Music, with all its genres, styles, and variations, often portrays a common understanding among listeners; so when paired with celestial visuals such as lasers, it becomes clear how one song can contain infinite meanings. Laser SZA, an ongoing laser light show at Seattle’s very own Laser Dome, offers the opportunity to discover these personal interpretations through a visual aid.
Set to Grammy-nominated artist SZA’s groundbreaking album Ctrl, this hour long show aims to redefine how one listens to, perceives, and internalizes music.
It seems hard to translate SZA’s powerful messages into any art form besides music. However, nothing is better fitted than the ethereal elegance of dancing light to capture the feelings in her modern day masterpiece. Performed by local laser artist MoTown, this completely live performance exemplifies the beauty of artistic interpretation, and is appealing to lovers of aesthetics, lyrical analysts, and laser enthusiasts alike.
Hidden away in a corner of the Pacific Science Center, the Laser Dome offers an incredibly unique and intimate listening experience, as each show is performed live by an experienced laser artist. Entering the mini-paneled dome, it seems improbable that the small space can be transformed into anything other than an open carpeted floor and a few rows of audience seats. However, as the lights dim and the deep bass of SZA’s melodies fill the room, the dome above melts away, and is replaced by a dimension of dancing lights.
The show moves chronologically through Ctrl, following the well composed order of songs through the albums story and emotion. From start to finish, this alternative R&B masterpiece combines peculiar yet authentic lyrics with cool thumping beats, each song with its own unique tricks and additions. The first thing that the audience hears is one of the many short voicemail messages placed throughout the album, one of the characteristics that adds to its wisdom and individuality. As SZA’s own mother talks about ‘losing control’ at the beginning of the song "Supermodel," bright red and green curling lines slowly grow and fade, and the show begins. Once underway, it seamlessly moves through each tune, allowing the audience to truly become immersed in the music and visuals.
While each song has its own original laser accompaniment, common elements scattered throughout the show help tie the experience together. The focus is on a kaleidoscope of floating patterns above the audiences’ heads that contains a variety of geometric shapes and bright blobs of light, adding to the otherworldly atmosphere. While a huge variety of colors are present, bright ruby reds and deep marine blues are repeatedly highlighted throughout the show. These shades, along with many other neons, give the performance a nostalgic vibe straight out of the 90’s. This overall aesthetic accurately reflects SZA’s old school beats, with techno bass lines and delicate melodies.
By the end of the performance, it seems as though you have been shown the aura of each song. "Pretty Little Birds" is accompanied by an eerie image of flapping wings and large floating clouds of pink and red, capturing its chilling crescendo and morbid messages. "The Weekend," with its soothing keyboard and nonchalant lyrics, is portrayed as a soft pastel blue halo floating atop a glowing bed of orange, tapping into the more vulnerable messages of the song. It was this vulnerability that I found most powerful in the fragile beauty of this light show.
I had listened to Ctrl hundreds of time before and thought I understood the extent of its message. However, paired with this light show accompaniment, I was able to see the feelings behind each song and deepen my own emotions as a result. Throughout the show, I often forgot that this may not be how SZA herself would represent her music; it was just one artist's interpretation. This collaboration is a special form of art; by finding inspiration from the creativity of others, one can pass along the impact that was made upon them, and continue the cycle of interpretations.
All photo courtesy of Pacific Science Center.
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