Oracles (Justin Peake: 2017)
Quintet: Simon Lott, James Singleton, Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, Rex Gregory
Special thanks to Dr. Rick Snow & Tyler Tadlock.
Commissioned as part of the 2017 INST-INT conference.

concept
Oracles is an exploration of mysterious artifacts, adopted mythologies, and incomprehensible information. It investigates our relationship to the past, present, and future in a performance that combines live music, projection / lighting design and interactive technology to create a unified piece of multimedia theatre.

role
I composed, directed and produced this multimedia composition in addition to serving as: video and lighting designer, creative technologist, software engineer, sculptural & stage designer, etc. I was assisted by a small team of individuals who were invaluable to the completion of the work: Jeremy Horn, Isidro Robinson, Craig Pickard, and Joseph Mango.

description
The audience is greeted by a table displaying 200 handmade ceramic cups, each containing with a few drops of rainwater, and invited to take one. They may keep the token after the show.



Each cup has a single magnet affixed to its base. Every time a cup is removed from the table, it triggers an event for the metal sculptures on stage to resonate via surface transcducer and it sends a message to Aether software (via server) to initialize the cueing algorithm.
 
The table has been built with 200 Hall-effect (magnetic) sensors, wired to custom circuit boards. The microcontroller inside the table is connected to a Mac Mini which communicates wirelessly with the main show server.


The server application measures the time intervals between the removal of each cup by the audience. These intervals are used to determine how the musical cues will be sent to each performer.

Each musician, seated around the perimeter of the audience, has a tablet device that receives individual cues wirelessly and discretely.


As the 2nd movement begins, Aether begins sending out musical cues to each performer. The cues on one performer’s screen can be drastically different or identical to the others.


As the ensemble performs surrounding the audience, the central focus becomes a video mapped stage design. the lighting elements are also influenced by the original readings of the cups being removed.

The third movement incorporates custom designed wind instruments which are activated when a cermaic cup is placed onto it. When blown into, it wirelessy raises the level of surround sound elements.


The musicians perform from center stage during 3rd movement while controlling surround sound elements. Creating a perceptual disconnect between sound and source.




Custom sculpture (Rick Snow), circuit design, and fabrication were integral to the realization of this piece. In the end, 600 (200/performance) ceramic cups, 200 sensors, a 6ft diameter table, 6 custom wind-controlled wireless instruments, video mapping, and lots of coffee.


I opened the show to student groups during the day for an exclusive look at the inner workings of the piece. I strive to present educational opportunites alongside my more technologically involved projects.



One of the most rewarding aspects of this level of production is cultivation of human relationships with members of the team no matter how large or small. The experience of respect, trust, and  teamwork in the completion of a work is one of the most joyous and empowering feelings and is truly a perk of the job.