EMPAC - Memory Palace



The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | Troy, NY


Memory Palace Video Shoot

Ian David Rosenbaum - Percussionist


Mark DeChiazza - Video Director
Christopher Cerrone - Composer
Argeo Ascani - EMPAC Curator, Music
Ian Hamelin - Project Coordinator
Daniel Swalec - Lighting Design / Lighting Director

January 12-16, 2015 | EMPAC Theatre Stage


Almost every object struck, plucked, or blown in Memory Palace, a 22-minute work for amplified percussion and electronics, has to be made by the percussionist. The rest—a few bars from a glockenspiel, three high-pitched crotales, and the kick from a drum set—have been disembodied from their original context. In the first movement, “Harriman,” the performer plucks a re-strung guitar lying on its back—a kind of makeshift dulcimer. The second movement, “Power Lines” is scored for seven slats of wood, carefully tuned by sawing them to the correct length. The third, Foxhurst, is a forest of bells: tuned metal pipes alongside the aforementioned glockenspiel bars and crotales. The fourth movement, “L.I.E.”, adds even more wooden slats, creating polyphony from the homophony of “Power Lines”. The last movement, “Claremont”, features six blown bottles, tuned to different pitches with varying amounts of water. In each movement, the percussionist also triggers a series of electronic drones using an foot pedal, a resonant background aura that enhances the live music throughout. Each movement is titled for a personally important place. Harriman, NY is where I spent a week camping with two of the musicians who have most influenced me. Against the crickets of the woods, I imaged music of simplicity and familiarity. “Power Lines” is a hard grid of glowing high-voltage wires, their intersecting patterns seen from a moving car. “Foxhurst” is named for the street I grew up on, and uses the wind chimes which rang throughout my childhood. “L.I.E” (Long Island Expressway) is another automotive movement, evoking the rumble strips on the side of a highway, their rhythmic pulsing playing against steady drone of the car’s motor. “Claremont” is the street of my college—with another close friend, I had tuned two full octaves of beer bottles where we kept them as a household instrument. By stringing these places together, I wanted to create a memory palace, a virtual series of locations I can “walk” through in my head, remember some important things from my life and how they have shaped me.

text and logo from the EMPAC website
 photo © Daniel A. Swalec 2015


Technical Project Notes:

Acting as Lighting Director on this piece, I was fortunate to work with the guidance of Video Director Mark DeChiazza to help create the world that percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum inhabited on EMPAC’s Theatre stage. Employing an arsenal of theatrical fixtures to sculpt the percussionist while providing more than enough light at all times for the fast shutter speeds needed in the cameras to keep up with his fast-moving hands, I basically treated each movement as a stationary dance piece. Lit typically with intense side and backlight, treated individually with the color-schemes that the Video Director requested, we were able to make each movement feel slightly different while keeping continuity to the project as a whole. The director’s inclusion of a green screen behind the piece added to the challenge as we both had to evenly light it and cut way back on reflection and spill across the shiny black floor. The addition of some automotive carpet helped to create the green stripe that would be removed in post-processing and replaced with scenes from the inspiration of the composer’s inspiration that would be shot by the visiting artistic team after their residency at EMPAC, off site.



To download a PDF synopsis of my work on this project please click the download button below.



To download a PDF copy of the lighting paperwork for this piece please click the button below .



EMPAC | Memory Palace