Ingenious Collaboration: The Radial Conservatory
A part of our series,Two Plus Two Equals Five: Stories about collaboration
Artists. Composers. Sound, light, and a space immersed with imagination. These components shake hands and become one, bringing my fellow WELDER and Nashville, Tennessee native of 13 years, Stephen Proctor’s, vision to life through The Radial Conservatory.
College is where Stephen’s passion for visual experiences through light and sound first developed into art when he began using projection to create different atmospheres within his church. Stephen entered college as an engineering major because of his fascination with the concepts and theories necessary for mechanical processes. However, he soon realized the mathematics involved did not appeal to him. Before too long, visual art experiences became the instrument by which he put these theories into practice. Today, Stephen has worked on tour with numerous solo musicians and bands, creating an imaginative, intimate space where he is able to visually support each artist in their most unique form.
“No one really chooses to zone in on the art of projection, but I did. I came to understand that like playing jazz, you could play visuals as well.”
Between music videos for Keith Urban and exchanging ideas with groups such as All Sons and Daughters, Stephen found his niche and became a well-known expert in his field. It wasn’t until last year that he realized that all of his projects were focused on other people’s visions and he wasn’t relying on himself or his own ideas to produce the work he had always dreamt of.
Stephen is inspired by spaces turned into art through the use of light and sound. He is obsessed with cathedrals of all sorts. Ask him, and he will most likely describe to you his ideal space as a moody, dark cathedral with candles lit all across the ground. This love of experiences influenced by a combination of artistic components is a part of Stephen’s core as an artist and creator.
Earlier this year, he decided to create environments of his own that represented this kind of precise detail. It was because of Stephen’s distinct passion that mutual friends connected him to Thad Kopec, Stephen’s now business partner. Stephen and Thad met up and discussed their passion for projection and how their ideas coincided significantly. And it was through a combination of their personal art, visual and musical passions, and their share desire to throw off all creative restraints that The Radial Conservatory made its debut.
“It was an unbelievable experience to sit down and meet someone for the very first time and be on the same page with them, both spiritually and visually. We resonate on so many levels; that’s how The Radial Conservatory began and that’s how it continues to keep moving.”
This past November, Proctor and Kopec put all of their thoughts into action and starting rehearsing in WELD’s Nashville studio. They turned off all the lights, used projectors against the plastered white walls and when all things went still, musicians began playing strings. What was meant to be an interesting Instagram video turned into an accidental buzz, and the people of Nashville wanted more.
The Radial Conservatory is all about the ambient music. It’s where electronics and chamber orchestras are fused together. It’s a combination of the specific moments when these instruments meet their spotlight, both figuratively and literally, as certain tones of light enter to highlight and give new dimension to the experience.
Proctor’s vision to create an introspective atmosphere, welding musicians and their audience together through each single strum of noise is ingenious collaboration at its finest.
Envision the tangling of classically trained musicians with self-taught musicians and you’ll hear the noise of The Radial Conservatory. This neoclassical blend is a layering of ancient and modern sounds that represent a wide swath of musical learning styles. The resulting atmosphere leaks into the Radial Conservatory’s final production where rehearsed music joins improvisation on stage. While a composer in the group may come prepared with a melodic structure to contribute, the other musicians build around the sound until something uncanny is created. Stephen believes in an environment that allows creativity and experiment to prosper and this is why structure continually meets freedom within The Radial Conservatory.
“When it comes to the live performance, most of it is rehearsed. We definitely go with a plan, but we also leave flexible room for spontaneity and improvisation.” Stephen says.
After the first rehearsal, WELD hosted The Radial Conservatory’s reveal show. 150 bodies gathered in the studio with nothing but blankets and open ears. Behind studio walls, Stephen and the rest of the crew were scrambling to get things together. They sat in silence, gathered their thoughts, and then one by one, walked into the studio. The audience began cheering, instruments hushed the crowd, and light beams hit the studio walls. A revolution constructed through genius collaboration had officially made its first public appearance.
The Radial Conservatory has found its way into various outlets and stages over the past few months. From FestivalONE in New Zealand to the TEDx Conference at TPAC in Nashville, music is being redefined right before our eyes. Each show looks a little different due to the diversity that comes each time with a different space and new artists.
The beauty of The Radial Conservatory is that all ideas are welcomed in regards to the set up and production taking place.
The use of space is not conformed to any kind of box and all creativity is forced to be free.
“We have a core group of people in Nashville, but we want The Radial Conservatory to continually be highly collaborative. We want to travel and feature different musicians within different ethnicities, and even cultures,” says Stephen.
The Radial Conservatory has hit the ground running as all the different people involved are coming together on stage each with a different style and perspective. People step into this creation, both as performers and as audience members, and are fully immersed, allowing themselves to be a part of a space that makes them slow down and connect with something deeper within and deeper with each other.
“It’s still fresh to us, and we’re still learning how to manage it and gather a better understanding of what it is as it evolves, but we are eager to see what path it walks next.”
To find out more about The Radial Conservatory, visit their website.