By Jessica Messier; March 4, 2019
February 23, 2019; NYC Electroacoustic Improvisation Summit; Voorhees Theater; Brooklyn, NY
December 7, 2018; performed by The Hinge Ensemble and the musical robots of WPI’s MPR Lab; Sonic Currents; Spaulding Hall, WPI; Worcester, MA
December 8, 2018; The Boston Museum of Science; Boston, MA
December 7, 2018; Hinge Ensemble; Spaulding Hall, WPI; Worcester, MA
October 12, 2018; Boston, MA
2 channel recording
Scott Barton – guitar
Through the Rain started with a chord progression written on guitar many years ago. The progression, played on electric guitar, is reflected in a number of virtual instruments and effects, blurring the line between acoustic and electronic, played and sequenced. The first section of the work illustrates movement from dislocation -> synchronization (an idea also interpreted in Eroding Mountains). In the second section of the piece, the parts have coalesced and begin to move as a unified whole. This journey takes a variety of paths, retakes steps, and encounters ephemeral electronic weather systems. The storms and disorientation relent as it arrives, leaving a new idea, connected to the previous, that announces idyllic perpetuation.
for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and electronics
In the process of creating carried by currents, I imagined something ambient to balance the rather frenetic and fragmented character of other recent works. I felt motions that were smooth and rolling; that rippled through a surface in a variety of directions. I sought a hybrid character that radiated warmth in a tactilely organic and fuzzily electric way. I conceived a texture that was complex and heterogeneous but also whole. I envisioned something that metaphorically extended to both water and electricity, to human and technology, to illustrate the complexity and peace of the flows around us.
for human improviser, PAM (robotic string instrument), Cyther (human-playable robotic zither) and robotic percussion
Experiment in Augmentation 2 features a human-robot improvisation consisting of a human improviser and the musical robots PAM, percussive aerophone, and percussion built by WPI’s Music, Perception and Robotics Lab and EMMI. The robots respond to human-produced cues with algorithmically-generated statements. Their performative idiosyncrasies transform idealized pitch, rhythm and velocity information. The human performer nudges the machines in particular directions and pulls them back if they have become too adventurous. He indicates which gestures should persist, which should be recalled and which ones should be developed further by the machines. The human is thus both composer and conductor as the compositional process unfolds in performance. Enabling human control of higher-level musical elements (i.e. meter, rhythmic subdivisions, pitch set) and machine control of lower-level ones (e.g. pitch, temporal position) allows the performer’s attention to shift and roam, and thus highlights a way in which human expressive abilities can be augmented via physical computing technologies.
S. Kemper, S. Barton (2018). In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME). Blacksburg, VA.
K. Sundberg, S. Barton, A. Walter, T. Sane, L. Baker, A. O’Brien (2018). In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME). Blacksburg, VA.
June 8, 2018; The Haven; Charlottesville, VA
June 2, 2018; Moss Arts Center, VA Tech; Blacksburg,VA
April 3, 2018; WPI; Worcester, MA
January 20, 2018; Boston Button Factory; Boston, MA
December 9, 2107; Boston, MA
October 15, 2017; Robot Block Party, HUBWeek 2017; Boston, MA
September 24, 2017; Killian Hall, MIT; Cambridge, MA
August 23, 2017; Web Audio Mostly Concert; Audio Mostly Conference; 93 Feet East; London, England
July 15, 2017; Fort Worth, TX, USA
June 19, 2017; Musical Metacreation Concert at the Eighth International Conference on Computational Creativity; Atlanta, GA, USA
P. Mitrano, A. Lockman, J. Honicker, S. Barton (2017). In proceedings of The 5th International Workshop on Musical Metacreation (MUME) at The 8th International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC). Atlanta, GA, USA.
June 10, 2017; WPI; Worcester, MA
May 17, 2017; Aalborg University; Copenhagen, Denmark
S. Barton, E. Prihar, P. Carvalho (2017). Cyther: a human-playable, self-tuning robotic zither. In proceedings of The 17th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Copenhagen, Denmark.
May 17, 2017; Copenhagen, Denmark
In the work, a human performer, Cyther (a human-playable robotic zither) and modular percussion robots interact with each other. The interaction between these performers is enabled by both the physical design of Cyther and software written by the composer. The perceptual aspects of the system distinguish auditory events, create groupings and find patterns. In response to perceived information, the system can mimic, transform and generate material. It stores information about past events, and thus has memory, which shape the expressive choices that it makes. It is used in improvisatory contexts to illuminate unique gestures that are only possible through electromechanical actuation, which inspire a human performer to explore new expressive territory. The improvisations provide structure and freedom in order to both present the possibilities of this ensemble and allow for spontaneity. In particular, the work explores rhythms and timbres that are enabled by these machines.
