How to: Rumble

Rumble: a contemporary voice for the bridge that sings

For BLINK Cincinnati, we’re creating a musical score, lighting score, and technical language to bring the Roebling Bridge (aka “the singing bridge”) to life for four nights in October 2019! Our first site-specific activation outside of New England, we have been pushing our practice to create a new process of connecting sound and light to enable this massive bridge to awaken.

A multi-month endeavor, consisting of logistically trouble-shooting and oozing creative energy, we are starting to turn the corner and can envision the look and sound of final work. Here’s a peak into the process!

STEP ONE: Sample elements of the bridge itself. MASARY principal, Maria Finkelmeier, is a Cincinnati native, and she was thrilled to cruise her old stomping ground with principals Ryan Edwards and Sam Okerstrom-Lang. The Roebling provided an array of sounds, and the scootering was top notch.

STEP TWO: Connect with the team: we’re working with visionaries Brave Berlin, lighting specialist Vincent Lightning Systems, and presenter Cincinnati Regional Chamber. They are all AMAZING people. Since we are working satellite, Skype for Business has been an integral tool for group calls and screen shares!

MASARY Studios (Ryan - Maria - Samo) and co-creators Brave Berlin (Dan - Steve)

MASARY Studios (Ryan - Maria - Samo) and co-creators Brave Berlin (Dan - Steve)

STEP THREE: Study the bridge, history, and story. Did you know the Roebling was a proto-type to the Brooklyn bridge? We love the connection between John A. Roebling pushing limits, and our attempt to push the limits of our process! Once properly educated and inspired, create a project abstract:

Bridges are a consistent marvel of architecture. A bridge represents what is no longer the edge, where travel and ideas formerly stopped, but now have a path. A visualization of this progress, Cincinnati’s Roebling Bridge sings as it suspends over the Ohio River connecting two banks, two cities, and two states.

STEP FOUR: Create a MIDI language, hacking Ableton Live, to enable music and light score to work hand in hand. We’re now hackers! Using Ableton Live, we’ve created a system of MIDI commands, through using the MIDI notes themselves (think typical musical language - A, A#, B, C, C#, D … etc), velocity indicators to speak to RGB values (R=red, B=blue, G=green), and all 16 MIDI channels (there are over 500 lights on the bridge, so the MIDI map is huge and we had to be very careful when assigning!) to speak directly to the lighting board software. Vincent Lighting company reps have been in close conversation, and as excited to hack and create a new system for creativity.

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STEP FIVE: WRITE WRITE WRITE! (then listen and reflect, throw half of the writing out, and start again…) Maria and Ryan are writing a 30 minute score of high energy music - using the samples from the bridge, beautiful recordings of the Cincinnati Boychoir (thanks Jason Alexander) and other contemporary elements - and a 30 minute ambient score to let the bridge rest in between showings.

Maria and Ryan are then creating the light score to be totally synchronized with the music - they are choosing colors and sections of activation with a goal to marry the sound with the architecture. The vibe of the experience will move through various genres - rock, classical, space 80’s, glitch, and more - because we believe that the Roebling has a lot to say.

The last month before the fest consists of bouncing our files back and fourth between the lighting company to assure connectivity and MIDI code translation. Not to mention, critique sessions and tests in our own studio in Boston. We’ll fly out to Cincinnati the week of the festival and work overnight the two nights leading up to the event to assure music and lights are synchronized and Roebling is ready to Rumble!