The Angels are among us; reality has been shattered. Live percussion drives spatialized interactive electronics. Picking up where Part 1 left off, sonic revelation swirls in prismatic waves to the dawning of a hopeful tomorrow.
Piece: Angels in America: Perestroika
Author: Tony Kushner
Production: Zora Howard & Martin Mecourri
Director: Jon Reimer
Set Design: Anna Robinson
Costume Design Amanda Junior Bergmann
Lighting Design: Joel Britt
Venue: UCSD Dance Studio 3
Date: August 2016
The second installment of Angels in America evoked a visceral response sonically upon it's first reading. Kushner's stage directions are huge and outlandish, and his notes on sound show that he intends foe this piece to be a true spectacle: admittedly, I retrofitted his specifications into my own language. At the first production meeting I was surprised to find out that we also had conscripted percussionist Fiona Digney to be a live performer and physical meta-stand-in for the statue of Bethesda. We resolved that the piece would be a collaboration between Fiona and my computer instruments.
Fiona created motivic gestures for scenes and characters while I put together an interactive system using 8 contact mics to connect percussion and computer. Her percussion would create the electro-acoustic atmosphere, I would control the parameters in order to sculpt the event. In order to generate sounds that were pulled but also abstracted from the percussion instruments I used multiple channels of my Vanilla Effects pedal originally designed for solo saxophone.
The creative team knew we wanted to pick up where Part 1 had left off, so I went back to the patches we had developed for the first show to pull the drone tones which had come to signify each character (these tones were the overtones of a powerful fundamental "ghost tone" revealed to be the Angel). I added to the design a Wendy Carlos tribute synthesizer loosely based on her sounds for A Clockwork Orange and the film version of The Who's Tommy.
It was the beginning gesture, underpinning the introductory monologue, which described the energy of the rest of the piece. Slowly the tones were introduced in swirling boids patterned spatialization powered by Shahrokh Yadegari's space~ abstraction for Pure Data. Percussion provided a crescendo of activity charging the room with sympathetic electronics and at the peak of the monologue the synthesizer let forth a thunderous peal of the fundamental Angel tone (octaves of F).
From here the piece lurched and jittered in and out of reality, falling over itself in it's intensity, until ascending into the peaceful calm of heaven. Multiple electro-acoustic drum solos punctuated the action (eg Proctor's fight with the Angel), however the final coda was preceded by an extended cadenza of themes void of electronic manipulation.