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SOFTlab Opens A "Light House" Monument To Light And Sound

A new installation from SOFTlab called Light House brings architectural elements into the audiovisual mix.

by Sarah Brin
Jul 29 2013, 5:30pm

Light House by SOFTlab is a spatial sound and light installation that opened in LA last week.

Way back in the early 1900s, the Russian composer Alexandr Scriabin invented what he called the tastiéra per luce, an instrument that projected colored light corresponding to musical notes organized according to a chromatic scale. Scriabin was a theosophist, which meant that he believed there was a defined cosmic correspondence between light and sound. The composer spent the bulk of his career working on a project he called Mysterium, a multisensory performance involving sight, smell, and sound, to be performed by every human being on Earth, which he thought would evoke the apocalypse. 

Fortunately for all of us, he did not succeed. Of course, Scriabin wasn't the only artist interested in visualizing the connections between senses, and there have been many variations on the tastiéra per luce, ranging from Wassily Kandinsky’s synaesthetic paintings to Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Rez. A new installation from SOFTlab called Light House brings architectural elements into the audiovisual mix. Installed at Los Angeles' Sonos Studio, Light House is an interactive installation that invites participants to immerse themselves in multiple manifestations of sound.

Light House is a minimalist structure with 30 rows of 20 fluorescent light tubes of varying lengths suspended vertically from a mounted frame. The piece’s evocation of home, as indicated by both its title and its division into four sonic zones resembling “rooms,” alludes to a domestic zone that is both nostalgic in its stark modernity and futuristic in its technical cohesion. 

It's also an artful demonstration of technical finesse. Each row of fluorescent bulbs is controlled by custom-wired circuit boards on relays (created by hardware prototyper Noah Zerkin), zip-tied onto the frame. The piece’s back-end, primarily engineered by Michael Szivos and Liz Kelsey, is fairly sophisticated, employing MAXMSP to input audio into four channels, then sending it to Processing to create an installation that is "responsive to (musical) amplitude in real time," and automatically syncs tracks to rhythmic pulses of light. Participants can use the Sonos mobile app to stream music from a range of stations, including Pandora, Spotify, and Sirius, to instantly create a Light House visualization for any song. 

While Light House is SOFTlab's first interactive installation, the New York-based design firm was up for the challenge. Speaking about their inspirations for the project, "Sound and light are inherently spatial... We wanted to show conceptually how music already forms space, and we wanted to do that three dimensionally in space so we had that physicality." 

Light House made its debut with a live performance by The Crystal Method, and the Sonos Studio will also host performances from Washed Out and Bleached during the installation's one month run. You can experience Light House at the Sonos Studio, July 25th until August  25th (Wednesday – Friday, 12-6pm), at 145 N. La Brea Ave, in Los Angeles.

sonos studios