We often think of an instrument and the agent that plays it as unified. That is, we talk about a flautist or a violinist as a single thing that requires both human and instrument working symbiotically together. In other ways, performer and instrument are meaningfully distinct, and the boundary between the two is inflexible. What if this boundary is made porous, allowing the human to play the role of pseudo-static sound shaper while the instrument becomes dynamic and expressive? By integrating robotic actuation into a human-playable instrument, agency becomes amorphous and distributed as performer and machine interact through a shared medium. A human performer and the machine are able to fluidly move between the roles of impulse and filter. The robot inspires the performer with expressions made possible by mechanical actuation while the performer transforms these gestures by physically manipulating the instrument. Reciprocally, the performer can affect how the robotic system both interprets and generates ideas. The results illuminate the expressive spaces that are human, that are mechanical, that are shared between the two, and that emerge as these worlds synthesize. The actions of both become parts of a symbiotic whole, rather than self-contained instances that are co-located, thus the system exemplifies cooperative interaction. The project builds on the lineage of technology that seeks augmentation through human-machine symbiosis. The possibilities offered by such human-playable robotic musical instruments have been little explored (the vast majority of musical robots function autonomously).
April 20-22, 2017; St. Cloud State University; St. Cloud, MN
Barton, S., Getz, L., & Kubovy, M. (2017). Systematic Variation in Rhythm Production as Tempo Changes. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 34(3), 303-312.
We investigated the effect of tempo on the production of the syncopated 3-2 son clave rhythm. We recorded eleven experienced percussionists performing the clave pattern at tempi ranging from 70 bpm to 210 bpm. As tempo increased, percussionists shortened the longest intervals and lengthened the shortest interval towards an intermediate interval that is located in the first and second positions in the pattern. This intermediate interval was stable across tempi. Contrary to prior studies, we found that the complexity of interval ratios had little effect on production accuracy or stability and the “short” interval in the pattern was not particularly stable. These results suggest that as tempo is varied, (1) experienced musicians systematically distort rhythmic intervals, (2) rhythmic configuration, and not just the complexity of interval ratios, affects the production of rhythmic intervals, and (3) the distinction between long and short intervals is context-dependent.
2 channel recording; 5:59
In “Pleasure Beats: Rhythm and the Aesthetics of Current Electronic Music”, Ben Neill describes how popular and art music are distinguished along rhythmic lines. He predicts a future music where such distinctions are less clear; where the rhythmic vernacular of pop music is spoken in artistic territory. Much of my recent creative compositional efforts, including this piece, exemplify movement in this direction, both in terms of rhythm as well as other musical elements. Here, a foundation is set with materials from the pop world: verse-chorus form, 4/4 time signatures, fuzzy synth basses, rock grooves and EDM breaks. These materials are then manipulated in electroacoustic-art-music ways: timbres are transformed, grains are made and re-ordered, meters are changed, and earlier materials are restated in discontinuous sequences. The result is less a fusion and more a congeries where non-ironic choruses and dizzying jump-cuts cohabitate. These combinations are not motivated by a desire to influence the language of art music for its own sake, rather, they are expressions of cultural heterogeneity that is not compartmentalized.
December 10-11, 2016; Boston, MA
November 17, 2016; Poster presentation at the 15th Annual Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting; Boston, MA;
November 16, 2016; Mexico City, Mexico
November 12, 2016; Third Live Studio; Somerville, MA;
Nate Tucker – percussion,
Cyther (human-playable robotic zither), Robotic Percussion
October 7, 2016; Franklin Pierce University; Rindge, NH
S. Barton (2016). In proceedings from The 1st Conference on Computer Simulation of Musical Creativity.
Abstract: This paper explores musical, psychological and philosophical ideas about how humans and machines interact in creative processes. It argues that creativity is a function of both generator and receiver, and that these roles can be amorphous in the creation and experience of electronic music. It offers an approach to structuring temporal spaces for rhythmic composition, which leads to the idea of machine rhythms, which are proposed as a promising area for creative expression.
