Welcome to the Revelland podcast! Four artists set off on a journey to take their live gigs to a whole other level. By drawing inspiration from sensory limitations and including deaf people and people with learning difficulties in their creative process, they explored new realms of possibilities. Curious how enriching the experience for a whole audience and making your performance more accessible can go hand in hand, regardless of any limitations people may have? Tune in and discover how KNARS (NL), Kormac (IE), KRANKk (BE) and Perhaps Contraption (UK) transformed their gigs to multi-sensorial, immersive experiences.
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Hello! This is the Revelland podcast, and my name is Stephanie Singer. I am in London and I am a white woman with long blond hair, wearing a pink turtleneck top and sitting in my living room with a big green background behind me and I’m in front of my white fireplace.
Hi, I am Ronald Ligtenberg, a tall man from The Netherlands. I have grey hair, I am wearing a blue jersey and I am sitting in front of a white background.
This podcast is a deep dive into the very, very creative process of transforming gigs into live experiences. It is for artists, musicians, producers, creators or anyone with an interest in new forms of live entertainment and experiences. There are 10 episodes and we’ll be following 4 bands as they tackle the creative transformation with all the created highs and lows that they can experience along the way.
So who am I? I am a composer and director of music experiences, the director of a company called BitterSuite. We’re based in London and we make multi-sensory experiences for music which we can talk more about later on because it is not really about me.
[01:10] I am consulting at the moment with the bands. That basically means I get to question them and support the development of all of their gigs into experiences. And that’s basically exactly what I’m going to be doing today with the person that I’m talking to which is Ronald Ligtenberg. Give us a wave Ronald and hello!
Hello, hello! Thanks for having me here!
Well this is your podcast after all so thanks for having me! So, before we get started with Ronald, I want to take us to a rarefied place at the moment because we are in the middle of Corona.
[01:46] I want to take us into a gig in our minds. So, we are going to close our eyes and imagine being with one of our favorite bands whoever they are. They are on stage and playing, the lights are pulsing,
[02:01] the sound is travelling through the space, there’s beer everywhere, there is sweat all over you, there is sweat all over me. I’m drinking, the crowd is dancing, we are feeling into the band and it is absolutely a huge experience already.
[02:14] So, what does it mean to take a gig that is already an experience for all of us, into being an experience? Isn’t it already an experience? From Revelland’s point of view, I’d like to hear you share a bit about the vision behind what it means to transform a gig into life experiences.
[02:34] But just before you do that, I will introduce you. So, Ronald Ligtenberg is the founder of Possibilize. He is a creative force, and you won’t know it but he is an incredibly tall man. And I’m going to ask him about this exact topic. So Ronald, tell us about Revelland, why are we here, what’s going on, what revolution are you forging the way for? Give us an insight.
Yes, Revelland is a European platform that wants to transform performing arts. And we want to make performing arts more inclusive and more immersive at the same time.
[03:13] And we do this by taking the limitation as a source of inspiration and the outcome of that should be that every and each individual is able not only to experience and consume performing arts but even to participate in it and get fully engaged in performing arts.
You said a word I think is a very important word to you and very important to Revelland, which is limitation. Can you shed some insight on what you really mean by limitation?
Yes. Well, if you look into limitations in general, limitations are seen as something not good, that are bad, should be avoided, should be ignored even.
[04:00] What we actually do is to jump in it and embrace it. So often you hear people say: you should not look at what you cannot do, but what you can do. Well, we take that a step further and we look at:
[04:15] Ok, there’s something that you cannot do for example some people are deaf, some people are blind. But what is it that we can learn from this or even multiply, that you now can do and what is it that you can do better because you have this limitation?
[04:30] And so one of the things we once developed was, for example, workshops body language conducted by deaf trainers. So deaf people give workshops to cooperate companies on body language.
[04:45] They use their talent. Now take this to the performing arts and you will see that once you take the deafness or the blindness as the source of inspiration. Ok, deaf people can’t hear the music, but what is it that they can?
