The setup and the execution of the electroacoustic part of this work requires a Computer Music Designer (Max expert).
Version state: Undefined, update: July 21, 2020
First performance
Performance date: Feb. 7, 2020

Version documentalist

  • feron (

Version realisation

  • Manuel Poletti (Computer Music Designer)
Version length: 20 h
Default work length: 23 mn

Upgrade Motivation

2020 version - Ableton Live 10 / Max 8 64bit


The present document describes the technical elements of the piece.

As the piece requires specific hardware, software and tunings, especially regarding the conductor's actions, please contact composer Jesper Nordin for further information - - and/or computer-music designer Manuel Poletti -

The piece requires a trained computer-music designer to setup the live-electronics and assist the composer with mixing while performing. The presence of a stage assistant is also highly recommended, as the physical structure and live-electronics used on stage by the conductor require some fine tuning.

Detailed staff

  • 2 clarinettes, 2 cors, 1 percussionniste, 1 harpe, 1 clavier électronique/MIDI/synthétiseur, 2 violons, 2 violoncelles, 1 contrebasse
(Detailed staff comes from Brahms, send mail to for correction.)

Electronic equipment list

Audio Equipment

  • 10 Loudspeaker - Monitors and Loudspeakers
    2 frontal speakers + 8 surround speakers
  • 4 Loudspeaker - Monitors and Loudspeakers
    4 optional elevation speakers for 3D audio rendering
  • 2 Stage monitor - Stage Monitors
    Wedges for conductor
  • 2 subwoofer - Subwoofers
    Bass reinforcement
  • 1 Digital Mixing Desk - Digital Mixers
    Amplification + sends 16 separate mic signals to computer, outputs up to 16 signals from computer

Computer Music Equipment

  • 1 MacBook Pro - Apple Laptops (Apple)
    In control-room - Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6 or later
  • 1 MacBook Pro - Apple Laptops (Apple)
    On stage - Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6 or later
  • 2 iPad - Tablets (Apple)
    IOS 12 or later
  • 1 Network/Communication
    Ethernet connection between stage computer and control-room computer
  • 2 other Computer Gear
    2 Kinect v1 + USB extensions on stage - one spare recommended
  • 2 other Computer Gear
    Powered USB hub with minimum 4 ports
  • 1 Live - Music Software (Ableton)
    Ableton Live 10.1.4 or later (control-room laptop)
  • 1 Music Software
    KinectController2018 or later - provided by composer (stage laptop)
  • 1 Music Software
    UVIWorkstation VST or AU
  • 1 Music Software
    IRCAM Solo Instruments for UVIWorkstation authorized with iLok
  • 1 Music Software
    Gestrument iPad application authorized on both iPads - provided by composer
  • 1 Max 8 - Max (Cycling74)
    Max 8.1.3 or later (stage laptop)
  • 1 Sound Board - Sound Board
    16 separate digital audio inputs and outputs
  • 2 BCF 2000 - MIDI Mixer (Behringer)
    MIDI mixing

Performance details

  • June 13, 2015, France, Nanterre, Maison de la musique, festival ManiFeste.

Publisher : C.F. Peters


  • Manuel Poletti
File Author(s) Comment
[986.6 MB] Ableton session Ableton Live Session Manuel Poletti
[407.8 KB] Setup Technical description Manuel Poletti


The conductor acts as a soloist. His/her hands movements are being tracked through 2 Kinect camera devices. The conductor also manipulates some small metal bells which are suspended to a dedicated metallic structure, that was especially designed for the purpose, and whose bouncing movements are being captured by the cameras.

The images produced by the Kinect devices are being analyzed through a dedicated application hosted by a laptop computer disposed on stage, in front of the conductor. The images from the cameras displayed on the laptop screen help the conductor adjusting his/her hands movements and the movements of the small bells, according to the moment of the piece.

The data being tracked consist in horizontal and vertical positions of a coloured “blob” following the positions of the hands or of the bells, as well as the depth (size) of the blob, measured with distance, and an on/off switch which defines wether some actions is present or not in the tracking virtual space.

This data is processed by the application running on the Stage laptop, which includes some settings such as depth adjustment, image sensitivity, blurring, etc. The processed data is then conveyed to the Audio laptop in the control-room through a network connection.

