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.
Human-robot musical interaction typically consists of independent, physically-separated agents. We developed Cyther – a human-playable, self-tuning robotic zither – to allow a human and a robot to interact cooperatively through the same physical medium to generate music. The resultant co- dependence creates new responsibilities, roles, and expressive possibilities for human musicians. We describe some of these possibilities in the context of both technical features and artistic implementations of the system.
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.
performers: Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Jenna Lyle; robots: PAM and CADI / modular percussion instruments
performers: Ammie Brod, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Matt Orenstein, Alex Temple; robots: PAM and CADI / modular percussion instruments
I have been developing software that allows humans to improvise with the robots built by EMMI and the Music, Perception and Robotics Lab at WPI. The bots have interacted with some wonderful performers:
Performance at Clark 2o-21 with Matt Jaskot, Peter Sulski and CADI / modular percussion instruments, Oct 30, 2013
Performance excerpt 2 at the Urban Canyon with Chris Fisher-Lochhead and Jenna Lyle, July 2013
Performance excerpt 1 at the Urban Canyon with Chris Fisher-Lochhead and Jenna Lyle, July 2013
Rehearsal 3 with Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Matt Orenstein and Alex Temple at HCL Chicago, July 2013
Rehearsal 2 with Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Matt Orenstein and Alex Temple at HCL Chicago, July 2013
Rehearsal 1 with Ammie Brod and Matt Orenstein at HCL Chicago, July 2013
This is a video about my residency as a sponsored artist at High Concept Laboratories in Chicago in the summer of 2013. By Carly Mostar.
<iframe src=”//player.vimeo.com/video/74431012″ width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/74431012″>HCL Artist Video Series: Scott Barton, Sponsored Artist Summer 2013</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/hclchicago”>High Concept Laboratories</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
S. Barton (2012). Dissertation. Published by ProQuest.
While our experience of musical (dis)continuity is often powerful and clear, articulating the relations that inspire such percepts is not always easy. Part of the reason for this is that our experience of musical (dis)continuity is influenced by a number of physical, cognitive and perceptual factors, and thus is complex. I will therefore explore (dis)continuity’s character by applying ideas from psychology, music theory, algorithmic information theory, and statistics to a variety of musical compositions, including my own. These explorations will describe (dis)continuity as primarily dependent on five key elements: how we bring entities into relations, holistic associations, perceived (dis)similarity of intra- and inter-entity attributes and relational structures (which we can describe in terms of type and degree); hierarchical organization; and context. These various elements work in isolation and in combination depending on the particular musical situation. Because (dis)continuity is multi-faceted in this way, no singular approach will illuminate the full extent of its richness and complexity. Instead, we must be able to approach (dis)continuity from a number of different perspectives; the one that we choose depends on the specific musical scenario. I will therefore incorporate ideas from the aforementioned disciplines, including structure mapping, transformational distance, and parametric dimensions, to describe, represent and eventually quantify the nature of these characteristics and how they interact to produce (dis)continuity percepts. Such a varied set of tools, which can be used in isolation or in combination, will allow us to describe (dis)continuity in a wide variety of musical styles. This may prove useful not only in identifying commonalities between stylistically diverse musics but also in providing an analytic approach to musics that are resistant to traditional tools. Such flexible, yet rigorous, approach will allow us to illuminate the nature of (dis)continuous relations so that we can analyze and compose (dis)continuous music more thoughtfully. link to paper
Spring, 2013. A piece I composed for a video documenting the construction of Solatrium, a solar house project that WPI helped to design and build. http://wp.wpi.edu/solatrium/en/
for the musical robots AMI, CARI and TAPI; 5:00
produced, recorded and mixed by Scott Barton
for the musical robots AMI and CARI; 5:00
From Here to There explores the transformational distance between contrasting entities. The idea of transformational distance, borrowed from psychology and algorithmic information theory, measures the similarity between entities as a function of the list of instructions that is required to transform entity A into entity B. The shorter and simpler the list, the more similar the entities are; the longer and more complex the list, the more dissimilar the entities are. The piece explores how such (dis)similarities affect the perception of musical (dis)continuity by juxtaposing and morphing between four themes. The piece explicitly measures inter-theme contrast by exhibiting the number of steps it takes to transform one theme into another. While we can interpret the idea of transformational steps in a variety of ways, in this work, I consider the number of compositional steps it takes to transform one entity into another. These steps are designed to be perceptually relevant and musically meaningful. In additional to transformational distance, ideas are expanded, manipulated, and developed according to compositional intuition and aesthetic considerations. Thus, an artistic context surrounds an experimental exploration.
produced, recorded and mixed by Ted Coffey and Scott Barton, published by Everglade Records
produced, recorded and mixed by Ted Coffey and Scott Barton, published by Everglade Records
for saxophone, bassoon, PAM, MARIE and electronics
Push for Position comprises a number of core trajectories that are defined by sound source (in this case, human-played instruments, robotic instruments, and synthesizers), high-level associations, and thematic material. These trajectories intertwine with each other so that when one rises to the surface, the others are eclipsed. In addition, the trajectories influence each other so that when one becomes prominent (the speaker), the others (the listeners) incorporate features of that illuminated gesture, which are exhibited when those listeners eventually speak. Thus, the piece has memory: its components learn from and influence each other. The result is a collection of highly discontinuous moments that become increasingly relatable as the trajectories of the work interact over time. In regard to the juxtaposition of trajectories, that is, when one speaker interrupts another, (dis)continuities are created according to feature (dis)agreement. An entity will share some features with its neighbors, but it will also exhibit unique characteristics. The balance between shared and contrasting features creates various kinds of (dis)continuity. In conjunction with the aforementioned type of organization, the piece’s proportional durations are partially governed by contextual identity. A gesture that is interpreted as unrelated to the rest of the piece may be the longest (durationally) and vice versa. Thus, the piece’s form experiments with notions of proportional aesthetics. Such conclusions are, of course, a matter of subjective judgment, so the listener plays an important role in determining the piece’s form.
