Day 181 @ ITP: Live Image Processing & Performance

A/V Concert Reviews (in progress)

2/21/2018: AMC Theaters in Times Square with visuals by artists
Hosted by The Clocktower

Sun Ra Arkestra with visuals by Sabrina Ratté and Peter Burr

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I actually ended up going to several audio-visual concerts this semester, so I chose to use one set from each concert I that attended to talk about for this review. I'll start this one off by saying that is is one of THE most epic audio-visual performances I had ever seen IN MY LIFE, and I almost didn't go to it due to a scheduling confusion, and I'm glad our class urged us all to attend one of the three nights hosted by Clocktower and Undervolt & Co at the AMC movie theater. I'm sure all the nights were great, but I only made it to the one headlined by the Sun Ra Arkestra with YATTA opening, which was also wonderful, but for this I will focus on the Arkestra's performance and accompanying visuals by Sabrina Ratté and Peter Burr. 

While the 15+ person Arkestra would also have been "enough" on its own any day to energize a whole movie theater worth of people, I feel that the live visuals behind them did serve to beautifully support their horns' shrieks and wails and cosmic vocal utterings, like lightning supporting a thunderstorm (or something like this...what are other natural phenomenons of audio and sound that this could be compared to? The sun glistening on a roaring waterfall?).

I thought Sabrina Ratté and Peter Burr did a great job of using what I am assuming was raw visual synthesis and a lot of knob turning on a modular video synth like the LZX synthesizer, following along with the movements of the Arkestra's admittedly very extended set artfully, punctuating it or mirroring it with colors and patterns that seemed to ping and reverberate off and with the music. This pairing of sound and visuals kept the energy up, up, up just like the Arkestra's music did, almost dipping in just a few moments but then rising to the top and staying there or going even higher than before, until it reached a point of feeling effortless, with an extremely positive and high vibration ultimately achieved by the end of the night.

I appreciated that the images were abstract, all colors and lines and shapes made of different combinations of the two, and I think that worked very well to not distract from the music or act as a counterpoint but instead acted as an extension of their bejeweled and sparkling costumes and energy of their sounds, making the wallpaper or theater's screen come alive with lights that seemed to almost emanate from the sounds themselves. It also made me think how effective it is to have the visuals really BIG. I'm really so glad I went!

2/9/2018: The Spectrum with visuals by Jim Tuite
Hosted by Pas Musique


This is a show that I also played at, hosted by Pas Musique, who also run the label and platform Alraeleon Musique. The venue Spectrum used to be housed in an apartment on the Lower East Side and it has since moved to a new location on Flushing Ave near the Navy Yard in Brooklyn. Pas Musique has been working with the owner of The Spectrum in both locations to host this series called Ambient Chaos, where ambient music (sometimes very quiet and meditative, sometimes noisier or even jazzier or more improv-based, so really covering the "ambient" spectrum) is paired with live visuals by different resident artists.

For this night it was a pleasure to work with Jim Tuite, who I have seen do visuals numerous times, and see his how his process worked over the course of 4 sets. I talked to Jim some afterwards, and he said that he really tried to listen to each musician and come up with a palette that was suited specifically to their music, which I see again as a beautiful way to support the music and act as an extension of it. Often in these music venue environments I have found that visuals are seen as secondary or unnecessary, but even if things CAN happen without them, in this night at least I really felt that the pairing is what made it special, and though Jim was responding to the music and not the other way around or in between, it still felt like an equal footing.

I enjoyed how he did change it up for each performance, using VDMX to trigger clips and add audio-reactive (I think?) elements that mirrored the music in subtle ways, playing with space and fields of vision, where the foreground would continuously melt away revealing some figures beneath or something almost recognizable, only to then go somewhere totally different and wash the brain with abstract color fields and shapes, to then return to something almost recognizable like people walking around on the street...Genevieve (Lauds)' music was also a beautiful layering of tones and textures both smooth and rough that seemed to fit perfectly with the visuals Jim chose for it, and it felt particularly meditative to sink into the visuals during her set. 

2/3/2018: Zip: UNCOMPRESSED未压缩_Vol.3 at The Three Legged Dog

This night is another example (like the Clocktower/Undervolt & Co. series at the AMC theater) that I probably wouldn't have known about or gone to for sure if it were not for our class and encouragement from fellow ITP classmates to check it out. Again, I'm really so glad I went. I chose to focus on the second set of the night, because it seemed very mysterious to me and I had not heard of any of the artists, and it seemed to be one of the most non hierarchical arrangements of an audio/visual performance that I have seen.

I think this was in large part due to the installation of the space, an immaculate 3 surface projection studio where the audience member's were asked to wear cloth booties so as not to scuff the projection surface on the floor, which made it obvious that they had considered the projections to be an essential part of the experience. It felt like a new kind of venue or experience, and a treat. Because of this the visuals felt so "immersive" (big buzz word there!) in conjunction with the sound (which also had a great system setup it seems), and one did not feel more in the forefront than the other, as I usually feel in music venues that the music is the obvious first priority, with visuals as an afterthought. It felt that this set was a *true* audio-visual performance where both were totally intertwined. I'm not sure if there was any direct interaction like audio reactivity happening with the visuals, but it felt that there was.

The three participants sat on the floor, and it was hard to tell who was doing what, though two had laptops and one had a modular synthesizer setup. The sounds were electronic washes and bubblings that created a ambient soundscape that was almost tactile, washing around us, with at times an acoustic instrument introduced on top, such as a flute or harmonica, which brought it to this almost ceremonial place with the DMT-esque visuals. While I say the visuals looekd DMT-esque they however managed to stay clear of full-on cheesy psychedelia, instead creating an elegant place that also seemed to be tracing the very fabric of the universe, drawing on psychedelic experiences or tropes that we see in pop culture, but again without going too far. Some of this kind of imagery might also just be what visual engines are capable of in terms of basic visual synthesis, hence we see them a lot (such as mirroring, for example) but done in different ways and with a different touch. In this case I think the video artist had a very nuanced touch and also used a lot of variation to create a feeling of a "journey" which was very special and unlike anything I had seen exactly. Because the projects were covering two walls as well as the floor, it also really felt that we were IN the projections, and that added so much as well. I would love to see more venues like this starting to pop up in cities or places everywhere.