Electronic Music Interviews, 2007-2014
New York, March 2013
Joel Chadabe is a composer, pioneer in the development of interactive systems, author and historian, promoter of new music, and educator. He has concertized widely since 1969, with Jan Williams, Bruno Sperri, and other musicians, has received awards, fellowships, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Commission, SUNY Research Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and other foundations, and is the recipient of the 2007 SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1967, while director of the Electronic Music Studio at State University of New York at Albany (1965 – 1998), he designed the CEMS (Coordinated Electronic Music Studio) System, an analog-programmable electronic music system, and commissioned Robert Moog to build it. In 1977, with Roger Meyers, he co-authored The PLAY Program, the first software sequencer. As president of Intelligent Music from 1983-1994, he was responsible for the development and publication of a wide range of innovative and historically important software, including M and Max, as well as the TouchSurface, an xyz touch-sensitive computer input device.
“I compose computer music. That means I write programs that first generate a score, then synthesize a soundfile from that score. I have done this in various ways since 1984. Currently I write pieces in C++ using a class library I wrote myself, and I render the pieces using Csound embedded in the piece. You can find albums and pieces by me online in various places, and I will be posting some pieces here as well.
My interest in composing computer music arises from the phenomenon of computational irreducibility. This is what happens when a computer program is short, easy to read, and easy to understand, and yet the output of the program is impossible to predict without actually running the program. An excellent example of such an irreducible procedure is iterating the logistic map x <= r * x * (x – 1) where r is greater than about 0.89. This recurrence is chaotic, therefore unpredictable, for most values of r. At the same time, the behavior of this map, although chaotic, is somewhat generic. As r approaches 1, the attractor of the system moves into and out of bands of chaos, which have a somewhat similar structure, and, when translated into music, a somewhat similar sound.
The consequence is that a composer can use a irreducible system, and there are many of these in addition to the logistic map, to produce music that is at once unpredictable in detail, and yet not completely unpredictable in generality. This amounts to the ability to compose original music of a certain type by simply turning a dial. And that, in turn, shows that the computer has the power to amplify or extend the human imagination. In my work, I use a number of irreducible systems, and I also experiment with different ways of mapping the behavior of such systems onto music, including mappings onto the symmetries underlying harmony and voice-leading.”
Judy Klein was born in 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Los Angeles, California, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She studied music at the Conservatory of Music in Basel, Switzerland, and later at New York University, where she received her Master of Arts degree. Her teachers in composition and electro-acoustic music included Thomas Kessler, Lilli Friedemann, Reynold Weidenaar and Ruth Anderson. She studied computer music with Charles Dodge at the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music (BC-CCM) and remained at that center for many years afterwards as a guest composer. In 1985 she began teaching electro-acoustic music composition at New York University and later founded and directed a computer music studio there. She is currently a guest composer at the Computer Music Center at Columbia University and works as consultant for the preservation of electro-acoustic music at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center. Her music is recorded on ICMA, SEAMUS, Cuneiform and Open Space compact discs.
Born in New Zealand in 1939 and living in the US since 1973, Annea Lockwood is known for her explorations of the rich world of natural acoustic sounds and environments, in works ranging from sound art and installations, through text-sound and performance art to concert music. Her music has been performed in many venues and festivals including: the Possibility of Action exhibition at MACBA Barcelona, De Ijsbreker, the Other Minds Festival-San Francisco, the Walker Art Center, the American Century: 1950 – 2000 exhibition at the Whitney Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, CNMAT Berkeley, the Asia-Pacific Festival, Donaufest 2006 Ulm, the Donau Festival Krems, the 7th Totally Huge New Music Festival Perth, Ear To The Earth Festival – New York and Sonic Acts XIII.
Dafna Naphtali is a sound-artist/ improviser/composer from an eclectic musical background. As a singer/guitarist/electronic-musician she performs and composes using her Max/MSP programming for sound processing of voice and other instruments. Dafna has collaborated / performed with many experimental musicians and video artists over the past 20 years, and she’s co-led the digital chamber punk ensemble, What is it Like to be a Bat? with Kitty Brazelton since 1997 (more music in the works!) and was a founder of Magic Names vocal ensemble (performing Stockhausen’s Stimmung). She’s received numerous commissions and awards, and is a 2011 recipient of Franklin Furnace Fund award to develop work with Eric Singer’s LEMUR music robots. Dafna teaches and gives workshops at universities in the US and Europe, and holds a Masters in Music Technology from New York University, where she is part-time faculty. She has been teaching, programming and consulting about computer music since 1995 at Harvestworks (New York) and as a freelancer, and has done sound design and/or programming work for the projects of many artists at the forefront of digital and interactive music. Dafna can be heard on Mechanique(s) (Acheulian Handaxe), and on What is it Like to be a Bat? (Tzadik/Oracles) with Brazelton and Danny Tunick.
