In the process of architect and designer Jeroen Theuns creating the scenography for a musical production, he has ingeniously invented an instrument in its own right – the 'Loomion' – that is as intricately woven into the whole experience as any of the players on stage.
It has been crafted for The Loom of Mind, a seventy-minute show where the songs of an Icelandic troubadour named Mugison have been set to a musical score arranged by his compatriot Pétur Ben, accompanied by Pietur Theuns – the founder of Baroque Orchestration X – together with fellow members of the Flemish indie-baroque collective. Initially inspired by the craft of weaving and traditional looms, the show is also a metaphor 'for the creativity and complexity of the mind, but also for its fragility and easily-induced confusion'.
Setting the scene for the performance and the entire harmonious journey, the large contraption that hovers over the heads of the musicians immediately sparks the audience to wonder about its purpose. It brings to mind the shape of a loom, with its framework and sets of interlaced threads. It also has connotations with the verb 'loom' – as it makes its presence felt, in its impressively large form. At the start of the show, nobody is clear of its intention, yet there is a feeling that something is about to happen; that this intriguing structure will soon reveal itself.
There is another aspect of the stage set-up that was crucial during the development phase when Jeroen Theuns began composing his concepts for the backdrop to the show: Mugison's 'Mirstrument'. This is a kind-of electronic, musical loom and consists of the impressive set-up of his MIDI controller with its isometric note layout, presented as a hexagonal matrix of keys. When deciding on the architectural layout of the Loomion, a diaganol portion of the MIDI controller's keys covering five octaves was selected. This was directly translated into the shape of the structure in order to allow for simple chords to be played by pulling neighbouring strings. A total of 61 threads were carefully woven into an overhead framework and looped back to its own control station, where the threads were connected to illuminated levers – when tension was put on one string, the lever would lift up and in turn push a metal tab to hit a piano key. On the stage itself, the other end of the threads were weighted down – which also doubled-up as the handle for the performers on stage for when the time comes to reveal all.
The Loomion is more than a stage-set. It is an instrument in its own right – akin to a carillon – and it is also a hybrid, with its patched sound also making use of 60+ controllers that are electronically converted to a sampler. As it weaves musical textures, it is always evolving, with every performance being slightly different. Comments Jeroen Theuns, 'It is an intricate being that has to be handled with care and treated with respect in order for the threads not to get tangled. Its composition is part of its beauty, as well as its fragileness.' Though the Loomion will soon see its final curtain call as part of the show's current run, it may well be taking a world tour of its own as an installation at a festival near you sometime in the future.
Following three successful performances already of The Loom of Mind, the next show (and final one, for now) will be at Holland Festival in Amsterdam on Friday 19 June. For more information, and tickets, go here.