August 11, 2016; Original Gravity All-Star Concert at Rising Tide; Portland, ME
July 6, 2016; Park City, UT
June 14, 2016; by Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
June 9, 2016
June 18, 2016; 1st Conference on Computer Simulation of Musical Creativity; University of Huddersfield; UK
Rise of a City; Human-Robot Improvisation: Cyther; Water, Rhythm and Light (premiere) and Human-Robot Improvisation: Pattern performed
June 17, 2016; Mystic Brewery; Chelsea, MA
June 11, 2016; WPI; Worcester, MA
June 11, 2016; Spotify HQ; NY, NY
June 11, 2016; Spotify Headquarters; NY, NY
Join Original Gravity Artistic Director Keith Kirchoff and Public Relations Guru Greg Carlson (both exceptional brewers) as they design a unique, homebrewed beer that will aesthetically pair with Scott Barton’s Rise of a City, a piece for musical robot and guitar featured on our Summer 2016 Mystic Brewery concert.
February 15, 2016; Expressive Engines: Musical Technologies from Automata to Robots Symposium; Rutgers University; New Brunswick, NJ
Febrary 15, 2016; Expressive Engines Concert; Rutgers University; New Brunswick, NJ
for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello, tom-tom, PAM (robotic string instrument), and robotic percussion
Fall 2014 – Spring 2015
commissioned by the Juventas New Music Ensemble
Machine expressivity is often thought of as involving precision, speed, rhythmic complexity, non-idiomatic (for human performers) pitch patterns and replication. Human expressivity is often thought of involving groove, phrasing, affect, contour, variation, articulation, entrainment and communication. While these attributes help shape our conceptions of what is human versus what is mechanical, they are not confined to one category or the other: humans can be precise and robots can groove. Expressive identity is more analog than digital. This does not preclude expressive spaces that are unique to humans and machines, rather, it suggests the areas between them are ambiguous and that the attributes that define them do not do so in a one-to-one fashion (instead, attribute-space relationships are a function of combination and context). The music explores these areas of ambiguity and clarity. Genre is treated in a similar way such that stylistic exemplars are presented authentically and in transformation. The intersections in expressive identity and style illuminate what is exclusive and what is shared.
Febrary 12, 2016; SEAMUS National Conference; Carter Recital Hall, Georgia Southern University; Statesboro, GA
for guitar and robotic ensemble (PAM, MADI and CADI)
produced and recorded by Scott Barton, mixed by Marc Urselli and Scott Barton at East Side Sound Studios, NYC
Rise of a City introduces a human performer to the robotic creations of EMMI (Expressive Machines Musical Instruments, expressivemachines.com) for the first time. The piece features complementary string parts (one played by a human guitarist, one played by the robotic string instrument PAM) that are supported by a robotic percussion ensemble. The piece explores mechanical gestures, human expression, virtuosity and synchronicity by placing specific musical ideas in a variety of instrumental and temporal spaces. Material is soloed and shared between the parts, giving us a sense of the unique expressive characteristics of human versus robotic instrumentalists. From the perspective of narrative, the musical interactions between human and machine can be understood through the metaphor of how ideas develop. Sometimes multiple groups of people simultaneously cultivate ideas towards similar goals even though they don’t live in the same place. Sometimes the paths of this race are parallel. Sometimes they diverge. When they diverge, the separation can result in either an alternate route to the original goal or a new path(s) that clears the way to previously unimagined possibilities. This has become a familiar phenomenon to us via technological innovation, scientific discovery, stylistic innovation and the construction of physical communities (dwellings → cities). The construction of physical communities has particular metaphoric weight in the case of this piece. From small beginnings a city exudes reiterative processes in multiple directions. New neighborhoods spring up that incorporate and / or react to adjacent areas. The restatements are accumulative, so that the entirety of the city becomes perpetually more massive and complex. At the same time, the most recent individual additions, buildings in the case of a city, mirror the qualities of the whole in terms of grandeur and intricacy. This path is not purely linear of course, and the ability to start simply, small-ly, or differently is always preserved.
December 12-13, 2015; Boston Museum of Science; Boston, MA.
November 21, 2015; Project Fusion; Killian Hall, MIT; Cambridge, MA. Performed by the Juventas New Music Ensemble.
November 13, 2015; Spaulding Hall, WPI; Worcester, MA. Performed by the Juventas New Music Ensemble.
Tolleson, C. M., Dobolyi, D. G., Roman, O. C., Kanoff, K., Barton, S., Wylie, S. A., … & Claassen, D. O. (2015). Dysrhythmia of timed movements in Parkinson׳ s disease and freezing of gait. Brain research, 1624, 222-231.
