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       Art of Rock Concert Lighting

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University Seminar: Art of Concert Lighting
Instructor: R. Lee Kennedy
Department: Drama

Description:An exploration of the history of concert lighting design and technology from its roots in '60s counter-culture to the contemporary corporate rock technological spectacle. Through structured discussion and research into video, print, and web sources, students will investigate the elements of concert visual imagery and its influence on other media such as Broadway musical theatre, television, film, and themed restaurant and retail environments. In hands-on projects in the lighting studio students will explore the artistic and perceptual relationship between music and light and gain a practical understanding of the sophisticated technology behind the dynamic imagery so prevalent in popular entertainment.

Seminar Format: The seminar will consist primarily of presentation/demonstration combined with a significant amount of discussion. Presentations will make use of audio, video, and other media. Additionally students will have the opportunity for hands-on live demonstrations of some of the lighting technologies covered in the course. Students will write responses and formulate ideas about the contributions of lighting design and technology to the over-all experience of the concert and may pursue individual research into specific areas of interest.

Lab/Hands-on Sessions: Students are expected to participate in occasional afternoon lab session which will be scheduled one to two weeks prior to project due dates. In lab sessions students will work individually or in small groups on hands-on lighting activities on practical projects.

Purpose: The study of concert lighting is an excellent way to engage students in discussion, research, and critical thinking about the visual imagery that is now a ubiquitous part of the rock concert experience. Most students bring exciting personal accounts of concerts they have attended to the seminar that lead to substantive discussions about the technological and aesthetic elements that most audience members take for granted. Along the way other important topics are considered that include:

  • Historical/cultural reasons for escapist and perception-altering imagery
  • History/theory about the synaesthetic relationship of light and music
  • Advertising and the commercial aspects of concert imagery
  • Trends over the last thirty years towards increasingly rapid images in visual media
  • How concert design has altered the conventions and audience expectations of many other performance media
  • Challenges of doing research in popular culture and corporate/trade topics