La Máquina de Bolas – Alex Under & Rod Maclachlan / La Casa Encendida
A mini doc about the creation of this kinetic opera of motors, lights, pendulums, smoke and sound that combines a love of early 20th century abstract art with the current trends of sound and kinetic art.
For past projects Rod created VJ sets using live cameras filming small kinetic assemblages on the stage, barely seen by the audience. For this collaboration he wanted to create a dynamic stage-based lighting installation as the visual focus. As a sculptor working with light he saw the potential of using the height and frame of the stage as a canvas for this abstract composition.
Alex’s latest album has the title La Máquina de Bolas (ball machine), that evokes a sense of playfulness. Rod wanted to draw on this sense of fun whilst creating dynamic correlations between sound, colour and movement: a Synesthesia machine. Influence for this came from 20th century pioneers of abstraction and kinetic assemblage such as Kandinsky, Miro, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Calder. Rod’s contraptions also retained a playful fluid quality by working with mechanisms and materials that were not fully predictable such as pendulums, falling dust, and lights bouncing on elastic.
The collaboration resulted in a 60 minute continuous performance.
The movements of the servo motors are triggered and controlled by midi signals from Ableton Live. This enables rapid matching of rhythms that can be offset and subtlety tweaked. For other sections non-audible sound waves trigger dust to fall from sieves that are attached to transducers and DC motors spin EL ‘neon’ glow wire into harmonic wave forms that link stage truss to the stage floor.
The fluorescent strip-light metronome rockers can be dimmed so that random flickers occur. At the rear of the stage two fixed lasers fitted with line generator lenses are mounted on servo arms. The lasers slowly sweep vertically and horizontally creating plains of light scanning above the audience that blink on and off and split into multiple beams as a servo shutter and diffraction grating move across the beam.
Sound is also harvested from the light movement and motors to be used in the composition. The pendulum light swings over a light-sensitive oscillator that creates a raw Theremin-like sound that is processed by Alex Under. Microphones attached to the servo motors are used in a section when all other pre-recorded sound is muted to leave a servo-symphony.
To augment the stage spectacle a live camera is focused on details of the moving devices and these images projected onto a black screen at the rear of the stage. These video details can be sampled and overlaid.