Les Boréades

Live Performance, January 2020

Les Boréades Live Performance

Collaboration

  • Brad Johnson
  • 45th Parallel Universe

Contributions

  • Technical Direction
  • Experience Strategy
  • Prototyping
  • Systems Design
  • Software Development
  • Physical Installation
In an immersive live performance of four classical and avant-garde French masterpieces, Les Boréades proved that chamber music continues to stand the test of time. From Boulez to Ravel, the concert aimed to recontextualize the conventions of how we experience these classics– exchanging the symphony hall with Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s expansive warehouse space for a one-night performance on January 17, 2020.
As a collaboration between artist Brad Johnson, Glowbox, and chamber music collective 45th Parallel Universe, Les Boréades was an experiment in concert presentation as equal parts performance and visual experience. By utilizing PICA’s open layout, attendees could witness the performance from any angle. The 14-piece orchestra, staged in a circle formation between two massive scrim dividers, was surrounded by four seating sections— after each piece, attendees were encouraged to switch seats, rotating through each section for a full 360-degree experience.
production table at the event
production table at the event
Set-up of the live performance
Set-Up
The interplay between light, sound, and motion in Les Boréades created a multisensory experience unlike most presentations of orchestral music. The mesh scrims provided a surface to overlay projections that would also permeate through the material, allowing for both a transparent and obscured sense of light and space between the audience and orchestra. These projections showcased Brad Johnson’s volumetric point clouds translated from photogrammetric captures of forest landscapes and ancient ruins. Brad was able to explore and choreograph these scenes in 3D using virtual cameras, implementing our custom cinematography tools to bring these worlds to life within a virtual realm. Following the orchestra’s lead, we were able to manipulate the projections by adjusting the camera’s movements and point clouds (scale, color, behavior)— flowing into new scenes while responding to the cadences of each piece of music. We could render and modulate these parameters with zero latency using custom tools we created (in Unity) that could respond to MIDI hardware controllers— allowing us to perform with complete creative control while guiding the audience through the trees in a hypnotic experience of movement and sound.
“Les Boreades represents an opportunity to engage new audiences who are eager to have a different conversation about classical music.”
As time moves forward, how do we preserve the integrity and experience of classical music? With the help of new technologies we can expect an exciting future where traditional and contemporary media blend, allowing for deeper, multi-faceted experiences. At Glowbox, we aim to explore alternatives to how we interact with sights, sounds, and spaces— Les Boréades turned the ‘conventional concert’ on its head, encouraging us all to challenge how we define venue and performance.
Brad Johnson working on the visual performance
Creating the VR Paths
Glowbox lab workbench
Workbench at the lab
Motion Capture Kinect Set-Up
Motion Capture Kinect Set-Up
Musicians during the live performance
Musicians during the live performance

Credits

  • Artist
  • Brad Johnson
  •  
  • 45th Parallel Universe
  • Ron Blessinger, Executive Director
  • James Shields, Program Development
  • Gregory Ewer, Program Development
  •  
  • Glowbox
  • Thomas Wester, Technical Director
  • Ben Purdy, Technical Direction
  • Thomas Newlands, Technical Artist
  • Billy Haugen, Developer
  • Kate Wolf, Producer
  • Cat Ross, Production Coordinator, Visual Choreographer
  • Greg Scott, Event Producer

Tools & Technologies

  • Unity
  • VFX graph
  • Photogrammetry
  • Virtual Reality
  • Real-time rendered point clouds
  • Virtual Cinematography