[FISEA’93] Artist Statement: Sylvia Pengilly — Shadows

Artist Statement

Solitaire: Revelations
Dualities: Merging
Triune: Kaleidoscope

Shadows is a three movement work that operates at a number of different artistic levels. Its most immediate level describes the many different facets of our personalities: the solitary seeker of truth (Solitaire: Revelations), the Yin/Yang polarity (Dualities: Merging), and the glorious mixture that defines the richness of the individual personality (Triune: Kaleidoscope). At a deeper level it references Plato’s Myth of the Cave, asking which is the true reality: the flesh and blood dancers or their digitized images.

Technically, the piece uses the Mandala software, written by Francis MacDougall, of Toronto, Canada, running on an Amiga 3000. The images of the dancers are introduced into the computer using a video camera throught the Live! digitizer. Non-normative settings of the digitizer cause the dancers’ images to act as stencils, thus their bodies become silhouettes, revealing cycling graphics in the background. The piece is structured as a series of scenes, to each of which is assigned a specific musical sequence, thus the Amiga controls both the visual and musical aspects of the piece. The graphics, which will never be totally visible, were derived from many sources and were created in their final form using Deluxe Paint III.

Sylvia Pengilly, choreography, dance
Michael Engel & Meagan Mayer, dance

  • Sylvia Pengilly (UK/US, born 1935) is a British-American musician and music professor. She is known for composing music by converting brain waves to electrical data that combines music with graphics. After completing her studies, she taught theory and composition at Western Illinois University for four years. She learned that Lissajous curves could be created with the use of a combined laser and mirror system built by physics professor Richard Peterson. She used the system to compose percussion and electronic music. Pengilly teaches at Loyola University New Orleans since 1980, where she was hired to expose students to electronic music. She built a music studio for the students which included a Moog 55, speakers, mixing board, TASCAM tape deck, and a Zenith computer. In 1984, Pengilly added Macintosh computers that ran composition software and included keyboards. She also worked on the integration of graphics with music and herself dancing by using an Amiga computer that was running a software named Mandala. This software allowed her “to create a virtual world, then to have her image enter that world, where it is able to trigger ‘events’ in realtime by virtually touching previously created icons”.
    Pengilly worked on the use of brain waves to create compositions in 1983 with an Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer. The visual analyzer contains a headband with electrodes that converts brain waves to electrical data. The data is transferred to a computer’s receiver through radio frequencies and then converted to MIDI information, later controlling the composition by combining music with graphics that match a performer’s brain waves. [Bio based on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Pengilly]