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"Five Ideas About the Relation of Sight and Sound"  

by Virgil Moorefield

Robert Alexander, Devin Kerr, techno-artistic contributors (2008-2011)

The piece is made for live performance and consists of five tableaux, each exploring a particular facet of the interplay between image and sound.


The piece calls for a 7.1 surround sound system, nine projectors, and high-end computers to process live performances featuring prepared grand piano, a percussion piece, and electric guitars. Tech and poetics manifestoes as short movies are located on the "Five Ideas" main page.


Five Ideas About the Relation of Sight and Sound online version

"Helicopter String Quartet" by Karlheinz Stockhausen

Digital Music Ensemble, directed by Virgil Moorefield (2008)

Helikopter-Streichquartett has been performed only three times in its original form. A full-scale production requires four large helicopters, each with a pilot, a live musician, and a sound technician inside, as well as an elaborate communications and audio-visual transmission apparatus.

Faced with the daunting task of mounting a performance of even one scene of this huge work, the Digital Music Ensemble decided to stage its own interpretation of the piece. Thus we are using model helicopters instead of full-scale ones, a quartet of electric guitarists in place of a string quartet, and we're adding a live video processing dimension. Sonically, we have taken considerable liberties at variance with the printed score, as did Stockhausen himself on his recording with the Arditti Quartet (1995). We believe we have been true to the spirit of the piece.

Helicopter String Quartet online version  

“Chicago Union Station” by Cartwright/Moorefield/Weeter (2004)

(the full version is a DVD in 5.1 surround, duration: 7:46; published by ICMC, as well as Organised Sound)

Recently, we mounted a group expedition to Chicago Union Station to collect sights and sounds. Over the course of the past three years, we have been working with combining audio and visuals in an increasingly intertwined manner. From its inception, our group has been involved in intermedia: our work is informed by the fact that media convergence is occurring not only in the physical world, but also inside the computer.
Recently, we produced a surround-sound studio artifact suitable for presentation on DVD players everywhere.
Our idea was to use a quotidian experience as a point of departure for a re-imagination. Things often repeated are stripped of excitement and mystery; but what if a very familiar place was experienced in a new way? What would someone who saw it for the very first time see?
On another level, we sought a focus for our desire to create a new reality, an immersive experience using computers. Union Station seemed ideal for our project on a number of levels: it’s easily accessible for sampling and filming, it’s a place with different environments, and it’s a point of departures as well as arrivals: a gateway.


Chicago Union Station online version


Six Corners online version


“Six Corners ” by Cartwright/Moorefield/Weeter (2005)

(the full version is a live performance onto three screens and in 5.1 surround, duration: ca. 12 min.; first performance: NMN, May 2005)

Our poetics of intermedia calls for establishing systems in which the auditory and visual components of our work are not only complementary, but interdependent.With Six Corners, the process has become quite literal: we have designed a wireless network of four machines, driven by three performers. Three laptops are used as instruments to provide live surround sound processing. The sounds produced are also expressed as moving averages of amplitude and spectral energy and sent to a fourth machine. This fourth machine drives video output to three screens. The images also generate information (average chroma values) which is in turn fed back into the laptops, thus creating a resonant system between audio and video.

Depending on the values sent and received in the loop, it can either achieve homeostatic balance, or erupt into chaotic activity. It is up to the performers to coax the system into the desired mode. Sound and image are both free, yet bound to each other, mirroring the interdependence of the living urban organism we document. We seek the extraordinary through the quotidian, and to create an immersive experience that refracts reality though a sensory processing system. All source sounds and images were collected at one intersection in Chicago, late August, 2004.