No. 39


By : membranes

Entrant’s location : France



Exploring the boundaries where music and language overlap, Nicola L. Hein and Lukas Truniger use hybrid instruments – constructed from drum-skins and electronic components – as devices to turn written texts into pulses of light and percussive sound. As each machine translation emerges, the network of instruments starts to share the texts, transforming written material into visual and sonic patterns, for the performers and spectators to further interact with. Extrapolating from the example of the African talking drum, Membranes builds up an altogether new kind of tone language, constantly shifting and adapting itself before the viewer and performers alike.

What did you create?

Membranes Nicola L. Hein & Lukas Truniger text driven performance & installation, 2017 Based on different theories about the relation of music and language and inspired by musical communication forms like the West African talking drum and el silbo from the Canary islands, the two artists developed the installation and performance "Membranes". It focuses on language’s dual nature of semantic and aesthetic quality. The sound and light objects that constitute the piece are controlled by live written texts as well as the variation of the parameters of the text’s representation in sound an image. Its data is encrypted algorithmically as musical fragments and displayed as phrases on LED panels. The instruments form a reactive network of semantic-aesthetic actors in which the performers intervene with their sonic and textual interpretations. An interplay of form, light and sound stretches out between them, which seeks for the dual nature of the aesthetic and the semantic realm, as it is immanent to the West African talking drum as well. Following this archetype of a musical communication instrument, we aim to establish an acoustic interaction space in the form of an audiovisual performance and installation, suggesting an alternative communication environment.

Why did you make it?

The project is devoted to explore the relationship of music / sound and language, their mutual translatability and correlation as aesthetic and semantic structures. The sculptural instruments that constitute "Membranes" produce sound, light and text arrangements that exhibit the aesthetic and semantic function of language and show them in a scenic context. We aimed to develop an instrument, that does not produce sounds via the direct haptic interaction with an incomprehensible interface, like a piano for example, but by writing text. The piece explores a possible past-future communication form, mixing digital technologies with the communication approach of ancient (but still exercised) musical language forms like the West African talking drum and "el silbo". It is an attempt to appreciate these historical long distance communication forms. We try to learn from them to envision new ways of democratic and equal communication webs in our society, building upon other cultural tools than privately owned data centers and fiber infrastructure. There is a huge potential in these old and underestimated approaches for creating rich and fruitful exchange between humans that “Membranes” attempts to follow.

How did you make it?

The first prototype was designed in the beginning of 2016 in a research phase and concretised in a joint work phase in April 2017 in Lille, France. During this period, a first shape for the instruments was developed and various tests were carried out. The sonification of the texts on a drum was tested using a prototype Max/MSP patch. Inspired by the talking drums, we developed a system to make the sound of the drums tunable by using stepper motors. In addition, it became apparent that the skins had to be struck by electromagnets controlled by the software, which implements the coordination of text, light and sound. This type of drumming enables the sonification of text on the drums using a decoding technique based on the Morse code. In addition, different methods of text representation were tested. We chose a display with LED panels as well as different materials to produce visual deformations. Transparent drum skins were integrated for this purpose. During the artistic development phase in July 2017, which took place in the workshops of “Le Fresnoy - Studio national des arts contemporains” in Tourcoing, France, the final form of Membranes was found and its technical elements were realized.

Your entry’s specification

_ Stage / space requirements - The space should be at least in semi darkness - Light & clear surrounding of the stage / exhibition space is preferable for the shadows produced by the piece - Minimum space for an exhibition: 10 m x 10 m _ Technical requirements Audio (for performance) : - Stereo PA system with 4 - 8 audio inputs or 4 - 8 individual speakers appropriate for a loud sound performance in the given space - 4 - 8 microphone stands, without telescoping arm - 4 - 8 DI units with suiting audio cabling for the PA system or speakers - 4 - 8 jack cables to pass from our audio interfaces to the DI units Stage (for performance) : - Two small tables Light : Light is generated by the artworks. Power : - Power strip with 4 – 8 power sockets, euro-style, with extensions to disperse on the whole stage / performance space - The piece requires the total power of 8 A @ 230 V (~1600 W) _ Transport modalities - Number of people to host to realize the piece: 2 (based in Dusseldorf (G) and Lille (F)) - The work is transported disassembled in the form of two oversized baggage carried by the artists: 2 x 23kg, 75 x 70 x 50cm