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Roebling display didn’t happen overnight, Cincy native principal of team that brought it to BLINK

NKyTribune staff

In partnership with Brave Berlin, visionaries and producers of BLINK 2019, MASARY Studios has co-created the major art installation of light, color, and sound on the iconic John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

Penning the sound score, light score, technical language and narrative, RUMBLE: A contemporary voice for the bridge that sings, will transform the Roebling into a “gesture of connectivity and harmony within our region and the world.

MASARY’s work on the project included a “ringer.” Maria Finkelmeier, a principal member of MASARY is a Cincinnati native who is veery familiar with the Roebling bridge.

BLINK is one of the largest light, art, and projection mapping events in the nation. The four-day event features large-scale installations, murals, urban artscapes, light, and interactive art in Cincinnati.

BLINK spans more than 30 city blocks, from the Kentucky River Banks to Cincinnati’s Findlay Market.

The biennial BLINK festival takes place today through Sunday, in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

As one of the major installations of the four-day festival, the Roebling Bridge will connect BLINK’s route as a featured iconic landmark bathed in light and sound. MASARY Studios of Boston will make the Singing Bridge “sing,” working with Vincent Lighting Systems of Erlanger.

RUMBLE: A contemporary voice for the bridge that sings


The Roebling Bridge will come to life through rhythmic structural lighting and an original sound score. Created by sampling elements from the bridge itself, the score will turn the “singing bridge” into an instrument capable of beats, harmony, and melody.

“Rumble” is sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation with support from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). The Lighting Sponsor is Vincent Lighting Systems.

Elements of Installation

–          More than 520 lighting instruments will be mounted on the bridge to illuminate the unique form and structure.

–          A multimedia language has been created to connect the bridge’s architectural elements with musical ideas and lighting effects. The sound score and light score have been created in tandem by the artists, resulting in an integrated process and expression.

–          Attendees will be welcome to experience and engage with the installation while traversing the bridge on foot, or from a viewing area in Smale Park.

–          In addition to using live sampled sound bites, the sound score will include recordings from the Cincinnati Boys’ Choir, and additional contemporary elements.

MASARY Studios is a team of artists awakening built and natural environments through live music performance and video projection mapping.

Okerstrom-Lang (left), and Edwards

By unlocking the hidden possibilities of an urban landscape or space, MASARY’s works are at once a performance, a dissection of architecture, and an immersive visual spectacle.

When approaching a new project, their inspiration comes from the structure or environment itself as well as the history and local culture embedded in the place. The animation and musical works are developed in collaboration – one informing the other – allowing many turns of reflection and refraction.

The three principal members of MASARY are Ryan Edwards, Sam Okerstrom-Lang and Cincinnati-native Finkelmeier. All have backgrounds that include degrees in fine art, classical and world percussion, as well as years of experience in West African music studies, new music composition, curation and direction, teaching at the university and conservatory levels, and more.

Finkelmeier describes the project in this way: “Bridges are a consistent marvel of architecture. A bridge represents what is no longer the edge, where travel and ideas formerly stopped, but now have a path.  A visualization of this progress, Cincinnati’s Roebling Bridge sings as it suspends over the Ohio River connecting two banks, two cities, and two states.”

Behind the Scenes

Local visitors to BLINK may think RUMBLE just appeared overnight, but those who worked on the project have spent months getting it ready.

For BLINK Cincinnati, MASARY created a musical score, lighting score, and technical language to bring the Roebling Bridge (aka “the singing bridge”) to life for four nights. Its first site-specific activation outside of New England, MASARY’s principals have pushed their practice to create a new process of connecting sound and light to enable this massive bridge to awaken. 

A multi-month endeavor, consisting of logistically trouble-shooting and oozing creative energy, they turned the corner and can now envision the look and sound of final work. Here’s a peek into the process:

STEP ONE: Sample elements of the bridge itself. MASARY principal, Maria Finkelmeier, is a Cincinnati native, and she was thrilled to cruise her old stomping ground with principals Ryan Edwards and Sam Okerstrom-Lang. The Roebling provided an array of sounds, and the scootering was top notch. 

STEP TWO: Connect with the team: Masary worked with visionaries Brave Berlin, lighting specialist Vincent Lightning Systems, and presenter Cincinnati Regional Chamber. Since they worked by satellite, Skype for Business was an integral tool for group calls and screen shares.

Key members of team RUMBLE: MASARY Studios (Ryan – Maria – Samo) and co-creators Brave Berlin (Dan – Steve). All images and photos provided by MASRY Studios

STEP THREE: Study the bridge, history, and story. The Roebling was a proto-type to the Brooklyn bridge. The team loves the connection between John A. Roebling pushing limits, and its attempt to push the limits of its process.

Once properly educated and inspired, the next goal was create a project abstract:

Bridges are a consistent marvel of architecture. A bridge represents what is no longer the edge, where travel and ideas formerly stopped, but now have a path. A visualization of this progress, Cincinnati’s Roebling Bridge sings as it suspends over the Ohio River connecting two banks, two cities, and two states.

STEP FOUR: Create a MIDI language, hacking Ableton Live, to enable music and light score to work hand in hand. We’re now hackers! Using Ableton Live, we’ve created a system of MIDI commands, through using the MIDI notes themselves (think typical musical language – A, A#, B, C, C#, D … etc), velocity indicators to speak to RGB values (R=red, B=blue, G=green), and  all 16 MIDI channels (there are over 500 lights on the bridge, so the MIDI map is huge and we had to be very careful when assigning!) to speak directly to the lighting board software. Vincent Lighting company reps have been in close conversation, and as excited to hack and create a new system for creativity. 

STEP FIVE: WRITE WRITE WRITE! (then listen and reflect, throw half of the writing out, and start again…) Maria and Ryan wrote a 30-minute minute score of high energy music – using the samples from the bridge, beautiful recordings of the Cincinnati Boychoir (thanks to Jason Alexander) and other contemporary elements – and a 30 minute ambient score to let the bridge rest in between showings.

Maria and Ryan then created the light score to be totally synchronized with the music – they chose colors and sections of activation with a goal to marry the sound with the architecture. The vibe of the experience will move through various genres – rock, classical, space 80’s, glitch, and more – because we believe that the Roebling has a lot to say.

The last month before the fest consisted of bouncing files back and fourth between the lighting company to assure connectivity and MIDI code translation. Not to mention, critique sessions and tests in the studio in Boston.

The team flew to Cincinnati the week of the festival and worked overnight in the two nights leading up to the event to assure music and lights were synchronized and Roebling was ready to RUMBLE!

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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