Friday, May 8, 2009

you got light in your ears

Precisely one year ago, on Mother's Day, to be exact, I saw a Radiohead show at Nissan Pavilion just outside of DC that was, at that point, one of the best designs I had seen in a nontraditional integration of light and live music. The stage had large LCD tubes hanging around the band that created a brilliantly synchronized, ambient light show (here's a rough YouTuber that can at least give you a sense for it). One year later, the importance of and emphasis placed on light design in conjunction with live music may not have necessarily changed all that much. After all, Pink Floyd basically defined the practice as one of the first acts to tour with a dedicated traveling light show and was creating groundbreaking musical visuals as early as the 1970's, though visually peaking post-'84...and any Phish fan can tell you that the brilliant Chris Kuroda is basically a member of the band - his instrument? A buncha crazy-dazzling light gadgets. However, today we do see the possibilities of sensory integration has exponentially grown - allowing for the creation of interactive immersive environments that blend performance and performance art.

It was only a matter of time before sound and vision became a soupy blend. Structurally, sound waves and light waves are not so distant of relatives (take out your books, class. A bit of a physics lesson), the main differences being a) velocity, with sound waves traveling at a speed of approximately 1,100 feet per second, and light waves traveling at approximately 186,000 miles per second, and b) wave composition - sound is composed of longitudinal waves and light is composed of transverse waves in an electromagnetic field. As a result, it seems only natural that there's now a great emerging trend to use interactive light as a sort of musical instrument.

Well, Nine Inch Nails, with the help of Montreal-based new media agency MomentFactory has indeed made a fine bisque. For those of us lucky enough to catch the Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour (and/or to catch the NIN Bonnaroo set), you'll be dazzled by the multiple large LCD panels that respond and react to the band's sound and movement.

Some great video footage below (although this may or may not be considered appropriate for the young ones, depending on which side of the Tipper Gore/Frank Zappa debate you fall on).

Take a look:

Nine Inch Nails: Only (Live in HD) from WhoRu? on Vimeo.

Be sure to check out the 'Making of' video (very much worth it) to learn more.

You can see more cool interactive light shows, including this one, through this recent FastCompany article.

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