October 1, 2015; Worcester, MA; Nate Tucker – percussion
September 27, 2015; ICMC (International Computer Music Conference); Denton, TX
September 26, 2015; Boston, MA; improvisation with Cyther (human-playable robotic zither) and Nate Tucker – percussion
August 23, 2015; Si15 2nd International Symposium on Sound and Interactivity; Singapore.
July 24, 2015; Spotify Headquarters; NY, NY
T. Rogers, S. Kemper, S. Barton (2015). In proceedings from The 15th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression.
June 13, 2015; WPI; Worcester, MA
June 3, 2015; T. Rogers, S. Kemper, S. Barton. Paper presented by the second author at The 15th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression; Baton Rouge, LA.
May 5 and 6, 2015; Club Oberon; Cambridge, MA. Performed by the Juventas Ensemble.
May 1, 2015; University of Bristol; Bristol, UK
March 26-28, 2015; SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) Conference; Virginia Tech; Blacksburg, VA
S. Barton, S. Kemper (2015). Published in UTS ePRESS; March, 2015.
The paper was presented at the International Conference on Social Robotics 2014. link to paper
March 2015; by Ronni Reich
February 27, 2015; Hamilton, NY. Human-Robot Improvisation and live coding with musical robots performed
February 26, 2015; Syracuse, NY. Human-robot improvisation and live coding with musical robots performed.
For narrator, voice and electronics
narration: Art Cohen
vocals: Scott Barton
piano: Aurie Hsu
Eroding Mountains is about a slow epiphany. It is about one’s realization of the value of nonhuman animal life in a culture that typically defines ethical standards along speciesist lines. It is about the realization and remembrance that such lines are and have been drawn within the boundaries of the human species. It represents confusion and conflict that results when what was normal and comfortable is recognized as ethically untenable. It is about remaining connected with those you love in spite of differences. It is about frustration with apathy. It is about the hope of things getting better.
Musically, transformations and re-orderings of recognizable materials represent emotional conflict, confusion, and the feeling of a voice that doesn’t reach its listener. Larger trajectories, such as de-tuned -> tuned and distributed -> isochronous represent the journey of coming to clarity. The three sections represent how individuals can come to this realization in isolation and how, unless they connect with others, will continue to inhabit that state. Each section features expression that refuses to compromise its humanity in spite of the confusing factors around it. The piece concludes with a musical statement of hope.
November 15, 2014; Riley Commons; WPI; Worcester, MA
November 5, 2014; Texas A&M University; College Station, TX
October 27, 2014; Misbehaving Machines, Workshop on Robots and Art; Sydney, Australia
September 20, 2014; Terry Concert Hall; Jacksonville University; Jacksonville, FL
September 18, 2014; International Computer Music Conference; Athens, Greece
L. Getz, S. Barton, M. Kubovy (2014). Acta Psychologica; Volume 152, October 2014.
Each Latin salsa music style is associated with a characteristic clave pattern that constitutes an essential structure for performers. In this article we asked what types of expertise are needed to detect the correct salsa–clave pairing. Using two clave patterns (the 3–2 and 2–3 son clave) and three manipulated alternatives, we asked listeners to choose the correct clave pattern for a variety of bomba, calypso, mambo and merengueexcerpts. The results of Studies 1 and 2 show that listeners unfamiliar with salsa were unable to detect the correct salsa–clave pairing. Listeners who had some music training or were familiar with salsa detected the need for syncopation but not the specific pairing. Only musicians well-acquainted with salsa correctly detected the salsa–clave pairing. Studies 3 and 4 showed that incorrect choices were not due to an inability to distinguish between the alternatives: both adults and five-year-olds could easily tell apart the various patterns we used. We conclude that the distinction between the 2–3 and 3–2 claves is not inherent in the music itself, but rather is a convention to be learned through exposure and training. We discuss the results using an analogy to language learning. link to paper
June 14th, 2014; WPI; Worcester, MA
June 8, 2014; 3:30pm; New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival; Playhouse at the Abrons Arts Center; NYC
The article features projects from my course Making Music with Machines as well as the modular percussion arms built by the MPR Lab at WPI
March 28, 2014; 7:30pm; Clark University; Worcester, MA
March 6th, 2014;
Trinity College Dublin; Dublin, Ireland
March 3rd, 2014;
for guitar and EMMI’s robotic instruments – PAM (poly-tangent string instrument), MADI (16-arm snare drum), CADI (modular percussion instrument playing darbuka, ice bucket, tambourine and djembe)
Recorded by Scott Barton, mixed by Scott Barton and Marc Urselli at East Side Sound, NYC
Feb 5-8 2014;
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront; Baltimore, MD
Feb 4, 2014;
Rutgers – Camden; Camden, NJ
Jan 31, 2014; 12pm; Experimental Theater at UCSD; San Diego, CA
