Image courtesy of George Town Festival

However theoretical it may be to explore the relationship between light and sound, Fluorophone turns theory into practice. Fusing digital fluorescent lights, the naked flame, strobe lights and custom-built LED discs with percussion, this is a performance that makes for mesmerising — and what Limelight has called ‘mind-expanding’ — watching.

Fluorophone is being brought to George Town Festival 2019 by Speak Percussion, a world-renowned association that, since its creation in 2000, has been recognised as the leader in experimental, interdisciplinary and contemporary classical music. They have received glowing reviews on their frequent international tours, having performed in a variety of locations from the UK to Singapore.

Fluorophone is the perfect exemplar of why Speak Percussion is a world-wide leader in music innovation. The show does not just explore the relationship between light and sound but collapses the two areas completely. By using mind-bending technology (that can be read about here), Fluorophone actually employs light as percussion, rather than merely linking them. Artistic Director of Speak Percussion, Eugene Ughetti, has said that he was inspired by a realisation that ‘literally any object can be a percussion instrument, can be musicalised, can be used in a performance of music, can be sonified’.

Image courtesy of George Town Festival

Ughetti does not just focus on what is used for percussion but also how it is used. As he has said, ‘percussion practice, in the way I see it, is about much more than ‘percussion instruments’’. Hand-in-hand with this expansion of musical definitions, Fluorophone gives special attention to factors such as performance, visuality and the physical relationship between instruments and their musicians — visual factors that are usually undermined by traditional practice in preference for the aural.

While defying typical music genres, Fluorophone is mesmerisingly immersive. With musicians and audience both plunged into darkness, the rhythmic flashing and glowing of lights has full impact. This is as much an experiment on the expansive definition of ‘percussion’ as an experiment on our senses, as the audience gets to understand in real time how their visual and aural senses affect one another. 

Although viewing clips of Fluorophone online is hypotonic, to be part of the audience — not just watching the performance but experiencing it — is something I am very much looking forward to.

Where? – Stage 2, penangpac
When? – July 19th, 8:30PM and July 20th, 3PM
How much? – RM40, RM25 (concessions)
For who? 12+

Written by: Eleanor Ohlsen