Inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite, Touki Delphine presents FIREBIRD a century later, this time for an orchestra of light; no musicians, no performers
619 recycled car tail lights illuminate the dance of the firebird
A rule-breaking concert program and an extra-terrestrial installation in one
A thoroughly hypnotic experience
no upcoming dates.
We first had the idea for a Symphony of Light in 2016; a light installation that would perform a symphony in which each instrument is replaced by a light source. Preferably outdoors, perhaps in the forest, the installation would surround the audience with a fluorescent orchestra. We planned to premier this in 2019 and began our research and creation period in the Fall of 2018. Touki Delphine member John van Oostrum then first posed the idea of using car tail-lights as the light source. He built a prototype with which we experimented in the spacing of the lights and the coupling of various audio sources.
Igor Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite, although not a symphony, quickly presented itself as an ideal musical match for the installation. A fiery mythical creature that rises from the ashes, rebirthing, tempting, guiding, rescuing, overseeing; a lone renaissance every 100 years. The Firebird ballet was first performed in 1910, but Stravinsky continued to temper with the music and created the renowned 1919 suite version with a new instrumentation for Swiss composer Ernest Ansermet. Our Firebird is an homage to this suite. 100 years later, on recycled tail-lights from the Dutch salvage yards, a re-invention of Stravinsky’s re-invention.
Modern music for modern times; Stravinsky borrowed and combined the melodies and timings of Russian folk music, the inspiration of his mentor Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the state of the world around him, and proposed a new encasing for the age-old legends, this time with provocative sounds and arrangements, presenting a new future in music and how it tells our story. We salvage Stravinsky’s melodies, odd time signatures, and relentless flutters of harmony juxtaposed with sudden points of ultimate rest, and take in the world around us; introducing technology, 100 years of industry, the melting, combining and clashing of cultures, and propose our own message to the future.
Humankind has been busy, we’ve entered space, we’ve learned about the micro and the macro on levels that make us as gargantuan as we are infinitesimal, and now we stand with one leg in a new technological era. We are reinventing ourselves, and as many times before, welcoming the unknown horizon. Re-birthing out of the ashes of our current state, bringing the ancient traditions with us, and soaring at a previously impossible pace through and towards an uncharted future. With these thoughts and themes in mind we actualised our prototype into what the Firebird has become; A 32 square-meter communicating being, a collaboration between human and machine, a narrator, a fable and fortune teller, a mirror and a screen.
Firebird premiered on top of a grassy hill on the West Fresian Island of Terschelling with a pre- and post-performance 1-kilometer-long audience procession through the dunes and forest. It was a critical and creative success and has been met with enthusiastic international interest.
Firebird has also been presented as a standalone performance in an empty warehouse on the banks of the IJ river in Amsterdam, and a 35 minute loop version in an old abandoned school building as part of a Covid-proof art exhibition. In each version of the performance and in each space it inhabits, the installation finds its own way to enchant the audience and offer its cosmic communion.
“An immersive experience, a phenomenal experiment in form, a pagan ritual.”
– The Theaterkrant
“As if God were video-gaming on stained glass windows from the scrapyard.”
– The Volkskrant
“An epic update of Stravinsky’s Firebird.”
– The Standaard