Archive by Author

Street Meetings

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.

Drum Circle

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

…for steps that grow when climbed

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).

The Arc of Braided Movement

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.

Decay to Primitive

Fall 2007

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.

Assemblage of Gears

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.

Etchings in Ice

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.

Antiprism

ummer – Fall 2005

for guitar and computer; 9:30

The idea for Antiprism was inspired during a session with a percussionist friend of mine in which we were exploring the sounds of traditional instruments played with alternate techniques. At one point, the percussionist began striking a ride cymbal with a soft mallet and at the same time, partially muting the cymbal in different locations with his other hand. The result was a strikingly diverse collection of sounds. The potential latent within this single instrument was immediately revealed to me. It also was apparent how delicate component frequencies are and how easily they are lost in the complex combination of spectra involved in ensemble playing. I decided it was of paramount importance to maintain, or further, amplify the subtle indigenous sounds of the instrument so I decided to create a solo piece. My strategy, in keeping with the ideal of using “organic” sounds, was to separate the frequency spectrum into 8 “buckets” and at the same time, control the temporal expression of these buckets by way of a delay based system. I constructed such a system in Max/MSP and discovered the program had instrumental applications beyond that of the ride cymbal. I am composing a suite of pieces using this program, the one featured here features the electric guitar. The frequency parameters and delay intervals are programmable; much of the timbral and rhythmic content is created as a result of alterations of these inputs. The piece, through this program, purports to explore and reveal the “hidden” sounds that are typically relegated to a complementary role in more common spectral configurations.

Birth of a Machine

Winter – Spring 2005

4 channel recording; 11:30

Birth of a Machine is a story about mechanical soul searching. The first section is a gestation period; a stage for pre-developmental processes. The second section represents the fruition of this development as numerous fully-formed ideas strive for prominence through various cycles of combination and isolation. Musically, rhythm is explored through perpetual tempo change and polytempo in the context of an explicit but fleeting pulse. The majority of the sonic material present was derived from the recordings of a single instrument.

Deliberation

Winter 2005

4 channel recording; 6:22

The idea of the piece is one of stasis; of the avoidance of assertive and dramatic gestures. A small number of sound sournces linked by continuous paths creates a form without distinct segments. The interest lies in the subtleties of this journey voiced by pitch change, timbral difference and rhythmic interaction. The music requests attention in a non-controntational manner; without consideration to detail the meaning will be missed.

other works

Process in Autumn (Fall 2004) for flute, viola and piano; 3:00

Clearing of Path (Winter – Spring 2004) for guitar, drumset and recording; 8:00

Race of Man and Things (Summer – Fall 2004) for Electric Organ, 2 Marimbas, Glockenspiel, acoustic bass, bass clarinet, tenor sax and percussion

View from the Woods (2003) for piano, celesta, marimba, acoustic bass, timpani, trumpet, organ, percussive organ, prepared piano, electric guitar and tape

Chair (Spring 2004) for computer and QWERTY keyboard

Bees Turn to Flowers (Spring 2004) for for computer and QWERTY keyboard

Helix (Fall 2003) 2 channel recording

Seven (Fall 2003) 2 channel recording

Songbook Vol. 2 (2001-2002) for guitar, bass, voice and percussion

Evast (1999-2000) for 2 acoustic guitars

Songbook Vol. 1 (Fall 1998-Winter 1999) for voice, guitar, bass, piano, drum set and electronics

Television (the Thief) (Winter 1999) 2 channel recording

Shuffled (Winter 1999) 2 channel recording

5 to 9 (Spring 1998) for piano, re-orchestrated for 2 electric guitars, electric bass and drum kit

Tattered and Drone (Fall 1998) for marimba, xylophone, electric guitar and recording

Stack (Fall 1998) for 2 electric guitars, electric bass and drum kit

Chameleon (Spring 1997) for cello, recording and mixing board

5 Short Pieces: Electric Drip, The Hunt, Shuffled, Dance with Weakened Legs, Return to Moscow (Fall 1996 )2 channel recording

Aquarium (Fall 1996) for keyboard and recording

Early Daze (Fall 1996) 2 channel recording