Plastikman Live: memories, immersion, co-creation and reactive music

Are music performances morphing into proper sensory environments that live beyond the space and time of the performance itself? Sonar 2010 Plastikman Live has been one of best music performances I’ve ever been part of and although still firmly anchored to the stage/performance model it introduces a combination of elements which are definitely pointing in that direction.

The live electronic performance incorporates state of the art visual architecture and interactive solutions to extend the stage space into and around the audience space.

Although still based on a stage vs audience model, the show manages to overcame some of the limitations of the frontal set up enabling (limited) interactions via a mobile app (which also introduces the idea of Plastikman as a persistent live audio environment beyond the performance itself) and wrapping up the performer in a semi-circular screen which kind of acts as a vicarious immersion for the audience (the audience can also switch to the performer view via the mobile app – see below).

And the interaction element didn’t stop there as back in January Hawtin & Derivative launched a live visual contest to crowdsource some of the visuals of the show (more details on the contest, the winners and the real-time visual environment designed to support the co-creation on Derivative’s blog)

Plastikman Teknik Rehearsal from Ali Demirel on Vimeo.

Debuted at this year’s Timewarp festival on March 27th, 2010, the new show evolves from the previous Plastikman live performance at Canada’s Mutek festival in 2004, by continuing to explore the connection between visual, audio and interactivity, and once again partnering visual architects Derivative alongside visual designer Ali Demirel. Building upon everything learned from the Hawtin/Demirel Timewarp shows of 2005-2007 and 2008′s Contakt multimedia events, Plastikman Live condenses all of these elements into a new highly concentrated one-hour experience.

Reinterpreting the 18 year history of Hawtin’s Plastikman material, Plastikman Live moves from the acidic atmospheres of ‘Sheet One’ to the disorienting funk of ‘Musik’, to the nostalgic moments of ‘Artifakts’, through the depths of ‘Consumed’ and into the darkness of ‘Closer’. Recapturing the spirit of the early Plastikman albums and parties in Detroit, Plastikman Live is a fusion of the past and future, the visual and audible, between performer and audience, of expectations and anticipation.

Plastikman Live @ Dissonanze Roma, Italy from CPU on Vimeo.

Plastikman Live @ Paris, Villette Sonique from CPU on Vimeo.

Plastikman Live @ DEMF, Detroit 2010. Derivative Visuals from isabelle rousset on Vimeo.

“It has always fascinated me how sound, lighting, visuals and human interactivity define and deepen a concert experience By focusing on my own unique Plastikman sound I hope to find new freedom and explore the extremes of where these elements converge, challenging our senses, stimulating our memories, and creating an experience of physical and mental intensity that can be only Plastikman” – Richie Hawtin, January 2010

The interactive element of the live show is Plastikman SYNK, the official companion app to the 2010 Plastikman Live world-wide tour. The App is a component of the immersive environment that the show creates using various converging technologies.

Conceptualized by Richie Hawtin and developed with RJ Fischer ( and Bryan McDade (Minus), SYNK allows the users to participate in an experiment in audience-performer interaction aiming to blur the lines of perception and participation.

The application has different states that only become active at specific moments during Plastikman Live performances. A vibration of the phone notifies the user when a new state becomes active.

The 5 interaction states are:

Based upon earlier “Lodgikal Nonsense” and “Vokx” voice tracks, this state invites the audience to re-organize the word samples using a user interface of 20 touch buttons. In this state the centre of performance control is moved from the stage and into the audience.

This state is accessible throughout the show and gives users a live video stream of an internal perspective of the performance.

This state explores the synkronicity of realtime-generated percussion patterns and their visual counterparts, integrating the stage LED wall and the built in displays on each SYNK activated iPhone/iPod Touch.

This state is active during the entire show with realtime performance information. At specific moments an extended Konsole state becomes activated, allowing further insight into the realtime programming of the performance’s drum and percussive elements, while also providing visual feedback of musical and effect parameters. A simplified remote Konsole is available to all SYNK users worldwide and will be activated during all Plastikman Live performances.

But the SYNK experience is not limited to participants of the live show. In between the performances the SYNK application is in sleeper mode and function as a Plastikman atmospheric location shifter built on a very similar concept to RJDJ’s augmented/reactive music model. By using visualizations inspired by Derivative, combined with the iPhone’s built-in microphone and accelerometer, users are immersed in a Plastikman environment.

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