A Crystal Beat

27. 6. 2022

Award-winning sound designer creates music for Preciosa’s installations

Visitors to Preciosa’s lighting exhibitions have come to expect a multi-sensory immersion into light. Pearl Wave was the happiness chandelier, reacting with a burst of light when guests clinked glasses in a toast. Hugs were required to create a light explosion when riding the Carousel of Light. In the background though was sound. Maybe identifiable as music, perhaps something more subconscious; but very important to the overall experience. Award-winning sound designer Juraj Mravec is the man behind the music.

When sound meets light

Mr. Mravec met Preciosa creative directors Michael Vasku & Andreas Klug through mutual friends. The designers were looking to include sounds in the exhibition they were planning for Euroluce 2017.

“For me, Crystal Forest (the installation) was amazing and new. I do sound design for film and TV, there’s a language you have to learn, but here nothing was given,” Mr. Mravec said. “They (Vasku & Klug) had an idea but no experience working with sound. I know sound, but not installations.”

There was a learning curve on both sides, and neither knew how or even if it would work.
“For film, you follow an action on a screen, with this anything was possible. I had pictures from Andreas and I created topics based on these drawings, getting ideas from the design,” Mr. Mravec explained. “I was using sounds from nature but also found some abstract sounds, like with the Crystal Automata, I thought of clock sounds. There was more freedom than with film and I loved it.”

Mr. Mravec designed about ten themes for the exhibition but they weren’t really tested until it was being installed in Milan. The trio chose some and combined some to agree on the final effect.

“There was an intention behind the sounds, the corners (of the installation) had different elements and in the centre, it was more about the crystals,” he said. “What was interesting was that it was an experiment. I’m used to working to a picture, but here it’s been trickier, looking at drawings and designing how the sound would work with lights.”

“I was blown away”

Next up was Breath of Light.

“A lot of it (the sound) was created and decided during the installation; seeing how the sound was working with the design,” Mr. Mravec said. “The installation was crucial to the whole process - some sound elements were prepared but we weren’t sure how it would work in the real world. Designing the sound so it would be controlled by light, the technology and the matching was done on the spot.”

Milan Design Week 2022

Mr. Vasku first approached Mr. Mravec in November 2019, with the idea of a crystal ‘harp’ that was designed like a musical instrument, with a musical scale that visitors could play. The sound expert wasn’t so sure.

“It would exclude non-musical people; Breath of Light and Carousel of Light were for everyone,” he explained. “It would be a cacophony of sounds, confusing, and wouldn’t match how sophisticated the design and the light are.”

Instead, something has been created in which everyone can experience music through the light, not only musicians. The sounds match the design, it’s playful and people can have fun with it.

Roundabout path to the sound studio

So how does one become a sound designer? For Mr. Mravec, it wasn’t in the original plan.

“I was studying economics but I knew that it wasn’t for me and I found myself going to the cinema a lot,” he said. “I saw Lisbon Story by Wim Wenders. The main character was a sound engineer and that’s where I first learned a position like this even existed. So I went to film school.”

Of all the formats Mr. Mravec has designed sound for, feature films are his favourite. But he does enjoy the aspects of ‘installation sound.’
“With film, everything is prepared in advance, tested. I was a DJ for a while and there you don’t get a second chance, you see people’s reactions immediately,” he said. “With the installations, it’s something in between; we can adjust it if needed and can still see people’s interactions.”