Live Sampling with Jazz Saxophone

facrecitalimageAt this year’s TAMU Music Faculty Recital, I performed a live sampling improvisation with tenor saxophonist Jayson Beaster-Jones using the Motet and Elektrodynamik environments.

Play the performance at TAMU Faculty Recital 9/25/2012

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Fostering a Culture of Creative Interdisciplinary Innovation at Texas A&M University

International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies (IJACDT), vol. 2, no. 1. As a relatively young department in an aesthetically conservative, remote college town, the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University is building a culture of innovation through strategic facility development, a focus on students sharing work through public performance, and a commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration. The authors have embraced the celebrated strengths of their university in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by developing interdisciplinary experiences and inspiring facilities (through technology and curriculum grants). These experiences contribute to the university at large by demonstrating how technology can connect with the human element and how technology impacts human expression. The authors’ Music, Performance Studies, and Theatre Arts students benefit by joining the faculty in exploring the new and also rediscovering the traditional

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Fresh Minds Festival

Fresh-Minds-Festival-PosterTexas A&M University invites fixed media works of visual music or other non-narrative fine art animation, video, or film in which the sound/music and visuals play equally important roles in the work, for a presentation on the Texas A&M University campus called the Fresh Minds Festival. The event will be mass curated by hundreds of TAMU students learning the elements of visual and musical design with the goal of presenting a program of works that are engaging and rewarding to curious newcomer audiences. This is an event filling the gap between “for experts only” and “people’s choice” type events. Each year, several hundred students co-curate the festival. Each year’s evaluation cycle is launched with the screening of the previous year’s finalists.

A faculty panel will use the students’ evaluations of submitted works to shape a program. Creators of selected works are encouraged but not required to attend the event. Multiple entries will be accepted. There is no entry fee.

Due to the large number of students participating in the selection process, works will reviewed in stereo on student-owned equipment, delivered via internet links for evaluation. Works selected for the event will be presented in full quality in surround sound, spatialized live by TAMU students.

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Deck for Dance and Electronically Processed Found Sounds

FoleyAs part of our respective research programs, TAMU Dance professors Bergeron and Armstrong and I won a Collaboration Grant from the IDHMC in support of developing feasible approaches to incorporating live media in contemporary dance performance.

While dance is an art form that is typically viewed live more than other disciplines, logistical challenges commonly leave dancers to adapt prerecorded music to their performances. TAMU’s PerfTech (Performance Technology) initiative develops methods to use technology in-and-as live performance without simply replacing traditional instruments with synthesized copies. With modern live technology techniques, we plan to merge the early twentieth century technique of Foley art for live radio broadcasts with the techniques of musique concrète (fixed media art music) developed since the late 1940s to develop approaches to building meaningful connections between dance and sound through common semiotic ground. Similarly, we explored incorporating digital imagery into this intermedia performance.

We developed this in a collaborative performance called Deck in four brief movements, each exploring a different sense of the word: “Hit the Deck,” “Wooden (Backyard) Deck,” “Decked Out,” and “Deck of Cards.” This work was accepted for performance at the Big Range Dance Festival 2012 in Houston as a juried submission. The equipment funded with the grant will be used to support future collaborations of this type among faculty and TAMU students.

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A Treatise on the Æsthetic of Efforte

TreatiseScreenshotThis composition was invited for a compilation CD on the theme of steampunk, an art movement celebrating the ingenuity, effort, and danger of technology of the industrial revolution. In “A Treatise on the Æsthetic of Efforte,” I perform what is called live coding, creating music by Continue reading

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This performance was created by the composer improvising with custom software and by tapping on a microphone.

It uses a generative performance environment I named after Einstein’s paper introducing the special theory of relativity Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper (On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies). Normally, the software performs with an acoustic performer by capturing and transforming sounds from the soloist.

In contrast, in Tappatappatappa, I feed the audio output to its own input. In a sense, the sound emerges from no source, as if from nothing. The audio output, you see, is never perfectly silent: ambient noise in the room, small irregularities, or electrical interference  introduced by the analog electronics create the material from which rich and varied material can bloom, like a pearl forms around a grain of sand. In this way, the feedback performance, which I call Tappatappatappa (its musical result is a distinct work deserving a different name), erodes the human element in performance and allows the technology to find its own voice, which I only coax in one direction or another by tapping, scraping, or moving the microphone within the performance space. In performances of Tappatappatappa, certain resonances emerge that are unique to the room and the moment, some physical positions in space produce certain sonic responses so reliably that the space is almost tangibly marked by its sonic response to my moving the microphone through the space.


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All source sounds have been recorded during an average day in the lives of different people. In performance, the sound clips are fractured, so that the treble, middle, and bass frequencies of the sound act as three facets of a flexible beat pattern that articulates time. As they are played, the sounds travel toward, past, and away from the observer independently, causing their speed and pitch to be warped in time and space. The result is a texture of fragmented scenes, woven together, from multiple and mobile points of view in time and space, presenting the sound events as ephemeral strands of instants in time. StillMotion explores the ordinary sublime: on the one hand the impossibility of recording the everyday (as soon as it is marked, it is “elevated” in some way), and the impossibility of recording a performance (as soon as it is recorded it is a frozen text).

StillMotion was originally created for a collaboration with guest choreographers Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner, and the dance and visual arts departments of Texas Woman’s University. Photographs and sounds were taken of the dancers acting out an average day in their lives. The photos were used as a basis for the choreography, and the music, choreography and set design grew together organically. The performance (January 31, 2004) consisted of dance depicting functions or feelings captured in the photos, stylized versions of photos on scrims hanging within space (sometimes invading the dance space), and this music, from processed sounds of the “average day.”

This piece exists in the form of a custom software application. It may be run over a long time span as an aural installation, over a short time as a concert piece for improvising electronics, or from fixed media as a concert piece. Although carefully composed, the aleatoric elements of the piece ensure a unique performance each time.

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Harmonies (They Spin)

openingThe title is an anagram of “Riemann Hypothesis,” one of seven mathematical mysteries that are part of the Millennium Problem challenge (offering a $1 million prize for a solution). It suggests that there is an underlying order to the distribution of prime numbers, which otherwise seems to be unpredictable.

In a similar spirit, “Harmonies (They Spin)” conjectures an underlying order to the seemingly ungraspable or unreconcilable. The counterpoint of sound and image presents an interaction between the attainable and the elusive, the harmonious and the dissonant. Binary oppositions are established, including noisy versus pitched timbres and regular pulses versus freely sweeping gestures, to explore the stable and unstable qualities of each when juxtaposed in various ways, approaching or diverging from a common center.

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