WPI’s commitment to the study of music is evident through groundbreaking research and student projects in several areas of music technology. Faculty are working in musical robotics, assistive learning technologies, audio production, radio station programming, and much more.
composed with Steven Kemper, Fall 2010
interactive installation for the musical robots PAM and CADI
Often, we shape our behavior in response to the ambient noise created by machines. This piece explores a reconfiguration of this type of interaction: here, machines respond to the ambient noise created by people (and other machines).
There is an open microphone that invites passersby to utter songs, stray notes, speeches and unintelligible nonsense. PAM is always polite to offer a response to such gestures. The installation also monitors the ambient noise of the street and responds with rhythmic and melodic gestures that complement this contextual input.
composed with Steven Kemper, Winter-Spring 2010
for the robotic instruments MADI, CADI and assorted found percussion instruments
Drum Circle features the robotic instruments MADI and CADI playing a diverse percussion ensemble that includes beer bottles, woodblocks, metal bowls and traditional drums in the woods of Virginia. In some sense, the colocation of machine and nature strikes us as a juxtaposition of things that cannot coexist. Indeed, machine / nature interactions often result in dramatic transformations where nature is displaced to make way for some unlike object(s) of human will. This is not such a story: here, the robots tuck peacefully into the landscape. This contextualization allows us to see and hear robots not as imperialist amalgams of electromagnets and plastic, but rather as agents that are governed by the kinetic and acoustic characteristics of our physical world that can cooperatively interact and coexist with surrounding objects. The lines between nature and machine are made fuzzy. Compositionally, the piece integrates unpredictable physical systems, machine listening and algorithmic responses. Over the course of the work, musical ideas are stated, absorbed, re-interpreted and stated again to create a cyclic yet developing story.
A video of the work is featured on the eco sono DVD Agents Against Agency
Fall 2008 – Winter 2009, rev. 2011
for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, tom-toms, marimba, piano, viola, double bass and electronics; 7:30
for steps that grow when climbed looks at (dis)continuity as syncopation within longer durations. The piece’s structure is characterized by perpetually expanding sections (thus, the title), with each section articulated by a discontinuous moment. At the same time, movement and (dis)continuity are also voiced within sections. As a result, the piece illustrates how multiple continuities can simultaneously occur on different hierarchical levels, which can be interrupted and restarted to create various kinds of discontinuities. One of the ways that the piece achieves these (dis)continuities is by juxtaposing the acoustic ensemble with electronically-processed versions of its gestures. The piece also asks the acoustic ensemble to mimic computer processes, such as algorithmic duration alteration, to further illustrate how human and electronic elements can interact. In this way, the electronic interprets human gestures, and the humans interpret electronic gestures. These moments of synthesis are juxtaposed with moments that are purely acoustic and purely electronic. The result is a variety of relations that are characterized by different distances relative to a continuum defined by the poles of acoustic (human) and electronic (computer).
Fall 2007 – Winter 2008
for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello; 7:00
The piece’s motion is at times analogous to points along a pendular arc; directionally independent vectors occur in a general context of acceleration and deceleration (temporal structure is also exposed to accelerating and decelerating forces). My interest in the oscillation between coordination and dislocation creates a “braiding” of instrumental lines (although sharper juxtaposition is also a device of interest). In terms of the music’s grooves, I find the rhythms physically compelling but “tweaked” enough to sidestep the type of overt periodicity that is typically associated with groove-oriented sound. The formal organization of the piece represents a kind of porous sectionalism where clearly defined moments are strung together by recurring ideas.
4 channel recording
In my experience, the texture present inspires meditative reflection. Alternatively and / or relatedly, this texture nudges one’s state of consciousness gently enough away from “equilibrium” (that state of consciousness to which one naturally reverts) that one could mistake the texture-induced state for equilibrium after some amount of time. The referencing of “true” equilibrium from the perspective of the texture-induced state creates an interesting perceptual contradiction. I believe this phenomena is enabled by the music’s density. The second section is an augmentation of a single event in the first section, with sonic content exchanged.
Fall 2006 – Winter 2007
for flute, clarinet, piano, electric guitar and double bass
It seems that the ways in which we have come to work and play have propelled us away from our physicality. I find physical experience can act as a panacea to the frustration of both existential angst and the skeptical approach to the questions of life. Music can be a wonderful conduit for physical experience.
I am interested in rhythmic complexity. I enjoy the tension between coordination and subsequent dislocation of rhythmic events. The potential to create unique textures through the combination of varied superimposition rates is exciting to me. Machines can help with this.
Physicality does not preclude complexity.
Fall 2005 – Spring 2006
for 3 disklaviers, string ensemble and 8 speakers / electronics
Etchings in Ice is inspired in form and content by the sport of figure skating. The piece as a whole represents the preparation and presentation of a figure skating routine, the movements symbolize practice of the sport’s more prominent skills. For example, Mental Preparation and Refocus represent the type of skating found in a warm up, or between elements. Held Position represents the gliding element, A Moment Away From The Ground represents the footwork element. Within the abundance of possibility that this metaphor offers for creative expression, I chose to explore ideas of contrast; human / machine, slow / fast, long / short, flowing / jagged, soft / loud and electronic / acoustic.