Soft Revolvers

Soft Revolvers

Lovely spinning tops of light illuminate the space they occupy, creating a dynamic range of sonic tones and beats dependent on their movement. In her piece Soft Revolvers, Myriam Bleau majestically yet simply produces electroacoustic soundscapes by spinning acrylic tops like a DJ would turntables. By programming each top to a different instrumental or electronic sound, Bleau manifests groundbreaking music that twists, turns, wobbles, and thrives as the tops do the same. Each 10' diameter turning top controls musical algorithms in Pure Data through their internally built gyroscope and accelerometers. The LED lights fade in and out in sync to the music being generated from each individual top. A camera captures Bleau's performance and the live video is projected on a larger scale behind the artist, giving the audience a closer look at the floating rings of light.

The utilization of spinning tops brings an aura of intense anticipation. General familiarity with the behavior of spinning tops gives the audience insight on the direction Bleau's music is about to take, anticipating what they are about to hear next. By maintaining  control over these spontaneous  objects, Bleau is able to produce interweaving tempos and electronic compositions that continuously keep the sound fresh, exciting, and unpredictable. Minimalist design and architecture of these objects emphasizes the unique interaction between each jitter in the revolving top and their generated sound. Physics takes the reigns as the second composer in the performance, making each one discrete. As Bleau "DJ's" her music, one cannot help but visualize her scratching vinyls on turntables. With this visualization in mind, it cannot be denied that Soft Revolvers is an elegant breakthrough of new age music performance. 

Bleau comments on her inspiration behind the work,

"First of all my interest in bringing back the body in electronic music performance. For that reason I always try to think about objects that could allow interesting musical interactions. The spinning top was perfect for that purpose and has a lot of potential for movement-music transpositions. They have a very simple and logical behaviour (when you spin one it progressively goes slower and eventually stops) while at the same time being a bit unpredictable, possibly bumping into each other or changing direction." Bleau, Myriam. (2016, May 20). Email Interview.


"The second idea is my interest in hybridity, mixing pop connotations with more experimental contexts. When I realized after making some prototypes that the tops looked like turntables, I decided to incorporate hip hop and dance music elements in the composition, and to some extent use the idiomatic gestural vocabulary of the scratching." Bleau, Myriam. (2016, May 20). Email Interview.

The design of the tops was intentionally built to enhance audience experience with the music and performance aesthetics. Bleau describes how,

"Transparency in the interactions is really important for me, I like to understand what's going on when I see a performance, to build expectations and participate in the tension generated by the 'instrumental' playing. The light patterns are generally linked to the sounds that each top plays, making it easier for the audience to understand which top is playing and how I compose the music live." Bleau, Myriam. (2016, May 20). Email Interview.

In regards to the originality behind the work's aesthetics, an article in Musicworks online magazine states,

"The sleekly designed spinning tops in Bleau's Soft Revolvers are purposefully chose to blur the line between expectations of how electronic music instruments should look and the instruments' actual appearance. This innovative recontextualization of forms is in the same spirit as instruments created by sound artists such as Bernier, Martin Messier, and --- going back a number of years--- media at duo [The User]." Radford, Deanna. (2014). "Myriam Bleau Spins Soft Revolvers". Musicworks.

Bleau's piece most certainly sheds new light on innovative instruments. She elegantly recreated the classic style of turntables with her own "spin" off of the idea of revolving vinyl. The work sparks new concepts on how sonic art can be explored in exciting, elegant ways that also correlate to traditional and modern culture surrounding music. Bringing together classic vinyl imagery with the present day EDM and Hip Hop scene, Soft Revolvers represents groundbreaking instrumental invention. Utilizing algorithms and this sort of dynamic techno instrument, brings more life and animation to electronic music performance than one might get from hearing a piece composed solely from behind a computer screen. 

Similar to Soft Revolvers, Bleau's work Photomaton, in the video above, exemplifies innovative approaches to music performance. This piece is a sonic installation where three light bulbs dance, jitter, and jump in accordance to her musical composition for this piece. In a time where she was focusing on creating glitchy music, Bleau states,

"I wanted to work with visual material that would complement the erratic minimalism i was going for. I liked the image of the naked light bulb for the warehouse connotations, but also for its analog behaviour. I also like the idea of recontextualizing objects. In this case, i think the added kinetic dimension subverts the nature of the light bulb, it becomes an estranged object, although still familiar" Bleau, Myriam. (2016, May 20). Email Interview. 

Although this piece isn't exactly a live performance, the oscillating light bulbs acting interdependently to the sound score generates a personified scene where inanimate objects seemingly carry a live dialogue with the music. Bleau beautifully imagines a instance of "synchresis", where both auditory and visual outputs coexist in a spontaneous yet controlled manner. Again the conversation about bringing life to music performance is consistent through both of her works. 

Another piece that rather indirectly makes commentary on using sound to enhance performance can be observed through Belrusian artist, Evelina Domnitch's Sonolevitation. In conjunction to Bleau's previous pieces, Domnitch plays a 15kHz acoustic vibration that makes a standing wave to recreate the phenomena of the pressureless voids found in outerspace. Within these voids, Domnitch suspends a collection of gold leafs that float and dance to the changing frequency and amplitude of the sound. The similarity between Sonolevitation and Soft Revolvers derive from their breakthrough in performance art and sound. Sonolevitation successfully utilizes physics to construct a elegantly minimalist system where the gold circles spin and dance in interaction with sound, while Bleau built her performance around the relationship between her spinning tops and various sounds they produce. 

The avant- garde performances and installations produced by Myriam Bleau are an exceptionally refreshing turning point in sonic and performance art. 

Myriam Bleau is currently on tour with her performance of Soft Revolvers. Previous and upcoming tour dates can be found here

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