[04:58] They can smell, they can taste, they can touch, there are a lot of things that they can do even better than the regular hearing visitor at a concert. So, we like to add all these sensorial input to a concert.
Ok, so by adding sensorial input, so things that you can taste, things that you can see and feel and experience. The Revelland perspective is that it makes gigs more inclusive or what? What is the big vision?
Well we start with accessibility. So inclusion for me is a broader idea, but we start with accessibility. And so deaf people cannot hear the music, they can’t also really grab the melody.
[05:52] But they can get the emotion that is with the music. They can get as enthusiastic, and they can feel the sadness, can feel the love that is in the music.
[06:04] And that emotion is what we want to transmit by using sensorial effects. So, people can get sad or enthusiastic or enlightened by a certain scent. And they can do that with taste as well. So, there is the emotion we want to evoke by using multi-sensorial effects.
So, in a way, you will sort of be substituting what cannot be heard with other sensory experiences to basically create or convey the feeling of the music in the sensory experience. Would that be fair?
Yeah, I would not even use the word substitute because it is an addition to it.
So the music still plays?
Exactly. So, there can also be a hearing experience because – and this is quite crucial for us – many solutions that have come up for inclusion lead to exclusion and segregate the people.
[07:05] Think of a wheelchair stage where only 1 person in a wheelchair and 1 friend can come with it. But if you go with a group to a festival and you are in a wheelchair, you and that 1 person get to sit on the wheelchair stage and the rest of your group of friends have to go somewhere else.
I see, so you want to focus on experiences that can bring people together as well as being accessible.
Exactly, well we don’t want to create exclusion. We want to create solutions that people can, both deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people, enjoy together. So, we came up with this term called Creative Accessibility which we define as accessibility in such a way that multiple groups will benefit from.
And so I guess something I would be thinking about as a listener is… I can say for myself: I am not deaf, nor would I even identify as disabled, and I think the same is true for you.
I would say I’ve got many limitations but let’s say, not diagnosed hahaha.
And so in this instance it is quite interesting talking about exclusivity in relation to that, because obviously… How does the process work to create experiences that are… at the moment it sounds like for potential deaf audiences or for audiences with disabilities but not necessarily created by. Can you speak about the process of making?
Sure. Well first of all it is very important of course that everybody is included in that whole process. It is never that we do it for deaf people, it is also with deaf people then of course.
[08:49] So, in this whole project, Revelland, which I will share more about, the process first of all is nothing about us without us.
[08:59] So, everybody that is supposed to benefit from this work should also have a say and how it is being produced. We have deaf people in the team, we have people with learning difficulties, and they give feedback and they come up with ideas on how to continue on this project.
Ok, and if I was to say – this is an impossible question and I think I hate it if somebody asked me this, so I apologize – but if we are going to go to the big vision, what is the big vision and mission of Revelland? What world do you want to see that you don’t currently see right now?
Well, the main thing is not even knowing how performing arts would look like, but the main thing would be for me to have a world where the perception of people as soon as they are being confronted with limitation, is that they don’t dive away from it. That they don’t jump away, that they don’t avoid it. And just say: ok, here’s a limitation, let’s deal with it and get over it.
I love that, so lean into the limitation.
Exactly, they might even enjoy and think: Hey here’s an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to get to the next level. Apparently, we weren’t perfect but apparently there is something that we haven’t thought of, let’s now find something else for this, we can actually improve ourselves here.
[10:30] And if people go with that attitude in life but also in performing arts, I’m sure that we all can benefit from such an attitude.
See, that is so interesting. So, in this current kind of iteration of Revelland – I know that you are kind of at the beginning of the journey of Revelland actually – can you speak a bit about what is this kind of initial launch project that you are developing to live and breathe some of these aims that you are talking about?
Yes, well, for that I will take you back to 2002. Then I was working in a music venue. And I got to a point in my life where I thought, okay what is the next level?
[11:14] And I realized that for that I had to come up with a challenge that was way bigger than I ever thought I would ever realize. Working in the music business, I thought the most and biggest challenge I could come up with back then, was to have a music event for deaf people. Which was so intriguing for me that I thought no matter what, it is going to happen, I’m going to do this.
