Lucien Nicou: Breaking the barriers on light and sound with the Tour de Contrôle

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During his research on sound and its effect on the human body, French designer and producer Lucien Nicou came up with the Tour de Contrôle, an instrument and installation powered with ADAM Audio monitors, that combines audio and lights in new futuristic, breathtaking forms.

The story behind this new, innovative control unit all began at the Design Academy Eindhoven, where the French producer and engineer Lucien Nicou experimented with sound and synthesis, to see how they could be used to combine with and manipulate different forms of light.

“As an artist designer I like to consider sound and light as mediums, and look at ways to create connections between them both,” Nicou explains about his artistic approach. “To create an installation that plays with those mediums, resulting in a multi sensorial experience is something I always wanted to do.”

Nicou first displayed the Tower late last year in Eindhoven, during a week-long residency of live experimentations at the Dutch Design Week 2023 (DDW23). During the event artists were able to test and experiment with the installation, with Nicou acting as a guide, looking at ways at creating new, audio-visual-spatial possibilities.

Made out of stainless steel and birch wood, the control tower features eight-audio inputs, ten audio outputs, protocol ports, an audio interface, a computer and a touchscreen. Using custom designed software, MIDI controllers, and sensors, the unit can record, slice and modify sound through an 8-channel speaker-system. LED stroboscopes and tungsten lights translate the sound in real time as it travels through space.

What were the biggest challenges when building the Tour de Contrôle?

I couldn’t make mistakes with the design due to the time constraints at hand. I only had time to produce the pieces once, and fitting all the components together was definitely challenging. I really had to be extremely precise and careful. Developing the software was also challenging since I had to learn how to develop on MAX/MSP on the go in order to make an all-in-one software.

How do you feel Tour de contrôle was received by the audience at DDW23?

The residency that happened during DDW was the best way to activate the Tour de Contrôle. By inviting a new artist or collective to experiment and perform on the system on each day, I wanted to showcase the different potential uses of this machine. Every day each artist came up with a new way of using the system, resulting in very different and amazing experiences. Even if some of the artists were used to performing live, they were confronted with something very special and unique. The public was also shocked. After sitting or laying in the room for about an hour, some of them could not believe what they had experienced. Some of them were even crying. These very intense moments that happened during this residency will remain in people’s memories forever.

Can you describe the workflow when performing live with Tour de Contrôle?

The Tour de Contrôle can be used in several ways when performing live. It can be used as a mixer, allowing you to displace sound from each of the eight analog inputs through space, and translate it into light. The magic happens though when you start to use the loopers. There are eight loopers that allow you to play samples using randomization, allowing the sound to be modified in controlled or uncontrolled ways. The eight loopers can be mixed into a second mixer in parallel with the input mixer. This result is a 16-channel mixer generating experimental soundscapes.

What future projects do you have in mind?

Now that I got familiar with MAX/MSP I’m exploring the possibilities of digital effect generation, and integration into standalone devices. I feel that this might open a lot of doors to many projects.

What makes the perfect studio monitor for you?

Of course the sound transparency and precision is very important when it comes to selecting a monitor speaker. As I also enjoy beautifully designed objects, I also pay a lot of attention to the look of the speaker.

Which were the reasons for you to choose ADAM Audio monitors for this project?

I’ve always been attracted by ADAM Audio speakers. For this project I really wanted to prioritize sound quality over the loudness, which is why I wanted to have ADAM Audio monitors for this project.

Photography by @celeste.imagine and @jesky_rieper

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Author: ADAM Audio

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