Joel Davel On Lightning


manipulating two small batons-he looks like a hyperactive magician casting abracadabra spells into the ether-Davel was as much a dancer as Green, moving with a concentrated focus that made him fascinating to watch. -----Newsday

Who can keep an eye on Green, being lovely, while this intent shaman conjures up music? ----Village Voice


Joel is one the foremost performers on Lightning--an innovative 'high-tech' instrument which he built and performed with designer Don Buchla.

Using two independent wands emitting infrared signals, spatial coordinates and gestures are translated into musical controls. Melodic colors are expressed as if he is handling a magician's wands or conducting a virtual orchestra. The next moment, they become like drumsticks playing an invisible percussion instrument.

While the technology is impressive, Joel's plays it with a musicality and a repertoire of highly varied material, unexpected from such an instrument. Performing Lightning requires a certain amount of virtuosity and control, though it's easy to "make it play" in the hands of anyone willing to flail around in the air a little. Mr Davel has peformed solo Lightning performances at Symphony Space and Lincoln Center in New York as well as opening receptions in San Jose for the Tech Museum and other tech company events.

A video of Joel performing the possibilities of Lightning can be found on YouTube

More specifically:

Lightning employs two hand-held infrared-emmiting wands to convey spacial movement. Lightning recognizes the independent x ,y location and button presses on the wand. Each wand's gestures are then interpreted and can be be programmed to initiate various musical responses. For example, one can control pitch and volume like a Theramin, virtual strikes like air drums, or patterns and tempos like a virtual conductor. It gives a performer sophisticated theatrical control for electronic music performance. (Lightning III added a less precise control in the z-axis as well.)

Joel also plays a Buchla LightningII as an interative complement to Marimba Lumina.

Don hired Joel in 1993 to collaborate with an video and sound exhibit for the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco. Joel completed software written in the HMSL-Forth language to integrate video from an Amiga system and programmed sounds for synthesizers--all drven from the Lightning MIDI output. Since then, Joel has been Don Buchla's primary hardware assistant and he is also the author of the Lightning presets.