So you were in 2002 and you were a musician? Is that how you got into the music industry? Can you say a bit more about that?
Yeah, I was a marketeer at a music venue. I’d DJ at gigs and host a radio show.
So you were literally working in the industry!
I was everything except a musician. The thing that comes close to an instrument was my discman.
Okay so it is 2002 and you have this kind of very personal revelation which is something more that could be gotten out of music and the big challenge is: can you do a gig for deaf audiences and then what happens?
And then I got in touch with the deaf community, because again, I didn’t want to do this for somebody else, I wanted to do it with them. And then a whole world opened up. And I got to learn so much about inclusion, accessibility, diversity, prejudices, both from hearing, both from deaf community.
[12:49] But we still did the event. In 2003 we did have the first music event with and for deaf people using a lot of multi-sensorial input. And the event was such a success, that in a relatively short time, this concept toured the world.
[13:11] We did shows in São Paulo, Johannesburg and New Zealand and all over Europe. But everywhere we came, I noticed people were a little bit weird around this event.
[13:25] And it was mostly about inclusive events, this is a very new approach to it. Because I noticed, when it comes to inclusion, often people think: that costs money, that costs time, that is a lot of effort, and nobody really knows how to do it. In other words, it’s a burden.
Yeah, it’s often the thought that it is a burden.
Exactly. And I think, as long as people look at inclusion as it’s a burden, not much is going to happen. There might be social pressure, there might be regulations around it.
[15:04] But if there is no intrinsic motivation, I would take quite some time for it to happen. So, while on the other side, when our events, called Sencity, the Sencity events: it was pure fun, you know!
So you said that they were successful. I’d love to know more what success felt like or looked like in that context. What would people be experiencing that really… because it sounds like Sencity inspired what Revelland has become or potentially Revelland is an evolution of Sencity. But talk a bit more about what success felt like. And what did it look like in the audience? How did they respond?
Like Magic! It is funny that all over the world, the people reacted in the same way, but the common experience was liberation. Liberation that this was possible. But it varied, like in Brazil people were crying. In Johannesburg, deaf people experienced dancing for the first-time.
And so this is because of your point of view: The elements that you have put inside of a gig, are what exactly? What is different at a Sencity event to a normal gig that we described at the beginning of the show?
First of all, the starting point. Which has already a paradox in it – music for deaf people and deaf people participating and organizing something. But then, because the events have such an image, it has a news factor as well.
[15:44] And immediately deaf people became proud – got proud of them delivering because in the end they are organizing the event. But them delivering an event that has national press coverage for example, increased the profile of these people that have been working on it.
[16:01] Suddenly they became the heroes of the peer group. But then when the event is happening, what is actually happening at the event, is that there are bands playing as they would be playing a normal gig, but we add a vibrating floor to it.
[16:15] And we add an Aromajockey who is on stage spreading scents in the venue and those scents are based on the story of the music. Each song has a different scent.
[16:30] A love song would have something with lavender or strawberry, an uplifting song would have something with peppermint or orange and a quiet song would something with a forest scent for example.
[16:44] But we also have tasting effects like for example a strawberry mouse with a love song and something very spicy with an upbeat song. There are video images, video projections, light effects, imagine the vibrating floor, there are dancers on stage in the venue, there are sign dancers who translate not only the lyrics, but also the rhythm of the music.
[17:09] And every now and then there are the effects like I’m still dreaming of the weather jockey producing a little damp or thunder or blowing a hot sirocco wind in the venue.
And so I mean, it sounds to me like you’ve already done quite a lot of pioneering stuff in this area. And as I mean, I know because I’m talking to the bands on this journey, that one of the differences with this new process that I know you’re going to describe for us is versus this one where Sencity is kind of creatively involved in directing or supporting artists to say, oh, well, pair lavender with this one or whatever.
