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New Work for Wave Field Synthesis by Nina C. Young, Performed by the American Brass Quintet

An installation-performance of fragmented Renaissance polyphony, spatial audio, and video projection creating ephemeral architectural spaces

The Latest Update

Nina C. Young Wave Field

This event has been postponed to follow university policies that have been put in place in light of new developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. We are working closely with the artists to reschedule the evening-length audio-visual performance-installation version for overhead wave field synthesis, projections, and brass quintet in Spring 2021. This version was commissioned by EMPAC. Additional production support and residency provided by EMPAC leading up to this world premiere.

Further updates include that Young and our lead video engineer have been communicating about different ways of working with the projectors to further smooth out the images and make them brighter. We are also developing our own cordless stand lights with faders here at EMPAC to make the eventual performance more seamless for the quintet on the stage.

In addition, Young—having completed the score and Max/MSP patch that is required to interface with our systems—has received her commission fee for the piece. We are dedicated to supporting our artists in this time and following through with our commitments. We also are continuing to work from home to reschedule in a timely manner.

The Glow that Illuminates, The Glare that Obscures by Nina C. Young, performed by the American Brass Quintet has been provided additional support by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., New York State Council on the Arts.

EMPAC Spring 2020 presentations, residencies, and commissions are made possible by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts; and Vlaamse Gemeenschap, department of Culture, Youth, and Media.

More Updates ▼

Update 1: Nina C. Young Artist Residency

Continuing her work here at EMPAC with spatial audio and in particular, EMPAC’s Wave Field Synthesis Array, Nina C. Young was in residence for a week in February 2020 at EMPAC’s Theater to develop her acoustic brass quintet into a multimedia work for live musicians, spatial audio, and live video processing based on geometric forms and Renaissance music.

The acoustic version was commissioned by Shriver Hall Concert Series for the American Brass Quintet and was premiered in Shriver Hall, Baltimore, MD, on December 8, 2019. Young took recordings from the premiere and began to develop the soundscape for the performance-installation version that will be premiered at EMPAC this month. These were further supplemented with manipulated vocal recordings of singing and whispering to create a soundscape for the opening of the piece.

During her February 2020 residency at EMPAC, Young also worked with Lead Audio Engineer Eric Brucker who created a visualization using Touch Design that could draw from the OSC data that Young is using to spatialize the audio and create a visual representation that seems to follow the sounds in space. We tested these projections with a small private showing to EMPAC staff and current other artists in residence (see images above).

The premiere of the new evening-length work will be Thursday, March 19th at 7pm in the Theater at EMPAC in Troy, NY. Curator of Music Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti writes:

“When we are close to something brilliant, what is the difference between that which lights our way, and that which impedes our journey? Young’s The Glow that Illuminates, the Glare that Obscures explores the intricacies of an old love—Renaissance architectural and musical practices—through new compositional forms and strategies. Architecturally, light and space have long been in conversation defining each other. Young uses EMPAC’s Wave Field Synthesis Array to allow the audience to follow the resonance of sound through architectural space.”


Composer Nina C. Young is creating a new immersive 90-minute installation-performance piece in EMPAC’s theater incorporating EMPAC’s unique wave field synthesis spatial audio system, video projection, light, and live musical performance by the American Brass Quintet. The work will be publicly performed on March 19, 2020. The Glow that Illuminates, the Glare that Obscures creates a ritualistic environment of morphing, ephemeral, virtual architectural spaces (sonic and visual) that audience members explore during the performance. The work is rooted in the legacy of the relationship between architecture and antiphonal musical practice in the Renaissance and Baroque.

Young writes:
“Spending time in the chambers of ancient ruins and the cavities of basilicas and churches has led to a fascination with the interaction of architecture, light, and acoustics in relation to the human spectator. The different window types (from oculus to clerestory to stained glass) guide our relationships with the spaces, recanting visual stories as they divert beams of light in paths of illumination throughout the course of the day. The same is true of the sonic qualities of these, often vast, spaces. Within The Glow that Illuminates, The Glare that Obscures I take the brass performance tradition of the madrigals and motets of Renaissance polyphony and pass sourced quotations through a compositional prism (computer algorithms). The resultant fragments are illuminated and obscured in the composition through the use of antiphonal and heterophonic writing, in addition to unconventional positioning of the performers in the space. The concepts of fragmentation and spatial exploration are further emphasized with the integration of interactive media (visual and sonic). Fragments of pre-recorded and live-processed audio are generated in real-time and projected to specific virtual locations around the performers using EMPAC’s Wave Field Synthesis Array that slowly move and morph over time. Rather than using a typical horizontal orientation, the two wave field arrays are placed overhead, allowing a three dimensional audio design that cannot be masked by audience members bodies moving in the space. These 3-D virtual audio sources are traced and “illuminated” with live video projections that beam patterns of generated colored light onto the floor, mimicking the colored shapes of refracted light through stained glass windows. The visual component invites audience members to move around the space, discovering the interaction of the past and present, light and sound, live and synthesized performance.”

Young was in residence at EMPAC working with the wave field system and creating a proof-of-concept from January 3 – 11, 2019.

Additional Information:
Title: The Glow that Illuminates, The Glare that Obscures
Approximate Length: ~90 minutes / performance-installation
Number of musicians: 5
Instrumentation: brass quintet (2 trumpets, horn, trombone, bass trombone), electronic media (multi-channel spatial audio (WFS) and video/light projection)

Project Media

Fata Morgana (for symphonic brass ensemble)
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Features: Nina C. Young

Concert performance (Tanglewood Music Center Fellows) of a work for symphonic brass ensemble that creates an aural landscape of (dis)appearing fragments akin to maritime mirages. The American Brass Quintet has since organized performance collaborations of this work.

Quintet for Brass (2012) – Jay Greenberg (b. 1991)
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Recording released 01/13/2017; recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters (producer: Judith Sherman, label: Summit)

American Brass Quintet: Kevin Cobb and Louis Hanzlik, trumpets; Eric Reed, horn; Michael Powell, trombone; John D. Rojak, bass trombone.

RITE OF PASSAGE (Interactive installation / Performance audio documentation with Erin Helfert)
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Features: Nina C. Young

A collaborative multi-channel generative performance piece with activist and performance artist Erin Helfert that explores death, liminality, and rebirth as inspired by her five-year rape trial in a Moroccan court. Live audio from Oct 2016 performance at Federal Hall in NYC, reduced to 2-channel stereo recording. For video excerpt: vimeo.com/199115640

Start and End Dates



Troy, New York

2 updates
Last update on March 18, 2020

Project Created By

Troy, New York
EMPAC — The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is where the arts, sciences, and technology meet under one roof and breathe the same air. Four exceptional venues enable audiences, artists, and researchers to inquire, experiment, develop, and experience the ever-changing relationship between our senses, technology, and the worlds…

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