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The Science Of Sound Gets Visualized In This A/V Experiment

Merging digital and more classical components, Nicolas Bernier cracks the indistinguishable human limit.

frequencies (light quanta) from Nicolas Bernier on Vimeo.

Photo Credits: Nicolas Bernier + Daniel Romero

Yesterday, Montreal-based sound artist, performer and composer Nicolas Bernier presented the third and last of frequencies, a series of artistic experimentations that focus on groundbreaking acoustic research at the crossroads between science, light, and sound-generating processes. Entitled frequencies (light quanta), the final piece in Bernier's project is a dynamic data visualization that blurs the boundaries among infinity, photon physical laws, electromagnetic forces, and cutting-edge audio-visual creative processes. 

Consisting of a unique combination of a sonic micro-particle soundtrack playing alongside an auto-generative animation illuminated by hundreds of quantum physics-inspired visuals laser printed on acrylic panels, frequencies (light quanta) is a 3D audiovisual installation that allows viewers to explore the infinitesimal through a granular-synthesized physical space.

Crafted in about eight months of development and a few days of Bernier's residency at the Sound Lab of the LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, in Gijon, Spain, we got in touch with creator Nicolas Bernier to get the inside scoop while he was putting the final touches on frequencies (light quanta):

The Creators Project: Can you start by telling us a bit about the evolution of frequencies series? How does frequencies (light quanta) differ from the other parts? 

Nicolas Bernier: The main aim behind the frequencies series is to work back to the basics of sounds—basic frequencies, mainly sines and white noise, but also basic sound generating processes. Those ideas dragged me into science, physics and into the history of acoustic researches (one must know that I am not a scientific mind at all, so I actually read these theories like poetry). 

The first iteration, frequencies (a) was working around the acoustic sine waves of the tuning forks. The second iteration, frequencies (synthetic variations) was working with synthesize sound/physical matter as the core materials. This third of the series, frequencies (light quanta), offers a close-up on granular synthesis which deals with micro-sampling and resonance in regards to quantum physics theories of particles. 

Could you visually describe the piece? How do you intend to show it in a gallery and what experience does it offer to the public?

The sound is bonded to a light composition that stems from a series of 100 acrylic panels standing on a black monolith. Each acrylic is engraved with quantum physics inspired graphics made of lines, dots and lines. These translucent panels will then form a moving animation as they're lit up. It is a bit like if I had the control over 100 cinema frames (so about 3 seconds of images at 30 frames per seconds).  

The cool and important thing is that there is all sort of reflection effects going on depending on which panels is lit up. As there is a lot of randomness in the composition, it continuously creates new patterns combinations. It is endless, depending on the angle at which you look it at, so you can turn all around... it is infinity, which, again, relates to quantum physics and the infinite universe.

How about the technical aspect of the piece? What tools and technologies do you employ?

First there is the support, a black monolith, which relies on really cool technology called carpentry. That said, the acrylic panels are engraved using a laser cutter and are independently lit up with 100 LED strips. All this work was made at Robocut studio, a really cool company that does all this stuff in Montréal. As the composition goes, the lights and the music signals are all sent from the same software, Ableton Live, using Max for Live for all the controls and the communication protocols. 

Ableton outputs MIDI that is passed to Max for Live who send it to the MIDI/DMX-512 interface (all the LED’s are controlled with DMX-512, the standard protocol for stage lightening). Then a 4-dimmer pack converts the DMX-512 signal to voltage that goes straight to the LEDs. Those dimmer pack are my little tricks, they are super well done by a really small company in the US called Celestial Audio

How do you intend for this piece to evolve? And what about any future projects?

I’ve worked 24/24 during the last weeks on this project so I think I will leave it for a bit and we’ll see where it will goes, but I already planned it so there could be several versions. Let’s see.

Future projects: yes, tons! The only thing is that I need to find the money to make them and this is the long part! Oh, maybe just one advertisement to end on: the sound portion of the work will be released in October on the Italian minimal label Farmacia901.

Check out Nicolas Bernier's website for more genre-bending sound art. 

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