Write up coming soon !
Yune Pinku was the first live performer at Sonic Sphere NYC (KA11). For her performance, Yune had written some incredible new material, and her set up was a hybrid DJ set and live vocals. Rather than a full dance set, hers was a deeply thoughtful, sultry journey which was memerising and sensitive to the space. There were hints of bristol dubstep, 90s rave chill out spaces and future pop woven together in a seamless fabric that filled Sonic Sphere. We had chosen to split her stereo feed into a triplet of stacked and slowly rotating quadrophonic objects, using a set of filters to project certain frequency bands vertically in the space. This was a stunning masterclass in tension and release by a performer we all love and can’t wait to hear more of.
Over two exhilarating nights of sizzling energy, Jersey Club Queen Uniiqu3 took the stage at Sonic Sphere NYC. Her relentless sets of jittery beats, multi-layered percussive textures, sampled and live vocals got people out of their seats within seconds and the synergy was palpable. A crew of incredible dancers worked the crowd into a frenzy and Sonic Sphere was trembling with delight. This being a DJ setup much like Yune Pinku’s set, the spatializing setup was similar, with some transient-reactive automation to jump Uniiqu3’s drum beats around the audience. These were two unforgettable nights by an artist that is changing the world of dance music and holds the key to its future. In preparation for her set, Uniiqu3 had already set our warehouse space on fire with an impromptu private set for the Sonic Sphere team, and we are forever grateful for her incredible generosity.
Hailed as one of the world’s finest pianists, we were incredibly lucky to be able to host Igor Levitt at Sonic Sphere NYC. Over 2 days, Igor performed 3 times and had chosen a work by the pioneer of ambient, Morton Feldman and an extract of Bach’s Ich Ruf Zu Dir.. We had always envisaged to use our instrument to ‘explode the piano’, meaning we were planning to use a battery of so-called contact microphones to amplify the innards of the piano, and mix that in on the surface of the sphere with the acoustic sounds emanating from the piano itself. We were incredibly lucky to have been connected to one of the world’s leading acoustical engineers Amanda Lind who brought her expertise and relentless energy to help us explode the piano. My visual analogy when trying to explain how this might work was always Cornelia Parker’s Exploded Shed, which seemed doubly appropriate since we were hosted by The Shed. Nonetheless, how this might actually be done, and what it would sound like I had no real idea of, it was an experiment. But experiments take time to set up, evaluate and develop, and time was the primary casualty of Sonic Sphere at The Shed. Amanda had brought in some incredibly sensitive contact microphones, and we tried our best to make the most of our few early morning hours, but it wasn’t quite enough to fully realise what we had set out to do. The performances were mesmerising in their own right, but a real learning for us was the incredible importance of backing up ambitious ideas with the appropriate amount of hours to make them real.
Kiran (AKA Madame Gandhi) was one of the first artists confirmed for NYC live shows, and she was one of the most engaged, committed and excited by the project. So much so in fact that I had the pleasure of working with her in my studio in London over several days in April to fully spatialise her backing tracks, and we then also spent another full day at the Brooklyn Warehouse to finesse and finalise things. All this meant that Kiran’s set was the most exquisitely spatialized of them all. The incredible generosity of giving us her time and commitment to making the most out of our instrument had paid off, and exponentially so. Kiran played live drum, percussion and vocals which were gently spatialized, but the addition of a fully 3D backing track made the whole performance a truly exciting example of what Sonic Sphere can do. Her continued enthusiasm and energy for our project is really special and something we cherise and are grateful for. Watch this space.
The Lab sessions were hard fought, (and won) additions to our regular programming. In the spirit of the Kugelauditorium project, an open stage to foster local talent, a true no-holds-barred accessible laboratory of the senses was critical for us to establish, even if KA11 was the first iteration fully ticketed and loaded with pressures to be financially viable.
That viability had taken a firm backseat due to the many delays and unforeseen costs of KA11, so by the time we finally got the green light on our Lab sessions, we were fully back into our experimental, boundary pushing mindsets.
The Lab session kicked off with an intro session hosted by co-founders Ed Cooke and Merijn Royaards. This was really a bird’s eye view of all the various things we had tried out with KA2-10; a brief history of our sensory laboratory.
