Being a fan of any form of electronic music can lead you to some weird and wonderful places. The majority of the time we find ourselves cramped into some dark, low ceiling room like sardines in a tin, and while that is genuinely quite fun, when someone decides to put on a show we really appreciate it.
As electronic music continues to evolve, producers are flexing their artistic muscles and indulging in other segments of the creative industries to bring us something truly unique.
As an audience we are constantly yearning for more. Our eyes and ears fixate on whatever the brain commands, and if we don’t like what we see after two seconds we become bored. Que the arrival of the audiovisual show.
Audiovisual shows are by no means a brand new phenomenon. In the 60’s light projections and disco balls were used to bring audiences a new experience. As the swinging 60’s came to a close and the far out 70’s began, experiences such as the Joshua Light Project became renowned for its psychedelic backdrop accompanied by live performances. The show was based upon four elements “projection of colour, concrete imagery, variety of colours and shaping of the light” to instigate an emotive, euphoric response from the audience.
By adding visual art to a show, emotive response is in complete control of the artist. This combined with lighting, colour and audio dictates the route the artist wants to go down. This can be done in two different ways. The artist can choose to create mood, be it amazement, awe or fear using a selection of images designed to stir a specific reaction, or they can choose to tell a story.
Max Cooper is a producer who chooses to do the latter. The Belfast bred artist has been attempting to unite science and the arts through visual experimentation. A former occupation as a research scientist is put to creative use as Cooper draws inspiration from the visual element of data visualisation and the visual feel of scientific ideas to tell the story of Emergence.
The idea of Emergence is a simple system, combining and developing over time to provide the complex reality in which we live today. Every element of the visual art has purpose, illustrating the underlying natural laws that theoretically resulted in the big bang, star and planet formation and modern society.
In order to tell this story, Cooper wanted complete control of both the audio and visuals. Inspired by how “simple laws can yield complexity and beauty” the producer consulted mathematicians and visual artists in order to learn and ensure every part of the show had meaning. He is truly an artist at work. Cooper strips music down to its core, implementing glitches and sounds to stir emotive response whilst telling a story he is passionate about.
He explained in an interview that he doesn’t like it “when art is restrictive and has to be viewed from a certain perspective” and that he “chose each section visually so it would be beautiful and meaningful.” Whilst the amount of work and thought that has gone into this project is enough to celebrate alone, Cooper delivers a breathtaking experience. It’s impossible to deny the artistry the show possesses.
Unpredictability is key to the audiovisual show. If we know what’s coming next, why the hell would we bother watching? The combination of the ‘anticipatory phase’ and visual art are exploited to trigger emotional state. The anticipatory phase is basically prolonged expectation. Delayed outcomes heighten anticipation, resulting in ‘chills’ brought on from a euphoric experience to transport the audience into a world of complete ambiguity.
Electronic collective Moderat are another group of artists who have added a visual experience to their performances. The cinematic quality of the show is something the group work very hard on, and has led to collaborations with motion graphics studio PFADFINDEREI. The Berlin based collective have become an important part of Berlin’s electronic music scene since adding motion content to their work in the year 2000 and are just one example of the ever growing importance of visual artists in music.
By implementing minimalistic art alongside an animated storyboard Moderat and PFADFINDEREI aim to “send the crowd on a trip; to create the feeling you have when watching a really nice movie.
Is this the next stage in the electronic music timeline? In the future will we laugh and turn our backs on any performance not accompanied by some sort of visual show? The creative industries are all uniting under one roof and what they’re producing is beautiful. Abstract images, regardless of meaning, attract us. Anything that strays from the norm intrigues us, and this artistic expression is key to the emotional response.
Examples of the growing importance of audio visuals can be found locally. AVA Festival (audio visual arts) is a concept that celebrates the connection between electronic music and digital art. In a country that has been repressed by negativity for so long, this is a massive step. Generating positive emotions through celebrations such as this is key to Belfast’s progression as a developing city and will hopefully inspire others to follow suit.
Guerilla Shout is yet another local example. Based in Belfast, the outfit began in March 2015 and have gone onto produce animated videos and “projection mapped experiences” for clients such as Sony, AVA and The Irish Museum of Modern Art.
These recent developments are just two examples of artistic expression that has always existed but has never had an opportunity to be expressed. Now, as the tides slowly change, I feel we’ll begin to see more creative ideas come to the forefront of a city drenched in potential.
Audiovisual shows can be so much more than a bunch of meaningless shapes. Telling a story can produce an array of emotions, from inspiration to grief. To truly make someone feel something is every artists aim, and I for one can’t wait to see more.