Ether 2011: Digital artist Klaus Obermaier on revamping The Rite of Spring


Klaus Obermaier, digital artist behind The Rite of spring in 3D, in conversation with Southbank Centre’s Head of Contemporary Culture, Gillian Moore.

GM: How have you managed to integrate a live dancer, live orchestra and screen?

KO: Stereo cameras and a complex computer system transfer the dancer Julia Mach to a virtual three-dimensional space. Time layers and unusual perspectives overlay one another and multiply themselves, enabling a completely new perception of the body and its sequences of movements. Real-time generated virtual spaces communicate and interact with the dancer. The human body is once more the interface between reality and virtuality. By means of 32 microphones the entire orchestra is integrated in the interactive process. Musical motifs, individual voices and instruments influence the form, movement and complexity of both the 3D projections of the virtual space and those of the dancer. Music is no longer the only starting point, it is the consummation of the choreography.

GM: What do you hope the audience will take away from the performance?

KO: First of all I hope the audience will have a great experience. Stereoscopic projections create an immersive environment, which permits the audience to participate much more closely in the performance than in traditional theatre settings. And of course it will raise some questions about our modern lives and the authenticity of experience in the light of the ongoing virtualisation of our habitats.

Catch Rites: Stravinky’s The Rite of Spring with 3D visuals live at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall as part of Ether 2011 on 23 April. Get tickets here

Ether 2011: Rites – The Rite of Spring live in 3D

Ether has a history of bringing together seemingly the most unlikely of collaborators. This year is no different with Stravinsky’s seminal The Rite of Spring played live by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestraplus Klaus Obermaier’s stunning 3D visuals on a screen behind the orchestra. Julia Mach dances live to the music – a nod to Stravinsky’s original vision of his work as a ballet –  and her movements are interpreted in real-time into the visuals.

Have a look at this video to see what we mean. If you haven’t seen or heardThe Rite of Spring live before, this is one not to miss.



Catch Rites: Stravinky’s The Rite of Spring with 3D visuals live at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall as part of Ether 2011 on 23 April. Get tickets here


Ether 2011: Louis Andriessen on his Ether premiere

Andriessen, photo: Francesca Patella

Louis Andriessen, photo: Francesca Patella

London Sinfonietta’s Sara Mohr-Pietsch visits composer Louis Andriessen in his Amsterdam studio to discuss his work to be performed tonight at Ether 2011, including the UK premiere of Anaïs Nin a new work for singer, ensemble and film and De Staat (The Republic) his 1976 work of jazz-infused politically charged minimalism.


Hear London Sinfonietta play Louis Andriessen at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 14 April as part of Ether 2011. Get tickets here


Ether 2011: Get to know Colin Currie

Colin Currie, photo: Chris Dawes
Colin Currie, photo: Chris Dawes

The Colin Currie Group are returning to Southbank Centre this week for Ether 2011 with one of Steve Reich’s most acclaimed works, Drumming. We caught up with Colin to ask him our quick questions.

What do you fear the most and why?

Struggling to answer this one, so I guess I’m fairly fearless! I dislike pigeons however.

Which mobile number do you call the most?

I speak with my sister very often.

What – or where – is perfection?

Spending time with my nephew and niece who are 6 and 4 and full of wit and imagination.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?

I enjoyed the Richard Katz character from Jonathan Franzen’s latest book ‘Freedom’ although he is not at all likeable.

What’s your favourite ritual?

I enjoy tea and toast at home following red-eye flights back from the USA, which I take most months.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?

I met some very brave people in Mozambique whilst visiting there with World Vision.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?

I love basketball and in my other (imaginary) career I am an NBA star, in the mould of D Wade (Miami Heat).

Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing Messiaen’s ‘Vingt Regards’ and Barbara Hannigan tearing up Ligeti’s ‘Mysteries of the Macabre’. Good examples of what people can achieve when they put their minds to it.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?

I would bring back Ian Curtis and have a Joy Division re-union.

What’s your favourite website?

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Be yourself and not what others or convention want you to be.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?

Anything by Stravinsky.

The Colin Currie Group plays Steve Reich’s Drumming as part of Ether 2011 at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 8 & 9 April 2011. Get tickets here

Ether 2011: Trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey Live with Philharmonia Orchestra

Following a sell-out success in June 2010, Southbank Centre presents Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film 2001: A Space Odyssey with live music.

Conducted by André de Ridder, the enormous forces of Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices join together to perform the film’s extraordinary soundtrack, as live accompaniment to a screening in Royal Festival Hall.

