Edge of Innovation

Cool Tech Projects from the 2016 Grammy Nominees

Kristin Houser Writer & Editor, LA Music Blog

Lady Gaga’s “flying dress” and FlyLo’s Hypercube are just some of the ways this year’s Grammy nominees are using technology in unexpected ways.

Last year’s Grammy Awards blew up the Internet: 20.9 million tweets, 45 million Facebook interactions, 1.7 million Shazams. Clearly Grammys viewers are plugged into technology, but they aren’t the only ones.

Several of the 2016 Grammy nominees are pushing the boundaries of music and tech with futuristic costumes, cutting-edge live shows and tech partnerships that create new connections between the artists and their fans.

“Technology has opened up the floodgates of creativity, allowing endless possibilities to emerge,” said John King (aka Timeboy), the audiovisual artist responsible for co-creating the high-tech stage setup for Grammy-nominated Flying Lotus.

FlyLo isn’t the only one pushing the envelope. From Skrillex to Lady Gaga, the 2016 Grammy nominees are merging tech and music in new ways on and off the Grammys stage.

Before the 58th Annual Grammy Awards airs on February 15, here’s how five nominees are using tech to influence the music world.

Flying Lotus
Nominated For: Best Dance Recording

Experimental hip-hop artist Flying Lotus earned his Grammy nomination for “Never Catch Me,” a track from his 2014 album, You’re Dead. Fans who caught his tour in support of that LP were treated to high-tech visuals courtesy of King and fellow audiovisual artist David Wexler (aka Strangeloop).

Credit: 3D stage plot created by Timeboy
Credit: 3D stage plot created by Timeboy

At the center of the show was Layer³. Also known as the Hypercube, this complex, projection-mapped, 3D-video-driven structure was created by King and Wexler using a combination of materials and surfaces.

During shows, FlyLo would perform from behind the Hypercube. The structure projected an array of shape, light and movement, giving FlyLo’s futuristic-sounding music an equally modern look.

Credit: 3D stage plot created by Timeboy
Credit: 3D stage plot created by Timeboy

Layer³ was an instant hit with fans.

“Projecting the first set of visual content onto the Hypercube structure triggered a deafening roar from the crowd,” King said. “From that moment on, I knew we had a truly unique and awesome visual show.”

Lady Gaga
Nominated For: Best Song Written For Visual Media

Long before she co-wrote and recorded the Grammy- and Oscar-nominated track “Til It Happens To You” for the documentary The Hunting Ground, Lady Gaga was exploring the world of technology.

In 2012, the pop icon’s personal creative team, Haus of Gaga, founded TechHaus, a technology research department that has since developed a series of couture technologies for Gaga, including the world’s first “flying dress.”

The battery-powered dress, Volantis, debuted at a secret New York event, and the inventive “hexi-copter” design added to Lady Gaga’s reputation as an innovator.

This year, Haus of Gaga teamed up with Intel.

“Intel has enlisted Haus of Gaga to work together on a project that will showcase technology through creativity at the highest level,” Gaga commented. “The partnership culminates in a ground-breaking collaboration that inspires to remind the world of the seed of innovation.”

Skrillex
Nominated For: Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronic Album

Skrillex is no stranger to partnerships, earning both of his 2016 nominations as one half of Jack Ü, a collaboration with fellow producer Diplo. The DJ/producer also teamed up with Google last year to create high-tech phone cases.

These limited-edition cases connected directly to users’ Android phones and included a companion live wallpaper that updated throughout the day with images of earth shot from a custom-designed balloon satellite. At night, the wallpaper displayed constellations visible from the user’s location.

“I love space. Even more than the alien part of it, I love looking at space photos and documentaries of space,” Skrillex shared in an interview with Vice.

The cases also gave users VIP access to Skrillex content, including an album featuring artists from the producer’s OWSLA label. A customable shortcut button on the back could be linked to the feature of the user’s choice, granting them one-click access to their camera, favorite app or most-visited website. (Perhaps Skrillex.com?)

Taylor Swift
Nominated For: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of The Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Music Video

With seven 2016 Grammy nominations, the music world clearly loves singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, and thanks to her enviable, often-emulated style, the fashion world does, too.

When she’s not writing music or designing her own fashion line, though, Swift can often be found using tech to engage with fans and grow her already considerable following.

She interacts with fans via her social networks, incorporates interactive tech into her live shows — such as flashing wristbands that changed colors in conjunction with what was happening on stage — and shares her opinion on such hotbed topics as music streaming via her blog. Entrepreneur.com dubbed the singer-songwriter “the most powerful person in tech.”

Manus X Machina poster
Manus X Machina poster

This combination of tech savvy and fashion IQ made Swift a natural choice to co-chair this year’s Apple-sponsored Met Gala, which will kick off The Costume Institute’s tech-themed spring exhibition manus x machina: fashion in an age of technology.

The exhibition explores how new technology impacts fashion. Some of the items on display were made using 3D printing, laser cutting, thermo shaping, computer modeling, circular knitting, ultrasonic welding and bonding and laminating.

“Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Met in a press release announcing the theme. “It is therefore timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process.”

While fans will know by February 15 whether Swift will be adding any new Grammys to her collection, they’ll have to wait until May 2 to see what she wears to the Met Gala.

The Chemical Brothers
Nominated For: Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronic Album

DJ/producers The Chemical Brothers have won four Grammys over the course of their two decades-plus career. This year they’re up for two awards for their 2015 album Born In The Echoes, one for Best Dance/Electronic Album and one for album track “Go” (Best Dance Recording).

Director Adam Smith and director/designer Marcus Lyall completely redesigned the Brits’ live show for the tour in support of the new album, creating high-tech visual installations that mix lighting and video projection to be displayed behind The Chemical Brothers during their live performances.

Most notable amongst the new visuals for the 2015 Born In The Echoes tour was a motion-capture piece created for the track “Galvanize,” a song that earned the duo a Grammy in 2006.

Smith and Lyall simulated the performance of a dancer trapped behind beams of light by filming dancer Akram Khan in a motion-capture suit at Andy Serkis’s Imaginarium Studios.

“The moment in the live show when the character on the screen interacts with the lights was very exciting to see and was what we had hoped for,” said Smith of the finished product.

The video for “Galvanize” was credited as the next step up in the world of concert visuals, bringing a grand, cinematic production to the stage and solidifying The Chemical Brothers’ place as tech innovators in the music and art realms.
Editor’s note: In January at CES 2016, Intel and The Recording Academy announced a multi-year partnership as part of the official “Next Generation of GRAMMY Moments” program. Lady Gaga’s 2016 GRAMMY Awards performance, a tribute to the late David Bowie, will kick off this program on CBS at 8ET/7CT/5PT on February 15th 2016. For more information, visit intel.com/music.

 

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