Alex Nowitz > STEIM projects 2007-2008

1) Instrument development
2) HYBRIDS, a project on interaction/interactivity together with visual artist Jamie Griffiths

1) VOICE AND LIVE-ELECTRONICS USING REMOTES AS GESTURAL CONTROLLERS
In October 2007 I was invited to STEIM for the first time. Since then I have been lucky enough to have another two residencies at STEIM in order to create a setup for live-electronics as an extension for my vocal performances. I’m working with the programs LiSa and junXion controlled by and played with two Wii-Remotes. In order to explain the setup including my personal approach, I wrote an article, “Voice and Live-Electronics using Remotes as Gestural Controllers”, which was published by CEC (Communauté électroacoustique canadienne) in October 2008. The article is accompanied by two videos demonstrating two artistic results: “Studies for Self-Portrait” and “Music for a Singer/Performer with Gestural Controllers, Live Electronics and Playback for Ten Loudspeakers”.

nowitz Pict2

2) Jamie Griffiths posted a detailed blog about tasks, attempts and achievements of our artistic residency at STEIM from November 8 through 20, 2008, called HYBRIDS.
Therefore, instead of creating redundant repetitions I’d like to give some background information of how the project HYBRIDS actually evolved and what I’m aiming for. Furthermore, some loose thoughts will appear which are about the presentation of music at the present time, the creation process of music theatre in general and its potentials regarding a contemporary approach to the synthesis of music/sound, visuals, text and movement, and therefore about interaction and/or interactivity.

“WOLFSGEHEUL”: PRESENTATION OF NEW MUSIC AT THE PRESENT TIME, MODERN CHAMBER MUSIC THEATRE OR MULTIMEDIA OPERA
In February 2008, in Potsdam/Germany I realized the conceptual idea of presenting some of my chamber music works in an installation-like setting: open positioning of musicians, performers and audience in the performance space as opposed to the frontal, traditional presentation of music. Other art forms or disciplines such as dance, video and light became part of the over-all composition/presentation which I called “Wolfsgeheul” [Howling of the Wolves], designed for four musicians, two dancers, interactive video and visuals. For this purpose I invited Vancouver based visual artist Jamie Griffiths who developed the visuals according to my compositions and a text by author Ralph Hammerthaler. The interactive video projections and video lighting were responding to the movements of dancers, me (vocal performance) and the sound appearing in the space. The collaboration was fascinating. Working with her equipment and setup Jamie was almost as fast as an improvising musician. Therefore I wanted to continue and go deeper inside the possibilities of interactivity of music/sound and visuals. And this happened to be the case during the residency at STEIM in November 8 through 20, 2008.

WAGNER’S IDEA OF THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK
It may sound funny, but in essence the whole idea of encompassing all possible disciplines towards a significant, meaningful and interacting artistic result goes back to the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk expressed by German opera composer Richard Wagner. He believed that the future of music, music theatre, and all the arts, lay in an embrace of Gesamtkunstwerk or total artwork, a fusion of the arts that had not been attempted on this scale since the classic Greeks. In 1849, Wagner wrote the essay, The Art-work of the Future, defining the synthesis of the arts in which opera served as a vehicle for the unification of all the arts into a single medium of artistic expression.
http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/timeline/Wagner.html

EXAMINATION OF RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERDEPENDENCIES OF THE ARTS: THE EXTENDED COUNTERPOINT
Amongst other aspects the residency was about the examination of relationships and interdependencies of music/sound/voice and visuals (video projection, lighting), movement and visuals as well as movement and music/sound/voice. When and how is the voice controlling the color of the lights? How can we control the video imagery by our movements? What compositional tools can we apply to get an analogy either in music or in video? Every artist working in the field of time related art will most likely have heard about counterpoint: in music. Now, to a certain degree we examined an extended counterpoint between music/sound/voice, visuals, text and movement/performance.

VISIONS OF A MUSIC BOX
We tried to create short duo pieces, so-called “HYBRIDS”, as cross-breedings of music/sound, visuals, text and movement. We ended up with one piece of a length of about 20 minutes with the preliminary title of Visions of a Music Box, based on a poem which I wrote some years ago. In this way, even text became an additional layer which we had to deal with regarding the over-all composition/presentation.While searching for possible intersections between musical and visual approaches we had to face also theatrical implementations or consequences of what we were exploring and getting at.

CONTROLLING LIGHT AND VIDEO WITH WII-REMOTES
One important discovery was the possibility of controlling the lights with the Wii-Remotes an extraordinarily useful tool, since I’m using the Wii-Remotes at the same time for generating and controlling sound. Influencing the video projection, for example by loudness, pitch, intensity, etc. received by the musical performance output, is another very interesting aspect for the interactive creation process. But probably the most challenging aspect is to make the final composition happen during the real-time performance situation since only two performers are creating the whole work instantly which is a blend of all compositional layers like music/sound/voice, visuals/video/light, text and movement/performance.

MULTITASKING AND/OR EFFICIENCY
For the two of us the multitasking may have been way too challenging at the moment. However, for me as a composer the possibility and the concept of controlling music/sound, light and video by one single performer is definitely a new way of thinking and of creating modern chamber music theatre nowadays. It opens up many possibilities and significant interactions considering the over-all composition/presentation with all the implemented components. At the same time this way of producing a piece is tremendously efficient if one wants to compare this way with the creation process happening at the conventional theatre house whose organizational structure is hierarchic almost all the time.

HIJACKING THEATRES
Instead, the idea that HYBRIDS’ cross-breeding of music, visuals and lighting can be realized by just two people, working simultaneously as performers, technicians and interpreters, is a fascinating new direction for music theatre creation. We experienced the potentials. Looking into the future we are now able to answer questions directly from our personal experience, on an artistic level as to how music theatre could be created or: generally speaking: how music could be presented nowadays to mould an intriguing and surprising piece of art at the end. I say could, because it’s still the common, traditional way of presenting music and creating music theatre which dominates the scenery: at the moment. So, where do we go next? Do we hijack the theatres? In a very real artistic and technical sense, this is new possible for us to do.

Nowitz Photo1
Alex Nowitz
Potsdam,
Dec. 3, 2008
http://www.nowitz.de/english/index_engl.html

http://www.jamiegriffiths.com

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