This was one of the best weekends I had in a while. The weather in Cincinnati was fantastic (not overcast), and I was able to see Lukas Ligeti for the first time. (Also, I splurged on a Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum (CAC) annual pass, but that's for another post.)
I first read about Lukas Ligeti in this New York Times article, which mentioned his background in percussion and composition AND how he was influenced by African music. Translation: he seemed like a pretty cool dude.
What is the marimba lumina? This is seriously the coolest instrument I have ever seen. It is an electronic MIDI controller fashioned after a marimba. Or a marimba that doesn't physically have its wooden bars, but instead has a two-dimentional representation of its bars on a board. In this picture you can see that each beater has a different color; you can program the marimba lumina to create a different instrumental response when you use a different color mallet. You can even assign a specific zone to function as an envelope; Lukas was mentioning that he can trace the envelope over a certain section of the keys and create different sounds on the fly. Yes, I want to go to there, but this instrument costs $3500. Don't worry; in a couple of weeks, I will establish my PayPal account online and start accepting donations for my "marimba lumina fund." You will be donating to a good cause, trust me.
Another thing I love about this instrument is that Lukas pre-programmed sounds and triggered them by using foam beaters and striking the keys, which is something I attempted to do with my laptop without the beaters. Unfortunately for me, when I use my laptop as an instrument, it looks like I'm checking my email. (I need to look into some Wiimote applications to fix this.)
Anyway, I was most blown away by his music. He played a few excerpts from his album Afrikan Machinary, which were mesmerizing and hypnotic. Also, if you play the mp3 excerpts available on Amazon.com, you will not experience the volume or the depth on your computer speakers. If you must, buy the CD and crank up your sound system at home. (Actually, please buy his albums. I am very sad I didn't have enough cash on hand to purchase an album at either the CAC or the CS13 performance.)
After the CAC performance, I had to see him perform at the CS13. There he included an improvisation from sounds he used in his piece Labyrinth of Clouds, a commission from the American Composers Orchestra.
I hope he visits Cincinnati again. He will be in Cleveland toward the last week of June, but I will sadly be away. Anyway, check out his website.