[17:52] In these kind of new model the challenge is actually to inspire or enable the artists themselves to take control of the experiences of their own music and to think with just the same love and attention about how, you know, when you compose a piece of music, you spend hours loving and nurturing each note to be just how you want to each lyric to be just how you want it.
[18:15] And actually, the part of the challenge is to say to artists and creators, pay the same attention to the gig experience, you know, give that same love, that same nurturing attention to the way in which the audience enter the space to the smells in which the audience kind of encounter when they’re inside the environments, you know. So, it’s kind of there’s a difference, this is like Sencity 2.0 in a funny kind of way because you are kind of educating or you’re inspiring. I think that’s what’s going on. So, tell us about Revelland and how it has evolved.
Yeah, well, a few streams came together here, a few angles. One is that each time when a band would have performed at a Sencity event, they were so uplifted and so they had their epitome constantly.
[19:10] And, at the same time, I realized at the event, we bring various bands together, we spend a lot of money, a lot of energy to look at which scent matches this song, which food, etc. and then it would be over, which is a pity.
[19:27] So, we thought, how about we create a training program in which these bands learn from the best experts on the senses. They learn from the best experts on the senses, how to add scent to their gig and how to add food to their gig and how to use a choreography that makes sense that matches with them.
[19:52] So Revelland, in its first thing that we’re doing, it’s first showcase, we want to create a showcase to other cultural institutions. To see how it’s been done and then we have these four bands that are paired with six international experts on the senses to produce a show that can tour around and at the same time with cheap brilliant solutions.
[20:15] So it should be cheap in order, like should it cost 10.000 euros if you only get paid a thousand. Right. And it should be brilliant because with this little money cannot do much, but at the same time to be brilliant in a way that you can do it all the time, you should be able to tour around with it.
[20:36] And it should be a solution clearly where it solves the issue of how to make your gig more immersive because, and here comes the second stream: Musicians and bands in general are much more dependent on the revenue stream of their performances.
[20:56] So let’s say 20 years ago it was the other way around where people would earn the money with the album and they would perform for free. Now, that completely transformed and turned around and now the emphasis is on the live performance.
[21:11] But in order to stand out and to entertain the audience more, you need to do more than just stand on stage and look at your instrument and play the right notes. Right? It needs to be much more of a performance. And in order to take the visitor on a journey, you want to use a bigger, you want to use more instruments, basically.
So it’s really interesting. So, you are kind of inspiring artists to take their gigs to the next level by becoming more immersive, more sensory, more accessible, and do it all in a cheap and repeatable kind of way.
[21:51] You know, and making new experiences is quite a challenge. Right? Because when you’re talking about making food, especially if you’re looking at audiences of 300 to 500, in a space or bigger, one thousand, five thousand, you know, these things are amazing ambitions, but when we talk about scale, they come quite quickly in conflict.
[22:15] But also, the thing that I find really inspiring about the vision is, you know, we can look to the world generally right now and see this is the future. There’s no doubt the experience economy is it.
[22:28] We’re seeing that all major artists are also…they’ve been doing, you know, experiences for stadiums for a long time. You know, big stadium directors, experienced directors and creative directors. Those are big jobs, the people defining…how does Beyonce fly into the stadium?
[22:45] You know, that is a decision that someone’s taken. But the thing that you are kind of seeing is an opportunity to take that even further.
[22:55] To create intimate experiences that will encourage a live, thriving financial opportunity for the industry and for artists themselves, which is so important because, you know, the other streams of income don’t really exist anymore.
[23:17] So it’s quite a big vision, the one you’re kind driving at this at this point in time. And I know that we’re going to speak to Madelief about Sencity and kind of from a deaf perspective, what it’s like to create inside the space and what it’s like to experience.
[23:31] But could you tell us a little bit, before we go to Madelief, could you tell us a little bit about the bands that you are taking on this journey. Introduce them.
Yes, yes, yes. As this is a European project and I should actually say a Western European project at this point, we selected from each country that is participating in this project, which is Ireland, England, Belgium and the Netherlands.
