Digital artists Marc Downie and Paul Kaiser of the OpenEnded Group, which created last summer's artwork, Enlightenment, have returned to the festival to produce this year's public display, called Breath.
To be installed along the colonnade of Avery Fisher Hall's southern fa‹ade, the work comprises eight light boxes, each positioned under a banner. It will be accompanied by computerized music and dynamic lighting, and so viewed best after sundown.
Thematically unique, each light box has complex, printed computer-generated diagrams illustrating patterns — in the form of words, metaphors, musical scores and imagery — related to sacred music and its sources.
The banners, positioned above the colonnade, are lit from across the plaza, and depict magnified extensions of the light box visualizations.
The lighting reacts to the music by illuminating and coloring specific areas of the banners, unveiling new patterns.
When viewed from right to left, Breath follows a progression of musical subjects from collective to solitary expression. These eight themes were chosen to reflect the exploration of spirituality in this year's festival. They are, in right-to-left order: Starling (birdsong), Breathing, Psalms, Adam's Fall (Hildegard von Bingen), Masses I, Masses II, Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven.
A recording of Hildegard von Bingen's chant Columba aspexit ("The dove peered in") serves as the basis for the computer-generated music; the chorus's six voices are separated and reinterpreted live by the computer, interlacing and periodically merging each voice back into Hildegard's original music.
"We were extremely interested in the singing of the songs, and in 'breath' as being a key component to spiritual and mystical practices in the world," said Kaiser.
The computer-generated diagrams include those of a body breathing, illustrations of Hebrew texts, the score of Bach's Mass in B minor and a line of text from Beethoven's Choral Fantasy.
The total effect is a sort of respiration involving music, light and thought.
Breath will be on display at Avery Fisher Hall for the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival, running from July 31 to August 25.