Long recognised as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, 2001 – A Space Odyssey is celebrated for its technological realism, its innovative Oscar®-winning special effects and a bold use of music. The film brought worldwide fame to both Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra and the music of Gyorgy Ligeti; it also created one of cinema’s most memorable images as a spaceship floats serenely through space to the strains of Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz.

Here’s the official trailer from 1968.



Presented in association with the BFI (British Film Institute), with support from Warner Bros.

Catch 2001: A Space Odyssey Live at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall on 7 & 8 April 2011 as part of Ether 2011. Get tickets here


Ether 2011: Space capsule lands at Southbank Centre

On 31 March & 1 April, Will Gregory’s Piccard in Space crash-lands at Southbank Centre as part of Ether 2011. Gregory’s (of Goldfrapp) debut opera is a classic adventure about the real-life physicist Auguste Piccard and his mission to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

In 1931, he broke aviation records by reaching 51,775 feet (15,781m) above the earth in a tiny airtight capsule. Against all odds, Piccard survived being roasted by the sun and crashing into the Alps. In 1932, he went up again, reaching 53,152 feet (16,200m).

Clearly not a blackboard and chalk type of scientist, Piccard became world front-page news and the inspiration for Hergé’s cartoon character Professor Calculus in The Adventures of Tintin series.

Auguste Piccard

To celebrate BBC Concert Orchestra and Will Gregory’s collaboration, we have brought the actual 1932 capsule to Royal Festival Hall. Landing on site today, the capsule will be on display in the foyer until 11 April.

Capsule arriving at Southbank Centre

Capsule en route to Royal Festival Hall

The capsule as part of Ether 2011

See Will Gregory’s Piccard in Space at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 31 March & 1 April as part of Ether 2011. Get tickets here.

Ether 2011: Young Xenarchitects – Painting with Sound

Ether 2011 sees a focus on one of the 20th century’s most important composers, Iannis Xenakis with performances and interactive workshops . Here composer Aleks Kolkowski tells us about his experiences with the Ether project ‘Young Xenarchitects’ at Southbank Centre.

Iannis Xenakis‘ dual career as architect and composer is beautifully illustrated by his 1953 masterpiece Metasastis, whose graphic blueprint for the final conventionally notated musical score became the basis for the design of the Philips Pavilion in Brussels, 1958. A desire to draw sounds in the draftsman-like manner of an architect led Xenakis in 1977 to devise UPIC(Unité Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu), a system where sounds were created, drawn and arranged on a computer screen using an electromagnetic pencil. One of the first pieces that Xenakis composed through it is Mycenae Alpha (1978).

UPIC proved to be so popular internationally as a unique music-composing and educational tool for non-musicians, artists, programmers and children alike, that a second machine had to be built at great expense so that Xenakis could continue to work with it.

Today’s modern audio painting software using graphic tablets and touch screens all descend from UPIC, but the origins of sound painting goes back much further than Xenakis, to the early methods of visualising sound through the chladni platesphonautograms and harmonographs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the early twentieth century, the development of sound-on-film with soundtracks recorded directly onto celluloid led to many artists, includingOskar Fischinger in Germany and Evgeny Sholpo in Russia to experiment with optical sound by drawing patterns onto film, played back via photo-electric cells. In the 1950s, some twenty years before Xenakis and UPIC, the pioneering British electronic music composer Daphne Oram created theOramics Machine, a highly sophisticated analogue device enabling her to draw the parameters of sounds and paint her own waveforms.

Informed and inspired by this fascinating historical background to the art of sound painting, the Young Xenarchitects have taken up the challenge of composing graphically through HighCsoftware developed by Thomas Baudel that is closely modeled on the original UPIC system. Using HighC, they can paint sounds with the cursor, create waveforms and patterns, modify dynamics, determine pitch scales and rhythms and even import their own recordings to be manipulated or painted within the program.

'Using HighC, they can paint sounds with the cursor, create waveforms and patterns'

Some have chosen to use HighC as a sketch-board to make blueprints for conventional scores for instrumental ensemble; others will create electro-acoustic works combined with sound recordings and together with live instruments.

The possibilities are endless and sound painting is a lot of fun, but creating a coherent musical work in such an unorthodox manner, with relatively little time to get used to some peculiar techniques, is no easy task. Nevertheless, the speed in which the Young Xenarchitects have got to grips with the program and their enthusiasm for composing music is staggering. I can’t wait to hear the final pieces.

Aleks Kolkowski, March 2011

A free version of HighC is available to download here.

See Young Xenarchitects at Southbank Centre as part of Ether 2011 for FREE on 1 April 2011. More info here.

Explore more of Iannis Xenakis’ work at London Sinfonietta’s concert Xenakis – Architect of Sound at Southbank Centre as part of Ether 2011 on 2 April 2011. Get tickets here.