Tae Hong Park is a composer, music technologist, and bassist. His work focuses on composition of electro-acoustic and acoustic music, machine learning and computer-aided music analysis, research in multi-dimensional aspects of timbre, and audio digital signal processing. Dr. Park has presented his music at national and international conferences and festivals including Bourges, ICMC, MATA, SCIMF, and SEAMUS. Among the ensembles and performers that have played his work are the Brentano String Quartet, California E.A.R. Unit, Edward Carroll, Ensemble Surplus, Zoe Martlew, Nash Ensemble of London, and the Tarab Cello Ensemble. Professor Park is author of Introduction to Digital Signal Processing: Computer Musically Speaking (World Scientific, 2010). He is the Chief Editor of Journal SEAMUS, serves as Editiorial Consultant for Computer Music Journal, and is President of the International Computer Music Association (ICMA). He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Alice Shields is known for her cross-cultural operas and vocal electronic music. In her new chamber opera, Zhaojun – A Woman of Peace (2013), she takes the next step in her cross-cultural explorations, into the position of women in ancient China. Her previous operas include Criseyde (2010), a 2-hour-long chamber opera for 5 singers, ensemble of 3 singers and 14 solo instruments, performed in concert by the New York City Opera VOX Festival. Criseyde is a new Middle English feminist retelling of Chaucer’s “Troilus and Criseyde.” Other operatic works include Komachi at Sekidera, based on a Japanese Noh play and recorded on Koch International; Apocalypse on New World Records, which uses musical techniques from Bharata Natyam dance-drama; Mass for the Dead and Shaman, premiered by the American Chamber Opera Company; and Shivatanz premiered at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Germany. Shields received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music composition from Columbia University, and served as Associate Director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and Associate Director for Development of the Columbia University Computer Music Center. She has taught the psychology of music at New York University Psychology Department and Rutgers University, and lectures on the psychology of music at institutions including the Santa Fe Opera, CUNY Center for Developmental Neuroscience, International Society for Research on Emotion, American Psychological Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. Recordings of Shields’ work are available on Koch International Classics, New World and Albany Records. For more information please see www.aliceshields.com
Hans Tammen creates sounds that have been described as an alien world of bizarre textures and a journey through the land of unending sonic operations. He produces rapid-fire juxtapositions of radically contrastive and fascinating noises, with micropolyphonic timbres and textures, aggressive sonic eruptions, but also quiet pulses and barely audible sounds – through means of his “Endangered Guitar” and interactive software programming, by working with the room itself, and, as a critic observed, with his “…fingers stuck in a high voltage outlet”. Signal To Noise called his works “…a killer tour de force of post-everything guitar damage”, All Music Guide recommended him: “…clearly one of the best experimental guitarists to come forward during the 1990s.” His numerous projects include site-specific performances and collaborative efforts with dance, light, video, and theatre, utilizing technology from planetarium projectors to guitar robots and disklavier pianos. He received a Fellowship from the New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA) in the category Digital/Electronic Arts in 2009 for the ”Endangered Guitar” – a hybrid guitar/software instrument used to control interactive live sound processing.
Spark Festival, February 17-22, 2009
For one week each year, the Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Arts gathers creators and performers of new media arts from around the world to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul (USA) to showcase their work to the public. Peter Shea took this opportunity to interview scholars and performers associated with the cutting-edge world of electronic music, art, and dance, including Joel Ryan, Megan England, Douglas Ewart, Caly McMorrow, Keir Neuringer, Terry Pender, Xenia Pestova and Erika Donald, and Cathy Van Eck.
Megan England Ward is a first year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D in Composition & Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia. She enjoys exploring the boundaries between acoustic instruments and electronic components, actively pursues collaborations with other artistic disciplines, and is interested in all forms of live performance. She is a former member of the new media collective Mobile Performance Group and is currently developing a new mobile system for guerrilla street performances.
The kaleidoscopic talent of Douglas Ewart has expressed itself in so many forms–instruments that double as sculptures, music that combines the traditions of four continents with fresh inventions, masks and costumes fit for rituals ominous or joyous, death-defying improvisations combining master musicianship and acting-that the whole might be mistaken for the work of a small culture rather than one man.
Caly McMorrow is a composer and performer of electronic music living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She blends a background in classical piano and saxophone with live loops, 8 bit glitch and circuit bending. She performs both as a solo act and as half of IDM duo Low Orbit. Her debut solo release all of this is temporary was released in November, 2008.