According to the different sections of the piece, the live-electronics, through the tracked movements on stage, produce the following treatments and sound generation:

  • “Bells”: multiple bells bounce through the tracking field. Each time they cross a certain position threshold, a sample is triggered in the Audio computer.
  • “UVI Instrument": the position of the hands serve as a trigger traversing a corpus of instrumental pre-recorded sounds, specifically disposed in the virtual tracking space in order to produce the effect of a musical ensemble playing together, with dynamic scales, rhythms and timbres. The tracking data is being sent to two iPads in the control-room, which run a copy of the Gestrument application, developed by the composer, which provide all scales, rhythms and timbres settings.
  • “Looper”: as soon as the conductor’s hand enters the virtual tracking space, the orchestra is being recorded, as long as the hands remains in the virtual space. Once the hand leaves the virtual space, the recording is immediately played back and loops. The orchestra is divided in two parts, left and right, corresponding to the action of the left and right hands. Additionally, the hands movements during the recording are used to pre-mix the recording of the different instruments, which are virtually disposed in the virtual space.
  • “Delays”: this module works similarly to the Looper, except that instruments are being delayed in time (echo effect) while the hand is acting in the virtual space. The movement of the hand also serves as dynamic and spatial mixing of the delayed sounds.
  • “Freezer”: this module works like Delays and Looper, except that instruments’s sounds are being “frozen” as soon as the hands enter the virtual tracking space. Here too the movement of the hand also serves as dynamic mixing of the captured sounds.


  • Additional modules

The live-electronics also comprise the following modules acting at specific moments of the piece:

  • “Feedbacker”: the volume envelope of the sound of the harp on stage serves as a volume scaler for some pre-recorded tape sounds. The louder the harp is playing, the louder the tape sound is.
  • “Jumper”: the hanging bells, while bouncing, produce some resonant sounds when banging together. These create sound impacts which are analysed to produce virtual attack detections. Each detected attack is then used to “jump” at a random position in the reading of a pre-recorded sample.
  • “Tape”: different pre-recorded tape sounds are triggered manually from the control-room at some specific moments of the piece.


About the diffusion of the electronic sound

While all main sounds reacting to the conductor’s action (Looper, Delays, Freezer, samplers…) are mainly diffused in the main stereo frontal speakers, all sound materials are alongside constantly being reverberated and spatialized through the 8 speakers disposed around the audience and the stage. Spatial movements are generated in a slow but chaotic fashion, enabling the sensation of a moving sound space. Both spatial movements and reverberation are being mixed live, and appear more or less prominent in the global sound according to the moment of the piece. It is also possible to use 4 additional top speakers for more immersive 3D surround sound.

All mixing actions and enabling of the different modules, including tape triggers, are being performed live by the composer using two MIDI mixers. All cues and mix levels are indicated in the score.


Specific hardware requirements - available at IRCAM’s Production department

  • metallic structure for the conductor, specifically designed for the purpose
  • 2 Kinect v1 cameras - 1 spare recommended - with dedicated stands and USB extenders
  • collections of dedicated resonant bells


Specific software requirements

Stage computer: a copy of the KinectConverter2018 0.9 application, running on Mac OS, developed by the composer’s company

iPads: a copy of the Gestrument application, running on IOS 12 (or later), developed by the composer’s company

Audio computer:

  • a copy of Ableton Live Suite 10.1.14 (or later) - includes a copy of Cycling’74 Max 8.1.3 (or later), running on Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6 (or later)
  • a copy of the UVI Workstation application in VST format, running UVI IRCAM Solo Instruments through iLok

© IRCAM Creative Commons License
This documentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Program note

Le chef d’orchestre est le point focal de tout ensemble ou orchestre, et, quand bien même elle ou il se tient le dos tourné au public, le chef reste celle ou celui qui porte le message musical des musiciens aux auditeurs. La gestique du chef est donc porteuse de nombreuses connotations et peut être considérée de bien des manières, du strict battement métronomique aux gestes mystérieux d’un magicien en pleine incantation.

Sculpting the Air est le premier volet d’une trilogie de pièces qui explorent chacune à leur manière le concept « d’exformation », et peut tout aussi bien s’entendre comme un concerto pour chef.

Le terme « exformation », que l’on doit à l’essayiste et scientifique danois Tor Nørretranders dans son essai The User Illusion : CuttingConsciousness Down to Size (1998), désigne tout ce qui n’est pas dit effectivement, mais qui est présent dans nos pensées au moment, ou avant, de parler – là où l’information est le discours mesurable et démontrable que nous prononçons réellement.

Les gestes du chef portent donc de nombreuses exformations qui, bien sûr, diffèrent grandement selon la personne qui les regarde (musicien,auditeur...). Mais la quantité relativement restreinte d’informations mesurables dans ses mouvements se prête parfaitement à une première expérience fouillée des exformations du point de vue musical. On prendra par exemple les gestes ordinaires du chef pour les placer dans un contexte nouveau et étendu, dans lequel leurs effets seront différents. Dans cette pièce, le chef dirige non seulement un ensemble divisé en deux, mais aussi deux capteurs de mouvements qui contrôlent tout le dispositif électronique en même temps qu’il joue directement sur des objets physiques suspendus devant lui.

Jesper Nordin, programme ManiFeste-2015 (tr: J.S.).

Version documentation creation date: July 21, 2020, 12:17 p.m., update date: July 21, 2020, 12:17 p.m.