Singapore Night Festival 2014 – Bold and Beautiful

Musician William Close plays on the “Earth Harp”, an instrument that he’s invented, at the front lawn of the Singapore National Museum during the Singapore Night Festival 2014.

The annual Singapore Night Festival is upon us again. This year is the 7th edition of the festival, and the theme is “Bold and Beautiful”. I wasn’t able to attend the media preview of the event this time due to work commitments and thus I have to squeeze with the public. Here are some of the installations which I found to be interesting.

Night Lights

Night Lights have been a crowd favourite in all the previous Night Festivals, with the light projections on the Singapore Art Museum drawing big crowds every night. This year is no different. Featuring a projection piece titled “Spirits of Nature” by WECOMEINPEACE from France, the installation transforms the façade of the Singapore Art Museum into something surreal, transforming you to another world.

Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014
Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014
Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014

Over at Cathay Green is an installation titled “Cynea”by Cumulus from France. It’s in the form of a large jellyfish with its tentacles forming a tent and illuminated by coloured lights. Visitors can go inside the tent and immerse themselves in the ever changing light display.

Cynea by Cumulus (France) viewed from a distance.
Visitors mingle inside the “Cynea” installation among the coloured lights and smoke.
Looking up from the inside of the “Cynea” installation.

Nearby, at the stairs outside the School of the Arts (SOTA) are some white umbrellas lit by coloured lights. Created by SOTA in collaboration with Lighting Planners Associates, the aptly titled “Umbrellas” forms coloured clusters of light at night. The umbrellas are a favourite of couples – many were seen talking selfies under them.

A couple takes a selfie under one of the umbrellas of the “Umbrellas” installation on the stairs outside the School of the Arts (SOTA).
Colourful clusters of umbrellas on the steps of the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Meanwhile, the mainground of the National Museum of Singapore is being watched by devine beings projected onto the trees. Created by French artist Clément Briend, the installation lends a somewhat surreal feel to the area. This still being the Ghost Festival, I am glad he used the more peaceful-looking, Buddha-like projections instead of something more creepy.

“Devine Trees” by Clément Briend (France)
Devine Trees by Clément Briend (France)

Interestingly, one of the installations is re-used from the recently-concluded i Light Marina Bay festival. This is titled “Insert Caption Please” by local artist Ryf.

Insert Caption Please by Ryf (Singapore)

William Close and the Earth Harp

To me, the highlight of this year’s festival has got to be William Close and his “Earth Harp”. It’s an instrument that he invented and it features a soundbox mounted on the stage, with several steel wires running back to the National Museum. Close mentioned that he’s even created one across a valley featuring 1,000ft strings!

Unlike a regular harp, where the strings are plucked to produce the notes, the Earth Harp is played with gloved hands coated with violin rosin stroking the strings longitudinally. This according to Close, produces “compression waves” which produces the cello-like sounds which we hear. This is similar to how sound is produced when running a wet finger along the rim of a wineglass.

William Close’s performance combines new age with classical melodies (including Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Pachelbel’s Canon in D) as well as newly invented instruments like the “Drum Cloud” and the ”Drum Jacket”.

William Close plays on this Earth Harp. The cloud of rosin powder makes it look as if he’s some form of wizard, conjuring up magical melodies from the instrument.
William Close playing his Earth Harp.
William Close plays the “Drum Jacket”, a jacket with several drum pads stitched to it.

His drummer, Rich Sherwood is equally brilliant. Here’s him performing on the “Drum Cloud” (hmm, seem like everything is in the cloud now.)

Rich Sherwood playing the Drum Cloud.
Rich Sherwood plays the Drum Cloud.
William Close strikes a pose at the end of his last piece of the set.

Photos doesn’t quite do his performance justice, so here’s a video of William Close performing a piece inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

The Singapore Night Festival is held over two weekends – 22-23 Aug and 29-30 Aug 2014, so there’s still another weekend to catch the installations and performances. The Night Lights installations will be also be on throughout the week. Do catch it if you can!

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