S. Barton (2013). Published in the Proceedings of the Ninth Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment International Conference (AIIDE 2013)
HARMI (Human and Robotic Musical Improvisation) is a software and hardware system that enables musical robots to improvise with human performers. The goal of the system is not to replicate human musicians, but rather to explore the novel kinds of musical expression that machines can produce. At the same time, the system seeks to create spaces where humans and robots can communicate with each other in a common language. To help achieve the former, ideas from contemporary compositional practice and music theory were used to shape the system’s expressive capabilities. In regard to the latter, research from the field of cognitive psychology was incorporated to enable communication, interaction, and understanding between human and robotic performers. The system was partly developed in conjunction with a residency at High Concept Laboratories in Chicago, IL, where a group of human improvisers performed with the robotic instruments. The system represents an approach to the question of how humans and robots can interact and improvise in musical contexts. This approach purports to highlight the unique expressive spaces of humans, the unique expressive spaces of machines, and the shared spaces between the two. link to paper
2-channel recording; 7:00
I am fascinated by organizations that consist of contrasting elements. I am interested in the surprise that such juxtapositions create, and the musical forms that result from their statement. I am interested in the musical parameters that contribute to such percepts. The piece explores kinds of contrast, from those that are clear, such as the juxtaposition of opposites (soft, loud), to those that are ambiguous, such as the juxtaposition of synthetic and intimate. Here, one of the main ways that contrast is created is by presenting the voice in a variety of rhythmic, harmonic, and technological settings. Percussion elements are treated similarly, which results in a variety of rhythms, meters and genre references. The piece also explores how one can create unity and connections among such disparate elements through lower-level musical parameters, such as rhythm, timbre and harmony, as well as through higher-level musical associations, such as means of production (acoustic, electronic) and genre. As a result, there is connection despite heterogeneity; there is fluidity despite disruption; there is peace despite agitation; there is continuity despite discontinuity.
for the musical robots PAM and MADI; 3:00
Nov 9, 2013; EABD; Fredericksburg, VA
Nov 2, 2013; CAI; Acton, MA
Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2013; SBCM; Brasilia, Brazil
Summer – Fall 2009
2 channel recording
Breeding in pieces combines compositional and production practices from rock and electroacoustic music. The piece creates (dis)continuity and form through higher-level feature (here, genre) contrast. Here, compositional and production practices from rock and electroacoustic music are combined and contrasted to create a diverse set of textures and relationships. As a result, each section of the piece can be represented on a continuum defined by poles of synthesis and preservation. In regard to synthesis, one musical world is filtered through the other from a variety of angles and proportions (and vice versa). In regard to preservation, the piece recognizes that commingling sometimes has the unfortunate by-product of dulled edges. Thus, the piece presents gestures as if in their natural habitats. The extent to which the music preserves these habitats speaks to the gestures themselves as well as the surrounding contexts (that which is implicit in and external to the piece). Almost all of the music is generated from the same progression / theme, creating unity among a diverse group of elements.
Oct 30, 2013; Clark 20|21; Worcester, MA
performers: Matt Jaskot and Peter Sulski
two channel recording; 2:39
Figure <-> Ground interprets the idea of negative space in the context of rhythm and time. In one formulation, the subjects are percussive sound points and the negative spaces are the durations that connect those sound points. As the piece progresses, the elements that constitute a sound point are increasingly displaced in time, filling adjacent negative spaces. The original metric positions and rhythmic identities become more ambiguous as a result, inviting us to both find boundaries between a subject and its negative spaces and to superimpose remembered structure on an increasingly diffuse texture. The idea of negative space is also explored in rhythm by sonifying sound points and silencing intermediary durations, and then sonifying intermediary durations and silencing sound points. Negative space is further interpreted in the context of rhythmic stylistic conventions. The rhythmic configurations in the latter half of the piece are beat-based but also convey quickly-changing meters, syncopations, cross-rhythms and an avoidance of repetition on smaller time scales. This sort of rhythmic expression inhabits a space between subject-points defined by contemporary Western art music and popular music.