Prestidigitation for percussion and three-dimensional electronics
Maxime Echardour percussion, Mercredis de STMS, IRCAM, Paris; Benjamin Soistier percussion, IKLECTIK, London, 2022.
AI is the magic of the present. In our daily rituals we ask the computer our deepest questions and respond to its commands. Computer music algorithms with names like the “oracle” are summoned by performers like shamans. Prestidigitation is written in collaboration with percussionist Maxime Echardour, who enters a darkened stage as a spotlight reveals an empty frame. One by one, he pulls from the dark an array of objects and materials—seashells, nutshells, bells, chimes—symbols of far-away environments—and assembles them into a growing sculptural installation. Examining each object, he brings it to life like a puppeteer, reanimating it like a magician. The sculpture is completed by a frame drum that brings together the entire assemblage into composite gestures of growing density. Both minute and explosive, the sounds are captured and projected to the listeners in 3D, situating them in the midst of the micro-theater. The totemic loudspeaker in the middle of the room at first amplifies the performers’ gestures, then gradually extends them into improvisations, blurring the boundary between the real and the virtual. From within the detailed score, the performer responds with brief improvisatory passages if his own, to which the loudspeaker multiplies its unpredictable feedback. The ritual closes as the percussionist leaves the stage and the loudspeaker takes over with a final solo improvisation, but the oracle’s answers are inconclusive.