Freedom from Fear (2017)
for oboe, two speaker arrays (6 around the audience and 4.2 on stage) and lights
Composed/electronics by Maija Hynninen
Performed by Kyle Bruckmann, oboe
‘sounDome’ homemade speakers manufactured by Maija Hynninen, designed by Roberto Ortiz-Soto and Maija Hynninen, programmed by Ilya Rostovtsev.
Audio production and installation by Jeremy Wagner and Maija Hynninen

Special thanks to Eric Paulos and CITRIS Invention Lab staff for all help and support with the 'sounDome'.

Freedom from Fear is written for oboe, electronics and four homemade speakers that have built-in LEDs. I wanted to create two acoustic spaces with two different loudspeaker arrays. The small speakers I named ‘sounDome’ share stage with the oboist while the large speaker array consisting of powerful hall speakers and sub woofers surround the audience.This setup serves a purely musical purpose as well as reflects the political content of the composition.

Having been working with surround sound and mixed music for some years I decided to add a light feature to my work. With the aid of a fellowship for CITRIS Invention Lab I could use the labs equipment for manufacturing the speakers. ‘sounDome’ speakers have 3D printed translucent body. Roberto Ortiz-Soto drew the CAD file for the speaker from our mutual design. The speakers have 4ohm/40W transducers attached to a 8 inch 0.35mm thick aluminium plate. Adafruit NeoPixel RGBW strip is wrapped around a round panel placed inside the speaker dome. I chose Arduino Nano as my prototype microcontroller. Ilya Rostovtsev programmed Arduino IDE code that enables the micro controller to rotate the incoming data very efficiently through the NeoPixel strip. Max/MSP-patch designed and programmed by me controls both the sound and the light.
Program notes:

Freedom from Fear reflects the thoughts of Aung San Suu Kyi (b. 1945), Burmese politician and freedom fighter. She spent 15 years in house arrest under the Burmese military dictatorship until she was released in 2010. During and after the house arrest Kyi gained international acclaim and received many honours including the Nobel Peace Prize.

After listening and watching many interviews by Kyi, I became fascinated with her thought how “in any country, if the majority is determined to follow a certain path, they will be able to do it, sooner or later”. It seems almost a miracle that the Burmese military dictatorship has finally turned into democracy in the 2010’s. The majority of Burmese people had joined forces. Together they had also overcome fear that is related to the fact that most protests in Burma were brutally interrupted by military action.

“Freedom from Fear” – one of the most famous Aung San Suu Kyi quotes as well as other direct quotes taken from her interviews are transcribed for oboe and woven into the oboe textures. These delicate keyclicks and airy sounds share the stage with powerful and noisy multiphonics and glissandi that represent the strength and power of the thought over brutal violence. Two loudspeaker arrays – the small home-made ones on stage and the large ones placed around the audience – create two different spaces. The intimate on-stage space is illuminated by lights that are built into these small speakers. Following the loudness of the keyclicks and airy sounds of the oboe, each of the speakers flickers at its own pace. The lights changing from white to blue and then towards orange and red portray the political climate change from serenity into a state of uncertainty. The electronics culminate through the peaceful demonstrations of 2016-17 in the US into the chaos of the Burmese Saffron Revolution of 2007.  

Video by Maija Hynninen and Jeremy Wagner.

Photos (main & 1 & 2) taken by Adriel Olmos.

Last photo taken by Maija Hynninen.
Additional Project Images