We have worked with innovative electronic composer Mira Calix on a number of projects over the past few years. Always innovative, her compositions effortlessly combine technology with composition. Here she explains why the T7 Wireless speaker was the perfect partner for her collaboration with Baroque collective Solomon’s Knot, The Discovery at Bomarzo, at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival.
“The initial concept came from the group’s musical director, James Halliday, having been inspired by the mythic Gardens of Bomarzo. These sculpture gardens were created in the mid–16th century by a lovelorn Italian duke in the countryside near Rome. The extraordinary Mannerist sculptures lay neglected and overgrown for hundreds of years until they were rediscovered in the 20th century by Salvador Dali, who was excited and inspired by what he found.
“Together we worked to combine the sensuous and strange music of this twilight period between the Renaissance and Baroque with my own contemporary electronics-based aesthetic. I created short musical interventions to link madrigals by Gesualdo and his contemporaries Giaches de Wert, Pomponio Nenna and Michelangelo Rossi. We were looking to create a 21st-century musical garden tangled with centuries-old creations.
“I viewed the compositions as the forgotten sculptures in this garden, still largely unknown and lying undiscovered. Bomarzo is ‘discovered’ anew – but it has changed. In order to help create this atmosphere, once again I turned to what is one of my favourite ‘instruments’, the Bowers and Wilkins T7 Wireless speaker. I had employed the small, light-weight portable speakers to tremendous effect in a production of The Oresteia at Shakespeare’s Globe last year. I used the same system for this production on a smaller scale. This time, sending two audio streams to 5 units via radio transmission.
“The T7s were placed in simple canvas gardening bags which the singers collected and moved during the electronic interventions between madrigals thus creating a human diffusion system. The performers were able to move throughout the concert space, up and down the aisles, and amongst the audience, as well as throughout the stage area. These moments were mostly in the dark with only the sculptural centre piece illuminated, the singers in shadow. The audio material, amplified through the speakers, was pre-composed mixed with the live voices. The performers wore radio microphones throughout and the live vocals were amplified through the main PA system. I was using all five T7 speakers and the main system in tandem; the flexibility of the T7s allowed me to have movement and to stretch the sound throughout the concert hall into the audience domain.
“As I write this down it seems very matter of fact, but in a performance environment, with subtle lighting and simple choreography, the effect is quite magical. The audience, as it should be, are unable to locate the source and consequently
the entire environment becomes a sound sculpture.”
“I keep returning to the T7 Wireless speaker because the sound is so clear and rich with a surprising amount of bass and the units weigh under a kilo which makes them really portable (for the Oresteia they were integrated into the actors’ costumes.”
They are perfect for someone like me who loves using multiple speaker systems, to create, what I call human diffusion audio – this may not be an existing term but I’m owning it either way!