisions) informs musical algorithms designed in Pure Data. LEDs placed inside the tops illuminate the body of the objects in a precise counterpoint to the music. The positioning of the lights creates visually stunning halos around the tops, enhanced by POV effects (persistence of vision). A camera placed above the performance table provides video feed that will be subtly manipulated and projected back on the screen behind the artist, making the projections an integral part of the performance. With their large circular spinning bodies and their role as music playing devices, the spinning top interfaces strongly evoke turntables and hip hop culture. Some of the mappings between gestures and sound have been borrowed directly from the bimodal behavior of turntables: at slow speed, the sounds produced can remind of scratch solos, with the characteristic unstable pitch variations. At full speed, the spinning tops act like normal turntables playing vinyls, in this case, playing pre-composed material. As a composer, I’m interested in finding original strategies for musical performance by creating cohesive systems that integrate sound, light and movement. I try to blur the lines between the notions of instrument, interface, installation and performance by proposing new contexts for the musical experience. In the past few years, I’ve been exploring the sonic potential of everyday or familiar objects. I believe that such objects, in this case spinning tops, engage audience members in a particularly intricate manner, awakening subconscious physical memories of their lived experience with those objects, in terms of behavioral expectations, function and symbolic connotations. The public can anticipate the physical rules that will guide the performance and thus actively participate in the tension and release dynamics at play in Soft Revolvers. During the performance, I will interpret different ‘tableaux’ using the spinning tops, creating shifting rhythmic soundscapes. The performance takes place on a large table (around 3’x6-7’) and lasts around 20 minutes in duration. The system being a platform for composition, each iteration of this performance is unique, integrating fresh musical ideas.