Lamp show

This past week Café Zosha played host to a different type of DJ set. Upon entering the space, nothing seemed odd or unusual. The narrow café was decorated with the usual cozy décor, with the addition of a lamp on each table. Together there were 12 domestic style lamps creating ambient light through the space. Some look like the one’s in your grandparent’s house, while others are seemingly generic like they were found in a Home Hardware decor section.


Lamps lined benches and perched on armchairs while some spilled over onto the floor. Within the first few moments of entering, the audience became aware of a technological presence. The light of the side lamps faded slowly in and out, creating high and low light. The pulsating lamps soothed and calmed as we all settled in for a peculiar type of orchestral experience.

Music for 12 Domestic Lamps is an installation and improvisational performance project created by Adam Basanta, Julian Stein and Max Stein. The three artists work as composers and media artists. For this particular event the trio control the behaviour of the 12 lamps from behind their laptops. The lamps emit sound and light as a reaction to the actions of the artists controlling them. With the use of digital mixers and programming interfaces, these mundane objects are turned into objects of fascination. Through the artists manipulation, the environment is altered by controlling the expressions of the items within.

When the trio got behind their digital mixing boards, the atmosphere changed and the audience’s attention focused. The audio and visuals start slowly and subtly, then become more aggressive and pronounced through the duration of the piece. The light being emitted from the 12 lamps function as a visual representation of the audio waves being pumped through the loud speakers.

music for lamps
Adam Basanta, Julian Stein and Max Stein, photo by Adrian Kornelsen.


The improvised composition is made up of sound bytes that range from jarring to tranquil. Among many, you can pick up the creaks of poorly oiled doors, a jingle of coins, and the soft sounds of breathing. A ringing phone in the distance is represented by short bursts of light, the crackling voice of the operator that follows is a less intense visual, and then the dial tone beeps the lamp’s glow on and off. The performance lasted for approximately half and hour, and though at times it was agitating I thoroughly enjoyed it. As the three settled in, the digital orchestra became less scattered and more rhythmic as they tapped their feet and bobbed their heads.

Music for 12 Domestic Lamps has been in production for a year now, with the initial performance having taken place in April of 2012. The Café hosted the second and third performance of it last Monday and Tuesday night. The next happening will be on March 2nd at the Goethe-Instut here in Montreal. Take a look at the video from the last exhibition.