[23:59] From each country we selected a band, three of them have already performed in the past at Sencity. Let me start in Ireland, where we are working with Kormac, who is a magician when it comes to sound and who has produced a huge range of various kinds of music scores for TV series and films.
[24:26] He has toured with a live band, a huge band like a big band. When he was in Sencity in Dublin, I remember like 12 guys going crazy on stage delivering an amazing live show, but he’s just as good as doing a solo gig or performing in Sydney with a chamber orchestra. [24:46] So, he’s very multitalented. And he’s going to produce a show that I assume is going to blow our socks off when he’s on stage.
[24:58] And then there is Perhaps Contraption from England. London based nine head collective on brass instruments, mostly on brass instruments and percussion.
[25:12] And again, very talented musicians who also are very creative, like when you watch a show of them, is not just the music, but it’s the way how they interact with each other and how they walk around. There is a very elaborate choreography in it.
[25:29] And they also are able to make…to bring that performance to a theater level. So they have performed actually in the theater music. They make musicals, they write them themselves and they perform them themselves. And visually, very interesting, artistically, very interesting.
[25:46] Which I can say about the Dutch participants as well, which is Knars and as that it’s the brainchild of Martijn Holtslag, who previously was the frontman of Knarsetand.
[26:05] And again, they were able with nine people, it was performed at Sencity with nine people in 2014 in Arnhem. And again, they blew the audience away with their show. And I remember the enthusiasm of Martijn while playing for this deaf audience, which at first had to look like what is going on here?
[26:26] But his music and his passion is so energetic. It was really a joy and that he was able to transmit that energy to the audience. So, I mean, as a musician, if you’re able to get a deaf crowd nuts, you must do some good thing, right? I mean, the DJ is able to get the deaf audience out of the venue, but he managed to entertain them.
[26:53] And I’m also very, very thrilled about having the band from Belgium, KRANKk. And they are a new collective.
[27:07] I think they’ve been playing only for about two or three years, but very, very talented musicians using this very intriguing mix of beats…of dark beats with mesmerizing guitar play over it.
[27:25] They work with a lot of other musicians, guest musicians, vocalists, rappers, MC’s, a genius drummer. And so it’s a very, very fascinating mix of sounds like every time we hear a track of them. What was that song? What is this? And then turns out to be an Armenian flute or something. Well, so it’s a very intriguing soundscapes coming from them.
Amazing. So you’ve got a collection of pretty large scale bands apart from KRANKk who are just three, isn’t it? But each of the others are bringing quite a large group to the table. And Kormac is two.
Well, I must say both Kormac and Martijn, Kormac from Ireland and Martijn like they could either be them solo or it could be done with like 20 people on stage. It’s up to them how to fill in their show for this time.
Well, just before we go to Madelief, I’d love you to leave us with an encouragement. What do you think listening to this podcast is going to bring listeners? And yeah, why should people engage with this podcast?
Yeah, that’s a tricky question. Though, I hope that people get interested in the idea of seeing inclusion as a joy, as something that is going to benefit other people.
[28:47] And yourself actually, like investing time and making performing arts inclusive is going to be an enrichment for the entire sector, for the entire world. If let’s play big. Yeah, so, I hope that is what people take out of this podcast.
[29:05] Sign language interpreter introducing Madelief who is deaf. She tells everything Madelief is signing.
Yeah. My name is Madelief. I’m 18 years old. I have brown hair, I’m a white woman and I have a brown shirt on and a necklace.
[29:20] And behind me there is a palm tree plant and I’m deaf and I’m using sign language through a sign language interpreter.
Dewi (interpreter) [28:36]
My name is Dewi. I have brown hair, a little bit up. I’m from Indonesia.
[29:46] But I’m born in Holland and I’m sitting here in my home office at a screen. And behind me, there’s a white wall.
So a bit of context just before we start the interview. Dewi, I would love for you to share a little bit about the process of the next interview, because I know that you will be interpreting what Madelief is saying and just give a little context to some of the silence that our hearing listeners will encounter in the next bit.
Yes, I will translate everything that Madelief says in sign language for the spoken language, and in this case it’s the English spoken language. And so I first have to translate the sign language in my head for the Dutch translation.
