violin sidetracks (version 2016)

Revised version June 2016, video recording of a rehearsal session.
for violin, laptop, kinect camera and 5 DMX controled LED floodlights

“violin sidetracks” is part of my “sidetracks” series, started in 2013 with “marimba sidetracks”. All pieces of this series are written for a solo-instrument and live-electronics. They explore possibilities of interaction between these two worlds. Sounds of the instrument are sampled during the performance and combined to new “tracks” in realtime. The live-player and his live-electronic counterpart are playing different roles like two members of a musical ensemble.

Since 2011 I’m working with the microsoft kinect camera as a sensor for musical interaction and gestural extension of my violin. This infrared sensor tracks movements of a performer and calculates data representing his „skeleton“. In the last years I did a lot of research to explore its possibilities and I extracted those, which can be used while playing the instrument.

The more realtime interaction capabilities a software offers, the more it gets complex and sensitive to errors. In violin sidetracks a lot of such processes get together:
Among other live-electronic effects, a live-sampling system captures single violin-sounds for later use (as a interactive sound bank, which is filled while playing). Driven by gestures of the performer resp. a sound-analysis regarding gain and pitch, the DMX light system reacts in realtime, too.
Working on this software basis, I often got annoyed and angry about the multitude of technical problems and bad surprises, including bugs in the cycling74 Max programming language and in Max for Live / Ableton Live. Sometimes it felt like technology wanted to sabotage the whole process. This lead to the idea to bring this „struggle with technology“ on stage. That’s why in violin sidetracks live-electronics and DMX lights play roles of two tough-minded characters who don’t always do what the performer wants them to. Like in ancient chamber music, all characters (live-performer, live-electronics and lights) get in competition with each other.

After some obstacles in the beginning, the performer learns to handle the situation. The three characters (performer, electronics, lights) become a symbiosis culminating in a free part, giving the performer full control over lights and sound. In his naivety he exaggerates his new possibilities and suddenly finds himself in darkness, even without amplification. Leaving the center of his performance-zone leads to heavy eruptions of sound and red light – a virtual wall in-prisons him. In a searching process he finds out that playing special melodic tones bring back his amplification and light. In succession he builds up a beautiful texture of melodic fragments which brings a portion of tranquility and dreaminess to the piece. But soon after, the performer has to handle first disruptions and in further consequence things get more and more chaotic. Loud loops prevent him from playing. Only some special movements help him to impede the emerging madness. But the more he tries to stop all disturbances, the more he gets in a physical position in which he can’t move, far less play any more. Realizing, that he lost the game and that he is no longer tolerated by the system, he finally escapes the scene.

The piece is solely controlled with a Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor. All electronic sounds are live-electronically treated violin sounds or live-recorded sounds, which are „rearranged“ in realtime – no prerecordings are used.