Above the Philips Pavilion; photo by Wouterhagens. CC BY-SA 3.0
SPACE: Son et lumière extravanganza
As a research network we will investigate how SPACE, informed by the creation of the now-legendary Philips Pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels, could become the catalyst for a UK-Dutch unique collaboration embracing Manchester's and Sonology's existing compositional diversity and research experimentation.
"The Philips Expo 58 (also 58 years ago next year), brought together architect Le Corbusier and composers Xenakis and Varèse who collaborated to create the extraordinary son et lumière extravanganza, a celebrated hit in European Composition Music history" (1)
(1) Source: On the Threshold of Beauty Origins of Dutch Electronic Music 1925-1965, Published by nai010 publishers Text by Kees Tazelaar.
About Poème électronique reconstruction
Le poème électronique (1957–1958) by Edgard Varèse (8 minutes)
5-channel reconstruction of the music: Kees Tazelaar
In January of 1956, Louis Kalff, Philips’ director of artistic affairs, contacted Le Corbusier in Paris about the company’s plans for a Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. At that point, there was not yet any indication of the extremely avant-garde character that the project would eventually assume. Kalff wrote: “The interior of Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp apparently has elements that would also be applicable in the Philips Pavilion. We want to present a synthesis of light and sound in a completely new and modern form. The walls must offer a continually changing panorama of light and color set to the rhythm of modern stereo music, such that at the end of the six- minute presentation visitors will have witnessed a more or less abstract testimonial that symbolically represents the genealogy of Philips and its products.” Once Le Corbusier became involved in the project, however, it would develop in a totally different direction. Le Corbusier, who originally had only been asked to take care of the interior of the Pavilion, in fact took over the entire artistic supervision from Kalff and even imposed all sorts of conditions of his own. He refused to collaborate with other artists and architects, assuming responsibility for the entire Pavilion himself, including its interior with the interplay of light and color and its sculptural form. For the music, however, he made an exception: the commission absolutely had to go to the New York-based composer Edgard Varèse. The music was reproduced on a three-track tape, the tracks of which could be heard coming from different clusters of loudspeakers in opposition to one another or resounding in flowing movements along specific routes. The total loudspeaker system comprised 325 speakers, supplemented by speakers for the bass tones. The automatic movements of the sound were registered on a 15-track control tape, which contained a total of 180 command channels.
Above: Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp