Lux Brevis en hommage a Ligeti (2008), for 13 light-activated light-and-sound-emitting spinning tops.
Designed and built by Troy Rogers and Ted Coffey, the tops are made from acrylic, steel and electronics. Each houses one of two varieties of amplitude-modulated circuits (“Chirpers” and “Screamers”) whose character is determined by a combination of tunable resistance and light, measured by two photo-resistors per top. After spinning the tops, players change the light conditions received by the tops with flashlights, strobes, lunar eclipses, or other means. The tops affect one another, too. Quantity of light determines the frequency of carrier oscillation, duration of grains of sound—from sub-audio rate pulses to audio rate AM; and pulses to each top’s LED.
Our first presentation of the piece was at the Second Annual Let There Be Light Festival in Charlottesville, VA (2008). This is an annual outdoor event where local, University and other invited artists create a night-time exploratorium of pieces that make light. We set up a “workshop” environment in which kids and adults could learn how to spin the tops. Another way to “perform” the piece is modeled after György Ligeti’s piece for metronomes, Poème Symphonique. In this version of the piece, all 13 tops are spun at once, and the piece ends once the last top has toppled over. The piece was performed that way at Mills College in Oakland, CA, in February 2009.