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Electronic music has a performance problem, and this artist is trying to solve it

During the rehearsals on SXSW last month, Chagall van den Berg encountered an unusual problem: her digital knee shot in the wrong direction. "My friend laughed and said," Oh, this is a problem that the SXSW artist never had, "says Van den Berg The Verge .

Van den Berg is a musician who wears a glove movement and a full body suit, covered with sensors, which during the execution of this SXSW not only control the projection of the digital avatar, which is behind it, but also controls almost every instrument and effect in music and voice. When it moves on the stage, it An avatar floating in space moves synchronously. When she stretches her arms above her head, I slow down the sound of the sound It's up to grinding and stuttering. Every movement of the hands and the body is the cause and the result of the development of pop-dipping dreams that are fascinating to watch.

Wearing these sensors, van den Berg can bring chords and melodies with a swirling hand, or distort the video about himself. bizarre ways by raising one hand: Since every movement can create sound or visual changes, its performances are very physical, but elegant and intentional. "I can do all the movements and look like an air traffic controller," says van den Berg. – It worked, but it is not very productive. All the songs I do have functional and meaningful moves. "

van den Berg handles gloves in 2017. The show starts at 3:50.

Born in Amsterdam, Holland, obsessed with music and computing from an early age, but always regarded them as separate things. She played instrumental in groups, was a singer / songwriter, and traditionally worked with other producers to create strikes for their tracks. Then in 2011, she first entered the "real" studio. Watching how the producers gathered with her songs to make remixes, she pressed: "I can do it." She herself taught music production and soon after that she released her debut EP in 2012. "I immediately noticed how much freedom and independence gave me," says van den Berg. "I no longer needed other people who would release my songs. My music expression has become much more direct, because I could just make sounds that I had in my head, instead of explaining them to another person. "

Van den Berg solved one problem for himself, but the release of music created another: how does she perform the songs she has done? The nature of most electronic tracks meant that she had two options – standing at the table with a bunch of gears and pens and faders, or playing a musical track and singing on top. No for her was not acceptable. "I had such a choice," says van den Berg. – Or it will be real and alive, but it will be bored to watch and move away from the audience, or I would play the record and was able to dance on stage. The dancing around and being with the audience was much more appealing, but the musician really did not like the idea of ​​singing on the track. Therefore, I had a dilemma. "

This dilemma with van der Berg encountered a problem faced by many DIY and electronic artists – how you turn on movement and expressiveness when you are essentially working at a table using an interface that you will probably never see ? And then make it interesting? Such actions as The Glitch Mob use electronic drum kits and broken Microsoft Surfaces, inclined to the audience, while several startups, such as Enhancia and Genki Instruments, are banked on rings of MIDI controllers. Van den Berg's original decision was Mi.Mu, a pair of motion trackers created by musician Imogen Hep. Each glove has nine sensors and triggers that are fully customizable. Almost any motion can be assigned to any musical parameter, so you can, for example, lower your arm to add a reverb, or press in the air to add a voice chorus. Van der Berg was inspired by the Mi.Mu gloves, she wrote the song "Sappho" on the day she received them.

It was in 2014, and he began searching van den Berg to smoothly block the gap between her body movements on the stage, as well as control over the sound and visual effects. Although the gloves allowed van den Berg to control the audio and video with his own hands, she wanted to do more: how could she use her whole body instead of just her own hands? Iteration, over which she now works, combines gloves with a suit to capture p the ears that are usually used to record people's moves for video games or movies. Now she has one song programmed to use all the technology she wears, but the goal is to ultimately expand to a full-time clock show. It's a daunting task. On the way, she had to learn C ++, find a company to provide her sensors (she does not own the system, estimating the total cost of about $ 12,000), and constantly experiment with new combinations of existing technologies on various platforms to get all of this

Nal Van den Berg arming is smooth and minimal on the SXSW scene, but there is a complex network of hardware and software required to launch it. She wears a Mi.Mu glove on her hands and then wears an individual costume, fitted with 15 Xsens 3D tracking sensors covering her arms, shoulders, head, bass, legs and legs. On the side there are three computers – a Mac laptop with three programs for managing sound and effects, a Mac mini that uses the creative encryption tool openFrameworks to control all visual materials controlled by Mi.Mu gloves and a Windows notebook that suits cost sensors and realistically combines them with the Unity gaming engine, using the VRee wireless full-featured VR platform. There are also additional equipment, such as microphones and audio interface. To ensure that there is no hiccup, the show will run on its own Wi-Fi network, requiring Wi-Fi to be turned off or moving to another frequency to prevent interference. It's a lot. But the result – the realization of the year's work on body, voice, music and video into one reactive thing – is incredibly exciting.

The whole process is much easier if other electronic musicians accept it, says van den Berg. "[My setup] is not how we are going to change the world of electronic musical performance, because nobody is going to spend this money, and then also be extremely concerned about IP addresses and the network when checking the sound," she says. "Who wants to travel with three expensive computers and set it all during a 20-minute replacement at the festival?

One Van Den Berg Costume with Xsens Sensors
Image: Jan Mülders

van den Berg is not the only electronic artist who thinks about the relationship between her physical self and technology – musician Laura Escudé It also uses motion-based controllers and reactive visuals, but it is one of the most ambitious. And while each hack is self-sufficient in that it brings her closer to the show she has in the head, ultimately, the bigger goal: van der Berg hopes her experiments will encourage others to think about how their performances can be more exciting, and that it can make it easier for artists who want to do similar things.

"My dream is that I'm not the only one in the world who does such things," says van den Berg. "The effect of electronic music becomes more human and more expressive." This means being a case of all technical headaches, so others should not.

"I am like a guinea pig," she laughs. "But that's fine with me."

van den Berg acts in SXSW. Video credit: The New Holland Wave.

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