The Beacon

The Beacon is an experiment in generative architecture and functions to stimulate new ideas between medicine and design. It was displayed at Lubert Plaza at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia from October 6th – 16th, 2016.

Justin Geller composed a soundscape that played every night in sync with the lighting, in and around the Beacon. Also, once a night, drones wrapped photo luminescent wire around the sculpture and more a dramatic piece was written to accompany that performance.

Artist Statement: The music of The Beacon – Justin Geller

Design, Art, and Music–all of these this are created to make us feel good, to feel connected to one another. It seems only logical that the arts work well together with the field of medicine, whose sole purpose is to heal and make you feel better. Technology has always been very important to both art and medicine. Medicine pushes technology to help understand how the body works and how to fight sickness and disease and Artists have also always been great advocates of taking technology to the limit and forcing it to do things far greater than their intended purpose to evoke new emotions and reactions.

I composed two pieces that I hope reflect the ethos of MEDstudio@Jeff. The first piece entitled, “BEACON,” is designed to accentuate the magic of the lighting, art, and design of The Beacon installation. It is a soundscape that hides in the background, transporting you to another place and time, not quite in the present or the future, not quite in the city or nature. The mood of the music loops every 18 1/2 minutes and follows The Beacon lighting structure, which the traces the arc of the sun from sunrise to sunset. It begins with the still of the early morning, then to the opening of the flowers and awakening of nature, climaxing at noon to the gentle sounds of strings and angelic voices, and then slowly lowers you gently back to sleep at night. The second composition runs 30 minutes and is entitled “DRONES.” Society’s impression of drones is often of ominous bomb-dropping war machines. The beginning of this piece starts calmly but comes in with a dissonant, off-key tone that reflects that fear and anxiety of the incoming drones. However, as is shown in the MEDstudio’s work, technology can be used to help people in need. Drones can be used to safely deliver medical supplies to areas that would be impossible to reach by traditional means. They can be used as an “eye in the sky”, spotting survivors during times of disaster or helping firefighters save lives by spotting wildfires and their movement. As the piece goes on, the music reflects a clearing of the dark skies and the uplifting of spirits as the drones create beauty and decorate the sculpture with light.

Both compositions are designed with certain similarities. They begin and end in the same way and contain some common musical elements, enabling them to fit like puzzle pieces for a seamless transition between them. I set the tempo of both pieces at 60 beats per minute, which is in the range of an average resting human heartbeat. I wanted to evoke a soothing feeling as you walked around The Beacon. It beckons you to follow its source, just as the lights and sculpture do and helps you to relax in nature as you sit under a tree or on the grass. In some parts, the tempo is doubled to 120 beats per minute, the average tempo of modern dance music. This way, the energy of the “DRONES” piece can be brought up and down to create tension and release.

In keeping with the spirit of Jenny Sabin’s evolving sculpture, these musical works will evolve over the course of its ten day run. As the Beacon becomes more complex, with the addition of the photo-luminescent wire, the music will also gain new, more complex parts. As people answer questions via the MEDstudio app and interact on-site, the works will shift in structure and tone to fit better sonically in Lubert Plaza’s environment and to match more synergistically with the ever changing lighting. I am honored to have composed music for this incredible project and am excited to watch it grow.