The following session was a deeply intimate, fragile and beautiful collection of poetry readings by some on NYC finest poets and spoken word artists, (Danielle Bero, Lauren Ducrey, Kyle Studstill, and Cea (Constantine Jones) accompanied by original compositions by Spencer Handley.
Next up was the inimitable Madame Gandhi, who showcased her Antarctic recordings, soon to be released as a sample pack, with collaborator Atropolis. The sounds she had recorded were mangled, manipulated and morphed into soundscapes that may have started life in the anbtarctic, but took the audience on a journey to the depths of space and back, a truly mind boggling rollercoaster ride and masterclass in creative, spatial sound design. Madame Gandhi generously took her time engaging the audience with an extended and revealing Q&A session,
Spencer Handley’s incredible ‘Voices of the World’ was another sonic journey, but a journey of our world, and all the different voices that make up humanity. Spencer had spliced together many of his own field recordings with rare historical recordings of tribes and peoples from across the globe. His amazing collage was a celebration of language as a musical expression of human emotion that transcends our ability to understand what is being said, a truly remarkable sonic expedition to far off lands.
The next session was a remarkable pairing of composer/ sound designers Raquel Acevedo klein and Joe Mardin. Where Raquel’s work was a very emotive lockdown inspired orchestral work using nothing but her own layered voice, Joe Mardin’s was a collection of spoken word vignettes extracted from a play by Beliz Güçbilmez called Noises in my Head, set to haunting, austere and minimal but incredibly powerful sound and music composed by Joe. This was a mesmeric and introverted session, yet sonically deeply spatial and architectural.
July the 20th coincided with the celebration of the first moon landing, so Ed decided we should throw a moon party, really a precursor to the Party on the Moon, a party long in the works for Sonic Sphere that will be hosted in 2030. For this party though, we played a KA classic, a work by Merijn Royaards especially composed for Burning Man 2022, featuring a collage of NASA recordings to simulate a rocket launch, slowly morphing into an ambient journey across time and space. The amazing Ivy Fu had composed another space inspired work, based on Mars landings, and of course, the party wouldn’t have been complete without Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The super duo Amanda Lind and Stephon Alexander treated Sonic Sphere to a partially improvised, deeply spatial ambisonic work. The sound design for Diminished Doorways followed a melodic thread including field recordings taken in doorways, over thresholds, and in various environments, inviting the listener to follow along and render the details of air quality, temperature, and scale in the mind’s eye. The use of sound to make space move through the listener was as powerful as it was boundary pushing, and the incredible virtuosity of saxophonist Stephon Alexander was gently spatialized live in what became a synergy between spatial mixer Merijn Royaards and Stephon; they were improvising together, architecturally.
The Emmy Award winning composer Rolfe Kent has been part of Sonic sphere from iteration 6 (KA6), and his works have always been instant hits. Characterized by simple but hyper-effective uses of spatial placement, Rolfe has truly mastered our instrument as his own. As the programme exclaimed: ‘Enter the music, join the composition, and throw your own ecstatic howl into the massed chorus of voices as the air trembles in song.’, and rolfe’s session delivered and went beyond all expectations. Rolfe conducted an experience combining specially composed 360-degree music within Sonic Sphere with choral audience participation to create a sonic medley that resonated through the audience’s mind and body. The audience was invited to explore the space, experience music architecturally from different listen-points, sonic perspectives. They were also made an integral part of the music by singing harmonies, adding to melodies, and using body percussion to spice up the drum tracks, all done live, and crucially in space. Rolfe’s session truly was a ear-opener to all of us. It showed what was possible when sonic Sphere is played as the instrument of consciousness it was designed as, collectively.
For our final Lab Session, Electronic music duo FOSS (Romain Collin and Jeremy Loucas) had created a bespoke show for Sonic Sphere’s lights and surround-sound system. With tape machines and tape loops, live sampling, modular synthesizers, and vocals, their music blended songwriting with ambient experimental soundscapes. It was a fitting end to our lab sessions, with haunting melodies and musical virtuosity enveloping the sphere and captivating the audience..