A Night of Innovation: Cocon with Cello Octet Amsterdam

18 May 2024

I helped build COCON, a groundbreaking performance featuring the Cello Octet Amsterdam.

The evening began with a DJ set by Sanneke Kleingeld in the entrance hall, warming up the audience for what was to come. As the clock struck 20:30, the main event unfolded in the Grote Zaal, where the audience was greeted by the world premiere of “Graduals” by Sarah Davachi. This was just the beginning of a remarkable program that also included compositions by Qasim Naqvi, Jesse Broekman, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Abul Mogard & KMRU, and Caterina Barbieri.

The first half of the concert was an intense experience. The Cello Octet, enveloped by eight moving robotic shells, played “Graduals” for 45 minutes. This composition was a true test of endurance, both for the performers and the audience. The eight cellos seemed to hover on a single note, with off-key variations creating a mesmerizing, almost hypnotic effect. This piece was not for the faint-hearted; its subtle shifts and droning tones demanded a deep level of focus and appreciation for minimalist music.

After a much-needed intermission at 21:15, the second half of the concert brought a shift in energy and accessibility. This part of the performance showcased the full potential of the Cello Octet and their robotic companions. The music became more varied and approachable, captivating the audience with its dynamic range and emotional depth.

The real spectacle, however, was the integration of robotic arms and innovative lighting. Each cellist was encased in a robotic shell that moved and transformed in sync with the music, thanks to the engineering prowess of Daniel de Bruin, Wes Broersen, Pim Swinkels, and the creative technical production of Wout Panis. The scenography and light design by Nick Verstand were nothing short of spectacular. A variety of lamps, colors, and smoke effects created an eerie yet organic atmosphere, enhancing the otherworldly feel of the performance.

The finale was a visual and auditory feast. Eight massive laser beams were projected onto the robotic arms and into the venue, creating an awe-inspiring display that left the audience in sheer wonder. This culmination of light, sound, and movement brought the evening to a triumphant close, showcasing the seamless collaboration between human musicians and cutting-edge technology.

After the concert, the audience returned to the entrance hall where Sanneke Kleingeld’s DJ set provided a perfect backdrop for reflection and discussion about the night’s experience.

tags: muziekgebouw dj set the rest is noise cello