Collaboration and distance: the challenges on the collective creation of Nácar, an audiovisual improvisational piece for cello and electronics

Fellipe Martins1, Giovanna Lelis Airoldi2, Lucia Esteves2, Lucas Quinamo3, Lucas Torrez Toledo2

1Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
São Paulo University, Brazil
3University of Campinas, Brazil


Nácar, an audiovisual improvisational piece for cello and electronics, is the result of an intense month of online collaboration between five artists, the authors of this abstract, as part of the musitec2 (2nd Music and Technology Conference, 2020). Aiming to create a collaborative piece in which musical technologies were present, the group – formed by one performer (cellist and painter) and four composers, three of them working on sound processing and one on image processing – tried to blur the boundaries between sound and image through the digital expansion of the cello, which triggered both sound and image processing.

Together, the group came up with the following images to guide our creative process, which reflect the enclosure imposed by COVID-19 pandemics: Jets, bubbles, streams of water come out of a shell planted on the seabed. They travel through the cavities and curls, resonating in the circular walls. The strength of these forces vibrates the entire calcium structure that was once inhabited by some creature. Now, from within the uninhabited shell, we can hear other beings: amorphous, dynamic, in constant metamorphosis. They meet and allow themselves to be carried away by bubbles, to the taste of the waters, conversing in a prosaic and unpretentious way. The evoked images are the context of our sound reveries.

With those sound images in mind, the performer recorded improvisations – the fingerboard being struck, pizzicati deformed by glissandi and long notes with interference beats caused by the shock of purposely close intervals on double strings – and used as foundation for creation of Max/MSP patches for sound live-processing. The resulting texture refers to an instrument that emerges from the resonating depths of a shell, and in this process releases so much energy that gradually transduces it into boiling lava, fluster and steam. In addition, the cello sound was analyzed in real time using audio descriptors, especially those that have a more direct correlation with auditory perception (pitch, attack and intensity), providing control parameters for processing watercolours made by the performer in which she aimed to represent the movement of water in the Processing environment.

In this communication, we intend to reflect on the process of composition of Nácar, which happened remotely due to social distancing as a COVID-19 pandemic consequence and why results obtained were quite different from the ones we were habituated to work with before pandemic. For that, we are considering Helmut Lachenmann maxim “composing is building an instrument”, which he proposes in Über Komponieren (1986) and so, what instrument have we built and which instruments can be built in this new scenario we are living in, where technology is a central point of musical composition but not its only means; as well as José Henrique Padovani’s proposition, reflecting on Lachenman’s maxim, about the instrument as a metaphor on computer assisted composition in his essay O instrumento imaginário: o paradigma instrumental na criação musical (2017).

Key-words: Live electronics, visual music, extended techniques


Fellipe Miranda Martins is currently a PhD student in the Sonology department of the School of Music of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG); received a master degree from the same department with the thesis “Estudo exploratório de processos de transformação sonora a partir de Trevor Wishart: reinvenção e tradução para o ambiente SuperCollider”; received the electrical engineering degree – with major studies in audio – from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in 2017 with a sandwich period in the Sonology department of the Royal Conservatoire – The Hague (Netherlands) between 2014-2015. He creates and researches in several different areas across the arts and engineering, such as algorithmic composition, sound installation, automata development, visual music and animation.


Giovanna Lelis holds a bachelor’s degree in music with a cello habilitation by USP. She started studying the cello when she was eight and, in 2005, entered the Municipal School of Music from São Paulo. She has played at several orchestras such as Orquestra Jovem Tom Jobim, Philharmonic of Heliópolis, Filarmônica Bachiana and currently, OCAM. In 2014, she was granted with the Brazilian Ministry of Culture Program for Exchange and Cultural Difusion, through which she presented a research about brazilian female contemporary composers and played a solo recital at the 12th Feminist Theory and Music Conference at Hamilton College, New York. In addition to that, she teaches cello for children and adults and is specially interested in contemporary and experimental music. Today, she studies at University’s of São Paulo Masters program and conducts an academic research under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Silvio Ferraz on the image-sound interface.


Lucia Nogueira Esteves (b. 1991) undergraduate student in Music at University of São Paulo-Brazil. She holds a degree in History from the same university. She works as a research in the areas of musical composition, sound studies and audiovisual. Actually, develops scientific initiation research, with FAPESP scholarship, based on the work of the composer Steve Reich and experimental music. Researcher at NuSom – Research Center on Sonology. She integrates the Sonora network – Music and Feminisms.


Lucas Quinamo was born in Vitoria, Brazil, where he studied saxophone and played in jazz bands. He played as second tenor saxophone for 3 years at Pop&Jazz Orchestra, under direction of maestro Celio Paula. In 2015 moved to Campinas, in the state of São Paulo, to study Music teaching at University of Campinas – Unicamp. The following year he entered the composition bachelor graduation, where he studied with composers Jônatas Manzolli, Denise Garcia, José Augusto Mannis, José Henrique Padovani and guest professor and composer Mikhail Malt. In 2018 Lucas was a finalist at II Festival MCB Edino Krieger composition contest with his string quartet “\respire”. He also received two scholarships by Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa de São Paulo (FAPESP), the first in 2017 to study two of composer Edino Kriegers piano pieces and the second in 2020, to study Khorwa-Myalwa, for bass flute and electronics, by composer Mikhail Malt.


Lucas Torrez Toledo (1996) started his studies in Music in 2010, taking viola lessons in a social project orchestra in Osasco, SP. That experience led him to apply for the Escola Municipal de Música de São Paulo in 2013, a traditional public conservatory in the city of São Paulo, in which he got accepted. In Escola Municipal, Lucas Torrez Toledo started playing in the Orquestra Sinfônica Jovem Municipal de São Paulo in 2016, where he later became the first chair violist, until 2018. In 2017, Toledo started his undergoing Bachelor’s Degree in Composition in the University of São Paulo. Lucas Torrez Toledo’s current interests are Computer Assisted Composition, Electroacoustic Music, Live Electronics and Visual Programming. In November 2020, he was selected to participate in Musitec2 (2nd Music and Technology Congress.