EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Switch by Benjamin Thigpen and Darren Copeland: a hybrid case of electro-acoustic live performance work

Luisa Santacesaria

Luisa Santacesaria, University of Pavia, Master Student, Musicology


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Switch by Benjamin Thigpen and Darren Copeland is a multi-channel piece realised in 2011, which combines the characteristics of electroacoustic composition, site-specific work, and sound installation. The work requires a dual spatialization system: a fixed spatialization (8 loudspeakers settled around the audience), and a mobile one (one or two Audio Spotlights – hand-held directional speakers) for the live spatialization. The performer interacts with the space and the audience by holding and directing the speaker’s soundbeam towards walls and other flat surfaces during the performance. The physical space of the performance becomes a new central parameter for the choices concerning the spatialization of the sounds. Moreover, Thigpen and Copeland shape the piece taking into account the acoustic characteristics of the concert space. The performance of Switch is also built around the listener: the spatialization is conceived on the base of a “democratic” managing of the sound, with the Audio Spotlight pointed directly towards (or on the back, or on the side of) any member of the public, in turn, regardless of their position in the room.
Switch features an interest dichotomy between both fixed and variable elements; nevertheless it has a pre-defined general plan that can be freely followed by the performers. The piece has a three-dimensional form rather than a linear one: every listener, depending on the place where seated, in each moment of the performance listens to something different to the others, but each experiences the same piece, the same event. Therefore, Switch can be considered as a live performance work, which features both an acousmatic electroacoustic piece, with its own identity, but also an open and context-specific one, including the concepts of improvisation and sound installation.

EMS14 Proceedings