Keir Neuringer is a composer and performer (saxophone, voice, electronics). His output ranges from pulse-based electronic music, through free jazz and experimental electroacoustic improvisation, to music for theater and notated compositions for contemporary chamber ensembles. He also writes texts and makes videos and installations critical of the destructive behavior of the dominant culture.
Terry Pender is the Technical Director of the Columbia University Computer Music Center and an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Music Depatrtment. He studied composition with Darrell Handel and Allen Sapp and computer music with Brad Garton.
Xenia Pestova and Erika Donald are part of the Digital Orchestra Project. Xenia Pestova is a pianist with a special interest in presenting contemporary works alongside traditional repertoire. She is a Doctoral Candidate in piano performance at the McGill University Schulich School of Music in Montreal. She is also a Performance Research Assistant in the CIRMMT McGill Digital Orchestra Project, and holds a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Erika is an avid performer and music educator. She was a Performance Research Assistant in the CIRMMT/McGill Digital Orchestra Project and was recently awarded a Canada Graduate Fellowship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and a Student Award from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT).
Spawned in the first generation of computer music hackers in San Francisco’s silicon valley, Joel Ryan is a composer who has long championed the idea of performance-based electronic music. Drawing on his scientific background, he pioneered the application of digital signal processing to acoustic instruments. At STEIM in Amsterdam since 1984, he has collaborated extensively with artists and musicians including Evan Parker, William Forsyth, George Lewis, Steina Vasulka and Jerry Hunt. Formerly a Research Associate in physics at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories of the University of California, he has taught philosophy, physics, and mathematics. He is a researcher at STEIM in Amsterdam, tours with the Frankfurt Ballet and is Docent in Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.
Cathy van Eck studied composition and electronic music with Diderik Wagenaar, Gilius van Bergeijk and Martijn Padding at the conservatory in The Hague. She continued her studies in Berlin with Walter Zimmermann, Wolfgang Heiniger and Daniel Ott. As a composer she cooperated with Wouter Snoei, the Asko ensemble, Teresa Rotemberg, Matthias Rebstock, Carter Williams, and Anne Faulborn. She is doing a doctoral degree at the Orpheusinstitute in Gent, her dissertation subject is Loudspeakers and Microphones as Musical Instruments.
George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music and Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University. Lewis’s work as composer, improvisor, performer and interpreter explores electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms, and is documented on more than 120 recordings.
Lewis’s recent publications include A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (2008), “Stan Douglas’s Suspiria: Genealogies of Recombinant Narrativity” (2008) and “Living with Creative Machines: An Improvisor Reflects” (2007). Recent musical compositions include a commissioned work by the Scottish Arts Council for the Glasgow Improvisors’ Orchestra (December, 2007) and an exhibition, Rio Negro II, a robotic-acoustic sound installation at the Houston Contemporary Art Museum (May, 2007) and Harvestworks, a new work for robotic sound sculptures, which premiered at the 3-Legged Dog Art and Technology Center in New York City (May, 2007).
Professor Lewis spoke at the University of MInnesota on “Mobilitas Animi: Improvising Technologies, Intending Chance” thanks to invitation from the Music and Sounds Studies Collaborative.
Spark Festival, February 20-25, 2007
Brad Garton is currently on the Music Faculty of Columbia University, where he serves as Director of the Computer Music Center (formerly the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center). He originally studied engineering/biology at Purdue University, ultimately receiving a BS in Pharmacology. At the same time, he co-founded (with Richard K. Thomas) Zounds Productions, a multi-track recording facility specializing in sound design work for live theater.
Garton has assisted in the establishment and development of a number of computer music studios throughout the world, and is an active contributor to the greater community of computer musicians/researchers, formerly serving on the Board of Directors of the International Computer Music Association as editor (with Robert Rowe) of the ICMA newsletter and artistic director/co-organizer of several high-profile festivals and conferences of new computer music.
His current work includes focused research on the modeling and enhancement of acoustic spaces as well as the modeling of human musical performance on various virtual “instruments”. He is also the primary developer (with Dave Topper) of RTcmix, a real-time music synthesis/signal-processing language. His most recent work includes writing “Looching” apps: jlooch (JSyn) and mlooch (Max/MSP). The point of all this work is to continue to make fun new pieces of music, which he does every day.
Douglas Geers is a composer living in New York City and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is an Associate Professor of Music Composition and Director of the STRUM Electronic Music Studios at the School of Music of the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), where he founded and directs the Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Arts. Geers specializes in electro-acoustic and multimedia musical works, including various combinations of live musicians, actors, video, dancers, and computer-generated sounds.
