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Friday, February 14, 2020

2020 CubaDupa to Take the Airwaves with CubaSonic!

The Wellington Festival is Planning a Mass Musical Disruption Across Cuba Street!

For the 2020 CubaDupa, the capital’s free celebration takes things to the next level with its most ambitious project yet —a mass musical performance called CubaSonic.

Imagine almost 500 musicians lined from one end of Cuba Street to the other. Add to them a
dozen conductors and an overhead array of speakers that will direct surround sound across
the site. Throw in a locally-invented Tesla coil that can be played like a keyboard and shoots
lightning into its surrounding. Add major support from Creative New Zealand, Victoria
University of Wellington, and local arts supporters. Finally, add a bespoke score written for
this CubaDupa mass performance zone by leading New Zealand composer John Psathas (whom wrote 'No Man's Land'for WOMAD and the NZ Festival in 2016),
and that begins to describe the CubaSonic experience.

“The inspiration for this mass musical disruption came a few years ago when John Psathas was exploring the festival environments, contemplating the possibility of connecting the neighbourhood celebration with one big beautiful music performance,” says CubaDupa Director Gerry Paul. “He wondered what it would be like to unify the crowd with a creative performance and give the audience an experience that spanned the entire festival—and the
idea for CubaSonic was born.”

The immense scale of this event, and Psathas’s unprecedented vision, will become reality thanks to some of Aotearoa’s leading music institutions, including Orchestra Wellington, New Zealand ymphony Orchestra, Royal New Zealand Air Force Band, The Nudge, Boat, synthesizer genius Leo Coghini, and 250 Batucada drummers from across the country.

In development since 2015, CubaSonic will be performed once each day during the 28
and 29 March 2002 festival.

The project involves the formation of a new kind of mass mass music-making ensemble, over 60 speakers and overhead soundtrack spread across multiple city blocks, and a range of new technical challenges and production costs. The ongoing development has been funded by Creative New Zealand and the festival’s partnership with Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

“CubaDupa is one of Wellington’s primary lightning rods, generating and releasing a massive, positive energy charge into the city every year,” says Psathas. “Festivals offer unique opportunities for ambitious ideas. At their best they give us experiences we never forget, experiences that exceed our expectations both in the witnessing of art and in the moments of massed connection that sneak up and take us by surprise. Cubasonic, played throughout the heart of Cuba Street, will be vast, epic, and monumental.”

The mass sonic spectacle is a unique combination of contemporary music and technology, and part of the festival’s plans to present beautiful disruptions throughout the weekend.

Beyond the mass live ensemble, and the haunting electronic score, a technological centrepiece of CubaSonic is a musical Tesla coil known as Chime Red.

The polyphonic high-energy synthesiser was invented by Josh Bailey in the Hutt Valley, and literally makes music with arcs of lightning. The combined musical sources—live performers, custom composed soundtrack, and Chime Red—will all be amplified in real time through a special audio system that has also been developed locally. The combined ten-minute music work will move sound up and down Cuba Street, immersing 50,000 people in a sonic experience.

“As an engineer, I build Tesla coils, but it is my love of music and artistic collaboration that has taken my work into new places that combine science and art,” says Baily. “The joy for me is when a professional musician takes it to the next level. I am beyond thrilled that John Psathas has incorporated Chime Red into the CubaSonic project, and has composed this work for hundreds of people to perform, and thousands to enjoy.” 

CubaSonic is the centrepiece of a revived CubaDupa, and a bold statement about our return to the streets. It represents yet another Wellington-based collaboration that pushes boundaries, grows the creative community in new ways, and offers festival-goers a new sense of awe and wonder.

In 2019 CubaDupa was moved indoors as a response to the heightened security concerns immediately following the Christchurch terrorism. This year, the festival returns to the outdoor format with twelve stages across its Cuba Street precinct, 30 parade groups, special creative zones, a new circus arts and cabaret venue, and over a hundred food vendors.

“CubaSonic is a highly ambitious undertaking,” explains Psathas. “It is extremely brave and Visionary of CubaDupa to commit to presenting this complex, immersive, mass musical project. It’s ground-breaking, and I’m super excited to feel it all coming together.”

Catch all the artists like Troy Kingi and Wax Chattels here:

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