Scott L. Miller's "Raba," recorded by Ensemble U:, produced by Maru VR Productions, with support from the St. Cloud State University 2017 Research Faculty Improvement Grant. Made possible with support from Eesti Kultuurkapital.
The recording available on the album Raba, New Focus Recordings FCR198. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079PCB9R6
In the fall of 2014, I visited Marimetsa Raba, an Estonian bog. A hike through a fairytale forest eventually leads to 11 kilometers of floating wood planks allowing you to walk across an immense bog, the result of thousands of years of decay, layer upon layer of peat built up a millimeter at a time. Marimetsa Raba is many meters thick, representing millennia of history; it is stitched together and compacted by time, floating in a vast nature reserve.
I was inspired by the idea of an immense surface that seems somehow empty, perhaps even simple, but when your eye is drawn to a detail, it leaps from the landscape. And once you begin to probe the surface, you discover a fantastically complex ecosystem above and below. In Raba, the percussionist is probing the tam-tam, revealing the interwoven partials that combine to create the sound we think of as the instrument. The alto flute, violin, cello, and electronics are tuned to reinforce, interact, and interfere with these partials revealed by the percussionist. The interaction of all these elements activates the room, causing a pulsing, living audio experience in the performance space.
With support from a St. Cloud State University 2017 Research Faculty Improvement Grant, I created a new version of Raba, as an immersive virtual reality concert piece. This work was created in collaboration with Mark Gill of the SCSU Visualization Lab, Rein Zobel of Maru VR, and Ensemble U:. In concert, it is experienced by the audience seated in swiveling office chairs and wearing VR headsets. Audience members can visually explore a 360º video while Ensemble U: performs the music in sync with the film. The ensemble and speakers (for the electronic sound in the music) physically surround the audience, unifying the audience experience with a live, immersive audio performance while each audience member has a unique, individual immersive visual experience.
Raba was originally commissioned by the Spitting Image Collective. This commission was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.