Guerino Mazzola is a professor of Music and a member of the Program in Collaborative Arts at the University of Minnesota. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Zurich University, where he also qualified as a professor in algebraic geometry and in computational science. Mazzola has profiled the European school of mathematical music theory since 1980 and has written six books on the subject, among them The Topos of Music (2005), proposed by the American Mathematical Society as the mathematics book of the year, and La vérité du beau dans la musique (2007). Mazzola’s approach to music includes sophisticated mathematics of topos theory, but also classical tools from group theory to homotopy theory. His latest book is Flow, Gesture, and Spaces in Free Jazz – Towards a Theory of Collaboration (2009).
Andrew Pask is a performer and composer with a wide range of musical instruments, though he is most often found with clarinet or saxophone in hand. Most recently he has teamed up with Jeff Kaiser to form the group The Choir Boys, for which he developed a generative sound-processing rig for modifying the sound of his own acoustic instruments. They performed together at the SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Art at the University of Minnesota, sponsored by the IAS, from February 20 to 25, 2007.
Pask is originally from New Zealand, where he studied and played in his hometown of Wellington before heading off to Hong Kong where he worked as a studio musician, performing on albums for Cantopop stars and playing jazz all over Asia. Since arriving in Los Angeles in 1999, he has become a part of the creative music scene there, playing with Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble, also in Vinny’s clarinets project, with Steuart Liebig in Lane End Merge Left and Stigtette, and with other people like Nels and Alex Cline, Jeff Gauthier’s bands, and with Jeff Kaiser.
Andrew’s other interest is computers. He works for Cycling 74, a music software company based in San Francisco and has been a freelance technical consultant for the studios of Ice T, Michael Jackson, Moonshine Records, and others. He has also performed and composed for the stage and film for numerous projects from Asia to America. More information about Andrew, his upcoming events and some samples of his work can be found at his home page, http://kaleidacousticon.com/.
Morton Subotnick is one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. Most of his music calls for a computer part, or live electronic processing; his oeuvre utilizes many of the important technological breakthroughs in the history of the genre.
The work which brought Subotnick celebrity was Silver Apples of the Moon, written in 1967 using the Buchla modular synthesizer. Other important early works include Until Spring (1975) and Two Life Histories (1977), the first piece involving an electronic ghost score. More recently, in 2001, he released Touch, A Sky of Cloudless Sulfur, and Gestures: It Starts with Colors, and a new composition, The Other Piano, debuted in 2007.
Gregory Taylor hosts RTQE, a weekly radio/webcast program of electronic and experimental music in Madison, Wisconsin and has done so since 1986. He was involved in the cassette culture movement in the 1980s as both a composer and writer/critic (OP, Sound Choice, and Option), and has written more recently for Recording Magazine and Wired. He studied electronic music at the Instituut voor Sonologie in the Netherlands, and studied Central Javanese gamelan with Martin Hatch, Andy Sutton, Sumarsam, and A. L. Suwardi. His current musical work includes solo performance as well as collaborations with laptop virtuoso Brad Garton, extended Mandolinist Terry Pender, trumpeter Jeff Kaiser, percussionist Tom Hamer, and visualist Mark Henrickson. Gregory works with Cycling ’74, a company that creates and distributes Mac OS and Windows software for audio, video, and multimedia innovators.
Although Taylor’s 1980s cassette-only releases on Art Level recordings are all out of print, you can find a brief selection from them here. Four early recordings from the USENET cassette projects, several of which he organized and curated in the 1980s, are online here. Some of Taylor’s other work includes Dust Theories (2003), From the Diary of Dog Drexel by The Scott Fields Enseble includes the remix “Medicated” (2004), Voiceband Jilt (c74 recordings – 2006), there(after), with Tom Hamer RTQE Recordings (2006), Remixes of various live performances by Brad Garton (2004-2006), Amalgam Edits/Gamma Details and Amalgam: Aluminum / Hydrogen (Palace of Lights, 2007), The Desert Fathers: Coptic Icons w/Jeff Kaiser (pfMENTUM, 2007), PGT: Temporary Habitations w/Brad Garton and Terry Pender (Loochtone, 2008), and a wide variety of PGT live performances are available here and here.
Tagged Alice Shields, Andrew Pask, Annea Lockwood, Brad Garton, Caly McMorrow, Cathy Van Eck, Composer, Dafna Naphtali, Douglas Ewart, Douglas Geers, Electronic Music, Erika Donald, George Lewis, Gregory Taylor, Guerino Mazzola, Hans Tammen, Jazz, Joel Chadabe, Joel Ryan, Judy Klein, Keir Neuringer, Megan England, Michael Gogins, Morton Subotnick, Music, Tae Hong Park, Terry Pender, Xenia Pestova