Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 loudspeakers used in innovative sound installation by Fred Deakin, one half of Lemon Jelly
As half of Mercury nominated electronica band Lemon Jelly and founder/director of digital design studio Airside, Fred Deakin has been making musical and visual content for the last couple of decades. Fred strongly believes that the revival of vinyl as a format and the appetite for innovative live experiences indicates that the general public feels that a postage stamp sized image displayed as a reduced quality MP3 is played through a phone’s speaker is not the best way to experience music in the 21st century.
That’s something we at Bowers & Wilkins can certainly get behind, as we strongly believe that better sound quality is key to an individual’s enjoyment of music. Consequently, we are keen to support Fred in his exploration of new ways to deliver music and visuals to an audience by embracing the new opportunities that technology offers. Intravox was the second of his interactive audio-visual installations, and the first to be supported by Bowers & Wilkins.
Intravox featured five large ‘alien’ heads, each of which had its own ‘voice’ (bass, tenor, alto, beatbox and soprano) plus an additional sound that could be activated by moving a hand over the mouth or eyes. The idea being that as you interact with the heads, music is created.
“Each sculpture has its own voice and the idea is that you can only really experience the whole piece when there’s more than one person there,” Deakin said.
“You can get an idea of it on your own, but you’ll only really get the full flavour of it when there’s four or five of you, so it’s a way of bringing people together. It’s not a gig, it’s not an art piece, it’s not an app, but it’s like a little bit of all of them.”
The installation worked using Intel RealSense machines (innovative, new 3D cameras which can sense depth and movement), and really does make great use of this exciting new technology. The process worked by capturing users’ hand movements and mapping those on the corresponding face. There are some additional functions – for example, clenching your fist above the camera will muffle sound, and stretching your palm out will release it again – and the more people move their hands, the more notes they release.
Because Deakin ensured that some control was maintained over the output, the sound produced remained musical. Rather than creating their own ‘music’ from scratch, people interacting with the heads actually remixed a piece of music already created by Deakin.
“I think you have to be careful about how much control you give the user because otherwise it generates a cacophony,” says Deakin. “You have some authorship in that you can re-arrange and re-think what we’ve created, but you cant make a complete mess of it. It’s more like being a conductor, conducting this choir of alien heads…”
Bowers & Wilkins were the ideal partners for the project, and the AM-1 was the perfect loudspeaker. Below each of the heads we positioned a Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 loudspeaker to deliver the voice. We also positioned several more AM-1s around the ceiling to fill what was quite a large space at the Central Saint Martins’ Lethaby Gallery in King’s Cross, London.
The result was incredibly well received, and allowed visitors to produce almost endless remixes of Fred’s work. We will have a video of the event for you to see soon.