Anthonie Tonnon

Anthonie Tonnon recently created a very innovative show in conjunction with the Otago Museum Planetarium which saw audience members immersed in a visual as well as aural experience which was inspired both by Anthonie's songs and the astronomical images. It was entitled A Synthesized Universe, and Anthonie explains a little more about the process of creating the show below.

Where did this idea come from?

I was performing in Dunedin and by chance, the director of The Otago Museum, Dr Ian Griffin saw my show, and suggested I try something in their Planetarium space, with the help of their digital creative team. I think my use of technology had some attraction to Dr. Griffin - he correctly sensed that I had gotten to a strong position with my own technology, and I would be ready to innovate using new tools and collaborators.

What did you find challenging?

Working with an amazing machine like a modern planetarium is a little bit like getting a fancy new keyboard. While the options seem limitless, eventually you'll find a few things it can do that you'll really like, and the rest won't seem relevant to you. I had to try to see as much of what it could do as I could, before narrowing things down and mapping out the show. We had to develop a process from scratch with Andrew Charlton and Oana Jones (the museum's Digital Creative Team). Eventually I realised the best process was the same one you use in a new band - I'd start playing and ask Oana or Andrew to 'jam' images onto the screen, whatever they thought might work. This is a humbling thing to do - you can't hold back or pretend you're cooler or more knowledgeable than you are in that situation, you just have to be open to all ideas, accommodating, and trust your team.

How did the venue and the visuals affect your musical choices?

We were using music I'd developed over a long period of time, so I mostly let the music guide the visuals, but in saying that, I did start to fill out the intricate details of the songs, make them more kaleidoscopic and textured to match the detail and wonder of the astronomical images we were working with. I used my existing drum machine patterns to start mapping out lighting flashes and visual events using a MIDI script that Andrew wrote for the show. Early on, I told the team I was thinking about a song about The Mataura Paper Mill - Andrew and Ian had ideas for visuals for this, and so they pushed me to finish the song. Finishing the song and visuals for the first show became a really satisfying part of the collaboration. 

What's next for you? What are you working on?

We've just taken this show to the Auckland Arts Festival, and it was a huge success, and we've had some inquiries about taking it new places. I'm working with the team to see where we can take it next, and figuring out where this fits in the wider world of what I do. 


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