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Strobing Lights Are the Instruments in The Quiet Ensemble’s Robotic Symphony

Watch 'The Enlightenment,' a concert by an orchestra of 96 high-powered strobes, headlights, and neon lamps.
December 8, 2014, 8:00pm

The Enlightenment from Quiet ensemble on Vimeo.

Italian sound designers Fabio Di Salvo and Bernardo Vercelli of The Quiet Ensemble have a knack for finding sound in the most unlikely of places (some even more unlikely than the abandoned coffin factory they call their studio). In the past, we've talked with Salvo and Vercelli about their “focus on the greatness of small events,” which has manifested itself through mouse orchestras, snail musicals, and singing bananas. Their most recent project, however, introduces the group’s newest sonic subject: the lamp.


Performed in October for the Bologna’s Robot Festival, Salvo and Vercelli’s The Enlightenment is a “hidden concert of pure light” performed by an “uninhabited” orchestra of lighting elements, including stagelights and high-powered bulbs. “Instead of violins are neon lights,” the artists explain in their video description. “To replace drums are strobe lights, and instead of clarinets, we will see theatrical headlights illuminating the audience.”

Each lamp in Salvo and Vercelli’s 96-light orchestra was fitted with its own copper coil, allowing it to receive various electrical currents at programmed intervals. The electromagnetic fields they produced were then captured by a sensor, also attached to each lamp, which turned currents into sounds.

But the electrical buzz alone was not quite worthy of a symphonic performance—this is where Salvo and Vercelli entered the scene. Moving seamlessly between each of their makeshift orchestra members, the artists modified and amplified each lamp’s electric emissions in real time. Through these helping human hands, each burst of sunburnt light and every blurry ray of bluish electricity was transformed into The Enlightenment’s rhythmic, robotic symphony.

Check out The Enlightenment above, and explore the curious world of The Quiet Ensemble on their website, their Vimeo, and their SoundCloud.


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