FLEFFLAB: The Microtopia Project was a full-semester, three credit course taught at Ithaca College in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. Through a variety of media, including video, sound, and text, students explored different approaches to the microtopia concept. A final project presented their own microtopia that raised questions regarding human genetic engineering.
From the course description:
This course explores the concept of microtopias through a range of theories and practices of emerging technologies, user generated content, sound, music and other structures. Students will engage in group projects that combine conceptual investigations of microtopias with digital interfaces, sound, music, and social media.
I meant to post this a while back, but what follows is a short review I wrote of a performance that took place at Cornell in early October with some well-known free-improv performers.
Tim Hodgkinson, clarinet
Chris Cochrane, guitar
Miguel Fasconi, glass objects
Barnes Hall, Cornell University, 3 October 2011, 8PM
In this, their first public presentation as a trio, Tim Hodgkinson, Chris Cochrane, and Miguel Fasconi gifted a performance of subtle intensity. Each one is prominent in his own right, with Iancu Dumitrescu, Anna-Maria Avram, Bob Ostertag, Ikue Mori, and Morton Subotnik among their combined set of collaborators. Hodgkinson performed on his trademark clarinet, Cochrane on guitar, tuning fork, pedals, and diminutive amplifier, and Fasconi amongst a set of fragile, yet resilient, glass objects carefully spaced on a closely miked table. This disparate arrangement nevertheless produced a superposition of abilities that never brought too much attention to any individual. The “Sudden” of the concert’s title referred not to contrasts in amplitude but rather to immediacy, to prompt relationships formed between the performers. Even when playing separately, their restraint enabled a certain resonance to be shaped between them, the attentive audience, and the prior sounds resting in the air.
Onstage in Cornell University’s Barnes Hall, under the nighttime shadow of an ivory tower, the first half wove a set that continually pushed against its limit, playing the weft of rhythmic gestures against the warp of held tones. Sensitivity ruled, as each took time to let the other two mesh their phrases together. Cochrane’s looped rhythms became linked to Fasconi’s playing of two undulated glass plates against each other, with unvoiced clicking keys on Hodgkinson’s clarinet completing the gesture. Electromagnetically-induced vibrations in guitar strings became multiphonic squeals became frenetic ringing of water filled-cognac glasses tilted to change their frequency. At one point Fasconi shook matroyshka doll-like fragments of glass, producing not only a rhythmic base but also a pulverized cloud of fragments dissipating into the air. Even at its most energetic there was restraint, waiting, letting things be.
The second set moved through a series of solos. Fasconi began at the rear of chapel-like hall, coaxing wispy phrases out of a hollow glass tube submerged in a flask. Returning to the stage, he blew into a coiled glass tube, at times letting the gurgle of sloshing water reverberate. Cochrane provoked the audience through feedback-snarled riffs that stood in direct contrast to what was already in the air; yet he massaged these wails into a harmonious dronescape that would make the Theatre of Eternal Music proud. Hodgkinson slowly meandered about the stage, his multiphonics being picked up by the mics scattered about and thus creating a wonderful phasing effect. Returning as a trio they became more animated with less room to breathe. Cochrane’s tuning fork rumbled against his pickups while Hodgkinson raced between registers. Fasconi’s screeching glass-on-glass induced a visceral reaction akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. Nevertheless, using mallets to ring tuned cylinders, he induced haunting bell-like sounds that, closing the performance, counteracted the deadening effect of the ever-present carillon in the tower outside.
Old children's electronic toy, audience participation
Untitled, for violin, circuit bent toy, and electronics, was an attempt to provide for audience participation in a concert hall setting. The idea was to provide an audience member with a simple, circuit bent electronic toy that he or she would then perform with a violinist on-stage. Engaging with the practice of circuit bending during a performance would hopefully encourage others to explore these techniques. Important to the score is the accompanying set of instructions, Simple Ways to Circuit Bend a Toy.
The PDF below is the score itself, written originally in lilypond. If you would like the source code, as well as the special graphics I made to indicate the particular buttons to press and knobs to turn associated with the toy I used, please send me an e-mail.
Score for a piece with any number of performers, instruments, and electronics. From the score itself:
“This is a piece that enables you, the performer, to choose what types of sounds the audience will hear. The piece is structured in five numbered sections, each of which is around 30 seconds long. In each section you will perform the sounds indicated by the given letter for around 15-20 seconds. For the last 10-15 seconds of each section, you will select the material that will be part of the next section, and then pass your score, with this chosen material, to another stand nearby. You should be making any sounds on the instrument during this time.”
First performed in a rehearsal with the Cornell Wind Ensemble in 2008. During this performance I also added granular synthesis and other noise produced in pure data, which is an optional addition not mentioned explicitly in the score.
On Fire, now known as Eksi Ekso, was a Boston-based chamber rock band in which I played electric viola. While I moved away before they became Eksi Ekso, I did stick around long enough to record on their first release, I am Your Bastard Wings.
voice, stepper motors, laser cutter, uCs, LEDs, water jet cutter
The boundary between subject and object is becoming ever-the-more blurred by the creation of new types of computational objects. Especially when these objects take the form of robotic creatures do we get to question the powerful impact of the object on the person. Couple this with the expression of internal, unspoken experience through the making of non-speech sounds and we have a situation that demands new thoughts and new methodologies. This thesis works through these questions via the design and study of syngvab, a robotic marionette that moves in response to human non-speech vocal sounds. I draw from the world of puppetry and performing objects in the creation of syngvab the object and its stage, showing how this old tradition is directly relevant for the development of non-anthropomorphic, non-zoomorphic robotic creatures. I show how this mongrel of an object requires different methodologies of study, pulling from actor-network theory to examine syngvab in a symmetric manner with the human participants. The results of a case study interaction with syngvab support the contention that non-speech sounds as drawn out by a robotic creature are a potent means of exploring and investigating the unspeakable.
syngvab, along with syngvaa, were my Master’s thesis projects at the MIT Media Lab.
sigtronica is a weekly one-hour radio show on WMBR 88.1FM in Cambridge. The show features experimental music from the early twentieth century to the present, focusing on the history and development of electronic music. It has an international audience and serves an outreach function, facilitating airplay for little-known artists.
ætherspace is a computational garment that uses transducers of electro-magnetic waves to turn “Hertzian space” into sonic waves, giving the wearer a better understanding of the electronically-embodied world. What is the sound of the imperceptible becoming perceptible?