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The Nine: Dave Rife and Gabe Liberti

The Nine: Dave Rife and Gabe Liberti

Title: Co-owners
Company: Dave & Gabe
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Why You Should Know Them: They have seen the way you hear, and they are building new works accordingly. Their definition of “three-dimensional sound” actuates the potential in that claim, as seen in immersive installations that layer sound and music with light, generative video, and tactility to give listeners more information and personal input into an experience. But it’s not sci-fi; it’s art, and art that leaves a lasting impression at that—pleasing not just audiences but also corporate sponsors that are looking for new brand experiences.

What Got Them Here: Architectural acoustician Dave Rife and recording engineer and lighting designer Gabe Liberti are the quietly capable and humbly dazzling duo behind the Dave and Gabe interactive installation studio in Brooklyn, New York. Both built their quite impressively synchronous skills from the earliest phases of their careers. Liberti added serious lighting and programming chops to his wryly professed youthful intention of “becoming the next mixer/producer/engineer of our generation,” working with congruously smart bands like Beach House. Meanwhile, Rife worked with music from the venue side, designing for seven years within Arup’s architectural acoustics team and leaving an indelible mark on the local music scene with National Sawdust, the new music venue he helped to design, build, and later premiere with a set played on stage opening night.

At SXSW, Grammy-nominated RAC embraced the Dave and Gabe installation ARC as an extension of how he makes music. How it All Coalesced into Projects You Need to See: Two years ago, Dave and Gabe set to work making tangible the notion of an “immersive experience.” Each project evolved in the way of music composition, with different sets of rules and intentions dictating tone and impact. Now an overarching theme across one-off projects and permanent installations is that Dave and Gabe build experiences that give the listener agency in how a composition works. From their early-days work with Matthew Dear at the New Museum to this spring’s SXSW show-stopping Audience Reactive Composition (ARC) with Grammy-nominated RAC, the take-away is the same: listeners are given an enthusiastic prompt to participate in music via sleekly designed, physically interactive mechanisms, and the reward is rich, even for those who’ve never so much as touched an instrument. Complex ideas and engineering lead to a pleasingly simple level of engagement and reward. Or, as Liberti described it, “We like to put people in the spotlight a little bit. We ask people to take a leap—it’s about you making the decision. That creates a much richer connection with it, versus a passive experience.”

Where They Are Going From Here: Large-scale interactive music experiences are becoming their thing, and this summer’s festivals will feature some carefully crafted, site-specific new Dave and Gabe projects. The goal is to present more audiences and musicians with the next step in this era of individualized, digital, never quite finished until it’s altered, listening environment. “It’s an opportunity for the listener to be a part of the music-making process, and it also gives artists an additional means for composing, which is also super exciting,” noted Rife.