On the String, theatre of music

multimedia performance (2010)

About ‘On the String’

With a creative team of ve, we created a 60’ multimedia interdisciplinary performance at the Singapore Arts Festival 2010. This project is a poetic manifestation of the scientic thought; that the universe is made up of vibrating one-dimensional strings. The journey began as an aural fantasy of these vibrating strings. Through experimentation and collaboration, we created two sculptures and an immersive sonic environment comprised of 67 speakers. Both sculptures have been conceived as playable musical instruments, capable of producing acoustic, electronic and virtual sounds. These sounds are projected in a way that evokes a sensation of being immersed and enveloped by moving sounds. To enrich this soundscape, the pipa, the harpsichord and 14 string players were employed.

There are nine movements which metaphorically leads the listener/ audience from ‘reality’ to ‘subatomic levels’ of the composite particles made up of quarks and leptons. To establish a sense of reality, we hear familiar sounds of cityscapes in the opening movement ‘Reality Lost’. We are soon thrown into the ‘subatomic level of composite particle’ through the intricate textures of the pipa and harpsichord by the second movement ‘Perpetuum Mobile’. In the third movement, ‘Decay Signatures’, we nd ourselves in bubble chambers where particles move in space. ‘Three Quarks for Muster Mark’ and ‘Cosmic Dust’ are playful interpretations of gluons and dark matter respectively. By the sixth movement, ‘Dance of the Calabu-Yau Gravitons’, we arrive at the scale of one-dimensional vibrational strings expressed in a kaleidoscopic sound mobile. The emergence of violins and violas heralds the seventh movement ‘Becoming Branes’, and takes over the sound mobile by losing the string-like characteristics and mustering mass to form membrane-like sonority. By the 8th movement ‘When Worldsheets Touch’, the energy peaks, alluding to the idea of worldsheets touching. After the explosion, comes a moment when the ear cries for intimacy, and the nal movement ‘Swan Song’ is sung, made from a virtual glass string played by a single musician on the canopy sculpture. Visit the website www.onthestring.net for more details and extras.

Creative team

Joyce Beetuan Koh (Singapore), conception, direction, composition (www.jbtkoh.net)
PerMagnus Lindborg (Sweden), sound art - interaction design (www.permagnus.net)
Khiew Huey Chian (Singapore), sculpture-installation design
Dirk Stromberg (United States), instrument design (www.dirkstromberg.org)
Lim Woan Wen (Singapore), lighting design

Joyce Beetuan Koh presenting the project

excerpt from the performance