LSMi - Light, Sound, and Movements instrumet
LSMi was born with the idea of creating a new extended instrument, adding new physical controllers using embodied sensors to the performer playing over the amplified wooden table. This initial instrument became a totally new musical interface or an augmented one. Solar panels, gyroscopes, accelerometers, colors leds, solar panels, IR proximity sensors... are some of the elements of the final LSMi model
LSMi is the collaborative project of the composer JuanLu Montoro and the percussionist David Alonso Cid. They share a common interest about the experimentation with extended instruments, so they decided to design a new instrument to use it as the main focus of a new live multimedia concert.
They met each other working on the piece "Miles Away" by JuanLu, which David played in Oporto. David developed the instrument used in that piece to a new level, creating a total new instrument with new audio-visuals possibilities not shown in "Miles Away".
Thinking about the new potential of the instrument, they started a research about it, and they elaborated a new repertoir which they have presented at Spring Festival (The Hague) and in workshops about extending acoustic instruments (InTake)
Videos from the design process
JuanLu is currently experimenting with the boundaries between traditional instruments , performance techniques and technology. His work is frequently based on extended instruments (adding embodied sensors to traditional instruments) and analysis of electronic processes, which he uses as material for structuring his compositional ideas.
In 2014, after concluding his bachelor studies at the Conservatory of Málaga, he moved to The Netherlands to study Sonology and Master in Composition in the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Nowadays, he is teaching at Conservatorio Martín Tenllado.
He has has collaborated with ensembles such as the Neue Ensemble , QME, Ensemble Klang, Trio Zukan…and in events which include the HF (Amsterdam), Gaudeamus (Utrecht), Mixtur (Barcelona), Fundación Juan March (Madrid), Música en Segura (Jaén), or Kilkenny Music Festival (Ireland).
David Alonso Cid
David was born in Vigo (Spain) in 1997 were he started his music studies with Marcos Valcarcel in CEMU Mayeusis in 2004, and later continuing his studies with Carlos Castro at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Vigo, obtaining his bachelor degree in 2019. He is currently completing a master in percussion at Koninklijk Conservatorium den Haag with Hans Zonderop, Theun van Niewburg, Pepe Garcia and Niels Meliefste, focusing on contemporary repertoire and the use of electronics in percussion.
He has performed in the Opera Forward Festival 2018 and in the production Aus Licht 2019, produced by the Holland Festival and the Duch Nationale Opera and Ballet
Hearing the light
Main feature from the LSMi is the use of light as a sound source. This effect is produced by using small photovoltaic cells (devices that convert light´s energy into electric energy) which basically can work as a “microphone” for light; and by controlling light source´s intensity variations and colour.
Pitch is produced from source´s blinks or relevant intensity variations. These processes generate variations in the outputted voltage that result in the speaker´s membrane moving; then, to control the pitch we have to control how many times these variations happen every second, a number that will be the fundamental frequency in Hertz from the sound that the light produces on the solar panel. This process works in a similar way than a synthesizer, but the voltage variations are produced by the light instead of by a VCO. Then above this fundamental frequency, timber is characterized by the colour.
Each colour produces a different harmonic spectrum, if we understand a colour as a single wave length from an electromagnetic wave. In the LSMi, this effect is controlled via RGB LEDs with three individual diodes (red, green, and blue), which produce different timbers; then, different intensity mixes will produce different general colours as well as different timbers.
With this method is possible to build a colour-sound relation that generates some sort of artificial synesthesia for the audience.
In order to incorporate these devices into a performable and practical instrument, the colour mix is controlled by the performer using two Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) place on top of the hand. Out of these two devices we obtain hands orientation in three dimensions (left-right, up-down and rear-front), each one controlling the intensity from one of the RGB LEDs components. Like this we add a third layer to the correlation colour-sound, which is the movement.
All this sound from the light has to be amplified and run through a speaker to arrive to the audience. In the LSMi, sound from light is mixed with the sound from four contact microphones placed underneath the wooden surface, and diffused through eight speakers placed around the audience in a cube.
Using this speaker disposition, LSMi outputs and moves the sound from each hand around the audience in three dimensions according to the hand position on the instrument´s performance space, considering this space as a reduced projection of the hall (this is, if you “draw” a cube that covers all the instrument´s performance space, that cube will be representing the space that surrounds the audience). This effect is done with a Kinect camera, that give us the hand position and, according to this parameter, controls how much of the sound from that hand has to go to each speaker (independently for each hand).
Through this process we build another relation between sound and movement, but in a different dimension: while orientation controls the colour/timber from the light, position controls the sound spatialization live time.
About the compositions
One of the common elements of the pieces dealing with extended instruments (also actuated or augmented in this case), is how they start presenting little by little the possibilities of the instrument as the piece moves forward.
A good explanation for this common characteristic between most of these pieces could be related to the need to create a reference point for the audience to accept the new sound world coming from the instrument on stage. Introducing that reference point, the piece presents a framework which also provokes the curiosity of the audience about what is happening on stage, working as a bait to bring the musical material to their attention.
But we cannot assume that this way of approaching the structure of the piece is only based on the audience. Presenting musical material and possibilities before developing them has been a common way of starting compositions in traditional music. That idea is also applied here, in the material and possibilities of the instrument itself, as a way of presenting the extended instrument before developing complex music material with it, benefiting a good musical discourse.
As Hugo Morales says, that way of presenting the possibilities of the instrument little by little has also practical reasons. It can be really handy when starting to rehearse the piece with performers who are not familiarised with the extended instrument. In that way, they begin reading and understanding the notation and functionality of the instruments as they move forward with the piece. When all the material is presented and assimilated by the performer, it is easier for them to go on reading parts where the techniques are combined and further developed.
In the piece we are working with an initial idea of rhythms motives and rhythm developments that we will apply to the process of revealing the instrument possibilities.