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Aphex Twin Conducts A Live Orchestra... Remotely

<p>A 48-piece string section and a 24-person choir all under Richard James&#8217; command.</p>

Everyone’s been waiting on a new studio album from Aphex Twin (aka Richard James) for the last 10 years, but he’s too busy innovating in other areas, like live performance, touring the world and bringing his perverted electronica to the people of earth. Recently he was asked to write a few pieces for the European Culture Congress in Poland that took place in September. Initially he was going to fly over and collaborate with Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki in person. So far, so simple, but Richard James had other ideas. Namely, the idea of controlling a 48-piece string section and a 24-person choir by remote control—via midi controllers, headphones and remote visual cues. So far, so complex. The task fell to Aphex Twin and Weirdcore, a sound engineer, to work out the tricky logistics.

And that meant working with 74 pairs of headphones, 36 small monitors and six plasma screens—all split into seven different feeds. In two weeks’ time Weirdcore put together the interface using Max/MSP/Jitter and Max for the live audio, with invaluable input from Andrew Benson who recommended the best way to achieve what he needed. If you’re wondering about the Guitar Hero-esque color coding, Weirdcore explains: “Pretty simple actually. Each part of the orchestra/choir is color coded, instructions wise and lighting wise, which has the volume instructions connecting to the lighting system so the louder they have to play, the more brightly they light up… and vice versa.”

You can see it all for yourself in the video above, a longer version can be viewed here. The experiment went so well that James is keen to do more of this kind of stuff in his upcoming gigs, which means they’ll have to refine the whole setup to make something much more advanced.

Below is another performance from the gig, Aphex Twin’s remix of this performance by Krzysztof Penderecki of his avant-garde piece “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” with some eye-warping visuals from Weirdcore.