[30:45] And then I have to translate it again in English and the other way around also. So if I hear something in English first, I have to translate it in Dutch in my head, and then I have to translate it in sign language. So the translation will be like a three second delay and that will explain the silence in between.
Awesome. So there’s a lot of work happening. Great. Well, Madelief it’s so nice to meet one of the organizers of Sencity. I know you’ve been working with the company for two years in an organizational format and a creative development format.
[31:27] And I just love this next passage to really be about you sharing your perspective of what Sencity feels like, why it’s different from other gig experiences. So let’s just start with a bit of context about you and music and just shed some light on what music means to you generally.
Oh, yeah, I can hear just a little bit. I have my hearing aids and so I can enjoy music and that I can hear.
[32:06] I always listen to music. For example, in the car, my dad had the music on, so I grew up with it.
[32:22] And I was a really big fan of Michael Jackson. And first, Michael Jackson and then I discovered a lot of different artists, different music and songs and singers, and I really found music very, very cool and awesome.
[32:48] So I downloaded, I bought a phone and then I put some earpods in and then I just listened to the music. And like 100 percent I cannot understand everything they say, but I can enjoy the music. Yeah.
So can you tell us a bit about how is Sencity different from another gig?
Yeah, Sencity, sense is in the word. There are the senses, and it’s really dedicated to all the senses: the taste, the see, the hearing.
[33:36] Also, the feelings, the smells, the tastes, everything. And at Sencity, they have really, really loud music with a lot of bass in it and we have a vibrating dance floor.
[33:56] And when you’re standing on the floor, it really gets all the vibrations through your body. Yeah, yeah. So it’s really nice.
[34:08] And the smell also, we have special oils and a big ventilator, and then we spread out the scent.
[34:21] I don’t know exactly how it works, but. Yeah. And also the light, the light show, different colors will be shown. And you can also taste just very special things, odd things, but it matches with the music.
[34:42] So the taste, the smell, the hearing, the feeling, everything. What’s in the song, about it, will connect with all the senses. And just a normal gig, you only listen. It’s only a focus on hearing.
[35:01] And we as deaf, we just cannot experience music in that way.
[35:10] So at Sencity we can. So all the senses are there, only the hearing we cannot experience.
What an amazing description and do you think that you can imagine a world in which all gigs took that perspective?
Well, it would be really awesome if all the gigs are at the same level as Sencity or it would be really, really great. I cannot imagine that everybody can do that, but I can have hope.
And so, as a kind of final question. You know, we’re taking four bands on this journey from being a gig which may be non-accessible into being immersive experiences, which will be driven by inclusivity and accessibility.
[36:25] What would you say to the bands as something to bear in mind as they go across this process or really anyone interested in designing multisensory, accessible experiences?
Sencity, they are already doing their best. There’s a really role model of gigs that you can take over, but it’s more important to be in the dialogue with the public, with the people, what they want, and have a really good connection with them.
[37:10] Also, the band, the people already have the connection with deaf. But deaf people, they don’t have that with the spoken word, they just have it with all kinds of different things.
[37:31] And so be in dialogue with the public, with the people, with the visitors. Yeah, that’s the most important. And more tips? No, no, it’s perfect.
Yeah. Hey, you know, that tip is pretty brilliant. It’s really important, I always think that as well, with the immersive work, you have to test it on people because the whole thing is driven by how someone else is going to experience it.
[38:01] And you can design a lot of things in your mind that sound brilliant. But actually in practice it means a totally different thing. I think what you said is really important.
Yeah, well, thank you both so much for your time.
You’re very welcome, no problem. It was nice to have the dialogue with you and for this interview in English and translating to Dutch sign language. It’s very nice to have this experience.
So you can join us every month as we follow the bands on this incredible journey. And you can follow this podcast wherever you get your podcasts, on Spotify or YouTube. And follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @DiscoverRevelland or subscribe to the newsletter at www.discoverrevelland.today. Thanks for being here. And see you next time!