My first electronic performance
The Antwerp Cultural Council, which organised "Music in the City" every year, invited SEM in 1988 to give a concert in this festival and to make a composition for it.The two-year-old abstract work "meditative space being oneself" by the then 63-year-old sculptor Jan Dries (†2014) was to serve as a source of inspiration for this project.
Dries' spatial work was given a permanent appearance in 1986 on the square in front of the new municipal theatre in the centre of Antwerp. The saddle surface, which rises above the square on one side and slopes downwards on the other, was there until 2007, when the square was redesigned. It has stood up to the weekly market for all those years and formed a balance with it in a certain way.
SEM used the abbreviated title for the new audiovisual creation: "Meditative Space".
The music for this project was made by Joris De Laet and Paul Adriaenssens.
Live computer graphics
I would create live computer graphics to go with their music. These graphics would be realized with the possibilities of my new Archimedes A310, a for that time very powerful 'personal computer'. I thought it should be possible to get to know the thing and produce colour graphics in a few months. Colours on the computer were just then coming within reach of the ordinary computer owner. These graphics had to be both live and in real time, because capturing them on video or saving them to a file as is possible today, was not possible then.
The abstract structure of the composition was derived from the 2-dimensional image of the saddle surface (see image):
How this structure should be interpreted was decided independently by each participating composer or graphic artist. In music, this meant that the sound parameters used, were taken from a narrowing domain for the first 25 minutes, then remained stable for a while. And finally the domain from where the sound parameters came, widened again.
The same thing happened in computer graphics. Programming a moving saddle surface went reasonably smoothly. The graphics were abstract and minimalist especially in the beginning and did not draw the attention away from the music too much. In the middle section, it became more organic. The graphic content for this part was sampled by the computer program from the screen during the first section. The third movement brought visual tranquility and came to the essence.
Presentation during Music in the City
The first performance was in May 1988 in the Ebes auditorium. Until 1990 'Ebes' was the name of the electricity company on the Mechelsesteenweg in Antwerp. Later the work was also shown in the Antwerp summer festival Fabrik 88.
The fact that a video of this still exists is matter of luck, even though the quality is on the edge. We should not forget that this graphic story takes place around the 1990s. Video was still entirely analogue back then. Recording the images cleanly was not possible without the use of very expensive studio equipment. I had to cope with my Archimedes and a VHS recorder.
laatste update: 2021.06.06
Links other websites
meditatieve ruimte het zelf zijn - Jan Dries - Middelheim Museum
Estate Jan Dries
All rights reserved