by Red Cell
Have you ever been at a concert and thought, “Wow! The music is great but I just can’t stand watching that conductor”? If so, then this was the show for you! On Nov 28, Orkestra Futura (formerly NOW – “New Orchestra Workshop”) performed the Mad Scientist Machine, a new conceptual work by composer Stefan Smulovitz. Smulovitz has created an L.E.D. communication system for musicians that are geographically separated, based on Terence McKenna’s belief that octopi may transmit thought by changing color. “I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but the idea that an octopus could communicate with another octopus through color kind of made me think about how I could use lights to communicate ideas.” says Smulovitz. The machine he has created converts the conductors’ ideas into colored L.E.D. lights, which are then used as cues for the Orkestra Futura to follow.
The Orkestra consists of 14 highly skilled musicians (see list below) including strings, voices, horns, percussion and electronics and is under the direction of bandleader Coat Cooke. Two guest stars, vocalist Christine Duncan and violist Eyvind Kang, round out the ensemble. The concert will also include improvised pieces by Cooke while video artist Krista Lomax provides live video mixing.
But it is the remote conductors that really take the stage (or not). Pauline Oliveros (Oslo/Santa Fe), Lisle Ellis (New York), John Oswald (Toronto), Paul Cram (Halifax). These conductors will be able to manipulate in real time parameters like speed, density and dynamics as well as being able to assign Orkestra members specific tasks. The Orkestra will be seated in the venue at triangular plinth shaped “music stands” with light-emitting diodes that translate the conductors wishes into color.
Guest conductor Lisle Ellis describes the initial run though like this, “What you are doing, and what we were all witnessing, is a very important step toward the future of how we will communicate our individual and collective artistic visions on a global scale. I felt like I was assisting Marconi on his first transatlantic radio signal.”
Two of these remote conductors I would like to point out in particular. Pauline Oliveros (see pic below of super young Pauline w/ her accordion) is a globally known sound artist that helped shape the electronic and experimental music scenes with her “deep listening” theories and their subsequent institute. She has taught music in many important institutes including the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Mills College. John Oswald is the father of Plunderphonics, a now common technique in sound design coined by Oswald in 1985 to describe the use of obvious sound collage in music (the practice of which goes back to the beginning of recorded sound).
Hear It NOW is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the City of Vancouver and The Vancouver Foundation.
The Orkestra Futura Lineup-
Vocals: Viviane Houle, DB Boyko, Peter Hurst;
Strings: Jesse Zubot, Dave Chokroun, Tommy Babin, Chad MacQuarrie;
Percussion: Joseph Pepe Danza, Kenton Loewen;
Horns: JP Carter, Brad Muirhead, Coat Cooke;
Electronics: Stefan Smulovitz
Keyboards: Chris Gestrin