As a lab-atelier, the Ars Electronica Futurelab works out approaches in the field of media performances by means of which the musical works are linked up to computer-supported means of artistic expression to engender new performance practices for stage productions. Working out visual modes of interpretation for music, song and dance leads to an expansion of the classical concept of artistic genres and, in turn, to the formulation of innovative artforms whose specific characteristics manifest themselves in how the work is produced and performed and how the audience partakes of it.
On the basis of the development of tools of artistic representation utilizing media technology, the levels of perception of a work are successively expanded and synthesized to an experience that cannot simply be reduced to the individual elements that constituted the work’s point of departure. Each process of arranging an interactive visualization represents an individualized approach to a piece of material’s specific narrative structure, aesthetic claims and cultural-historical context. In addition to adaptations of classical compositions and existing stage productions, these efforts have also included the creation of original works that raise interesting issues with respect to the transformations of the dramaturgical components of the conventional elements of a work.
Each one of a whole series of projects—“Apparition”, “Das Rheingold Visionized”, “Vision Mahler: Live Visualization of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony”, “Le Sacre du Printemps: An Interactive Music, Dance and 3D Project” and the visualization of a part of a Chinese Kunqu opera (Peony Pavillion, Interrupted Dream) currently running at the eArt Festival in Shanghai - showcases the specific forms of articulation of innovative works of art.
Apparition emerged in 2004 from intensive collaboration among leading developers of creative technologies and experienced producers of works of drama and dance. This was a one-of-a-kind effort to utilize sensor & tracking technology to enable dancers to intensify the effect of the use of their bodies in interaction with a visual and musical environment, whereby the levels of perception of a traditional dance performance are synaesthetically expanded. In another 2004 production, the Ars Electronica Futurelab worked together with Linz’s Brucknerhaus on a means of enabling an audience to partake of classical works in an extraordinary new way.
The interactive visualizations of Das Rheingold Visionized were produced by means of stereoscopic projections in which the walls of the concert hall were opened up to a seemingly infinite panorama of forms and colors; the computer-controlled scenery follows Wagner’s work and reflects the musicians’ interpretations in the form of dynamic structures that embody the opera’s characters and scenes. The original score as well as psychological and historical considerations went into the development of the figures and determine the behavior of the individual visual elements. This was then implemented into a computer code. What this entailed was imparting to the computer the capacity to “hear” music and to modulate signals in accordance with aesthetic criteria.
This technique was developed further in 2005 in Vision Mahler , the 3D visualization of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. The amalgamation of a virtual environment and a tonal space simultaneously in a real venue (Cologne’s Philharmonic Hall) and on television (German channel WDR) was the direct outcome of various technological developments in the areas of audio analysis, 3D graphics and the virtual camera as well as comprehensive musical analyses leading to the visual dramaturgy. Audio signals interpreted in real time influence both the individual elements as well as the overall staging.
The 2006 adaptation of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps created a 3D space coupled to musical impulses in combination with the expressive means of the dance. The project bundled the experiences and developments of the efforts that had preceded it and thereby generated a complex network that continuously expanded the repertoire of computer-aided means of expression. It took the next step in the process of elaborating novel art forms via emergence effects at the interface of different genres.
Such cross-medial projects represent an amalgamation of not only technologies and artistic genres, but also personalities and ways of approaching a work, which gives rise to new methods of cooperation.
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