Arboreal Lightning is a large-scale interactive installation that transforms sound and gesture into an immersive luminous environment. It was designed by the team led by EYES IN™ Magazine featured creator Alex Haw (Edition 30).
It was commissioned by Imogen Heap as the centrepiece for the Camden Roundhouse’s Reverb 2014 Festival of Contemporary Classical Music, and has grown to be resident centrepiece for the Roundhouse’s August 2014 Summer Sessions.
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A lightweight central structure bundles together a series of LED-strip fibers that burst from the stage & soar above the performers, luminously reacting to sounds and gestures. The ‘branches’ arch along the Roundhouse structure, a few bowing down into the audience - rewarding participatory interaction.
It emerges August 1 to inaugurate the Camden Roundhouse Summer Sessions, and interact with audiences for the whole month, including times the building is also opened to a wider non-concert public. It will then be the centrepiece and graphical icon for the 4-day Reverb Festival of Contemporary Classical Music, when the building will remain open 24 hours a day, enabling a wide variety of types of audience interaction.
It has been commissioned by both the Roundhouse venue and the Reverb curator, acclaimed musician Imogen Heap, who will then modify and use it on her year-long world tour, which starts on the last night of her Festival.
The project uses relatively simple and affordable elements to generate a complex, spectacular experience. A lightweight central steel structure bundles together a series of off-the-shelf LED-strips, which are sheathed in thick, protective translucent PVC tubing that enables them to be loosely bundled and structurally suspended in the air, while describing organic, slowly-curving geometries. The fibers bunch to form a wide, multi-stranded, tree-like structure on stage, shimmering in direct digital response to the music, luminously reacting to the sounds - and the gestures of Imogen's gestural controllers, the "Musical Gloves" - also called Mi.Mu.
The strands soar upwards and weave over columns and dome and arches to follow the building's dramatic structure, exploding outwards above both the performers and audience, creating a unifying branching system that embraces the people beneath it within a giant, pulsating, Gaian network; a lattice of visual music; umbilical cords connecting people, building, sound and light.
A few strands bow down to reach and mingle with the audience, who can then trigger their own luminous ripples and join in the spatial symphony. An occasional branch, when activated, deploys a small, hidden, directional speaker - rewarding the explorative audience that discovers it with a local sonic shower. The structure's "roots" worm their way onto stage and become thin interactive electronic tape components that undulate between the feet of the performers and onto the main floor, where they offer the opportunity to be discovered and similarly activated (as light-changing sensors) by the audience.
The project's core innovation lies in its sculptural use of electronics, and its programming of a multi-input installation doubling as luminous display and interface. It explores the physical manifestations of music (mirroring the Gloves Project's convergence of digital and physical) - crossing disciplines, and triggering broad senses. It creates extraordinary visual journeys that rethink the traditions of experiencing and listening to music. In an age increasingly cognizant of the power of collaboration, it seeks to reinvent and re-imagine the relationship between performer and audience.
Design: atmos (Alex Haw)
Technology Design: John Nussey
Software Design: Adam Stark
Lighting Consultancy: Arup (Arfon Davies, Tim Hunt)
Muse: Imogen Heap
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