In July 2022, TaPIR put out a call for composers to collaborate with the lab on the creation of four new pieces. This concert presented the culmination of a nearly year-long commission and collaboration process. Each piece utilizes experimental computer music techniques, from computer vision and AI sound synthesis to multichannel audio processing and hardware hacking.
In the early 1960s, Karlheinz Stockhausen began to explore the idea of using the microphone as a musical instrument by altering its position in order to manipulate amplified sounds.
This idea, combined with many experiments on the tam-tam hung in the composer’s garden, culminated in the 1964 composition Mikrophonie I for six players, tam-tam and electronics.
The work organizes players into two groups of three, wherein each of the three players shares a role in shaping the resulting sounds. Two players produce various sounds on the surface of each side of the tam-tam; two additional players use microphones to pick up sounds while manipulating the microphones; and two players located in the center of the hall control the volume and frequency of the sounds as they are distributed to four loudspeakers.
This process was described by Stockhausen as “three mutually dependent, mutually interacting and simultaneously autonomous processes of sound-structuring”.
This performance by the TaPIR lab is part of an ongoing research project by Tim Roth documenting the reconstruction process for works with obsolete electronics.
MadLib is an electro-acoustic piece for open instrumentation with live electronics created using Max software. It was commissioned by Jonny Smith in 2021 from composer Louis Pino. The concept of this work was to create a piece that can be customized by the performer in a variety of ways thereby giving the performer greater creative agency and allowing for a wide array of potential musical outcomes. The concept of the piece is inspired by the word game, Mad Libs. In the game, the reader or group of readers is asked to think of and write down random words. These words are then used to fill in the blanks of a prewritten story, usually for comic effect. A core aspect of the piece is the performer uploading their own audio samples to then be manipulated by the patch in some preset and some personally customizable processes.
A study was held from October 4th to November 6th 2022, involving various TaPIR researchers learning, experimenting with, and recording their own versions of the piece. The goal of this experiment was to analyze how performers chose to perform and interact with the electronic accompaniment, and to evaluate the piece as a creative practical tool to aid in learning the Max software. MadLib premiered in April 2022 at The Space Between conference at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Both Smith and Pino performed their own versions of the piece in order to demonstrate how the piece can be shaped in a variety of ways by different performers.
Three Roses is a quartet for percussion, incorporating 2 technological devices to give the performers control over lighting and sound design. First is the MUGIC, a gestural sensor developed by violinist Mari Kimura, which you can see on each of the players’ hands. Second is the Arduino which controls the lights, and through the software Max MSP can respond to the gestures of the performers captured by the MUGIC. This piece was commissioned by Aiyun Huang for the TaPIR lab in the early stages of COVID, and as such has gone through multiple iterations from live concert performance, to remote collaboration, and eventually settled as an in person recording project.
Three Roses is split up into three movements, each representing a different breed of rose, and each representing a different stage of my grandmother’s garden. Moonshadow, a wide blooming soft purple flower, is a soloistic meandering walk through a fading garden, accompanied by each of the three other performers in the form of individual memories, underlying and influencing the wanderer. Knock Out, a bush of small and bright red roses, is a short and energetic dance between the four players, children running in open space. Heirloom, a descriptor given to plants which have not undergone selective breeding or genetic modification in recent centuries. As a young child, this garden seemed absolutely massive and could fully enshroud you from the rest of the world. Being surrounded by this cave of vines and flowers is one of my earliest fragments of a memory.
compound.transverse.oblique. explores concepts of fragility and fracture through simple electronic instruments built with Arduino microcontrollers and percussion instruments.
The Arduino instrument’s exposed circuitry presents a vulnerable and fragile aesthetic that became the central focus of the composition.
Throughout the work frail sounds dissolve as delicate textures breakdown and snap under pressure, creating an abstract composition that is intense and unpredictable.
compound. uses simple speaker electronic instruments that are extremely precarious both in their playability and its sound. Two percussionists coerce cracks, whispers, and buzzy screeches by scraping amplified coins across Almglocken while one percussionist plays a large woodblock with a vibra bullet and another rips large pieces of paper.
In oblique. a single timpano is used as a resonator for the Arduino electronic instrument speaker and the performer’s voices. Multiple percussionists perform overtone singing into the drumhead and manipulate its tension to create a delicate polyphony between humans and machine.
transverse. is characterized by electronic and acoustic sounds that are melted down and synthesized to create a bright, sharp timbre. Pitches begin in unison and gradually shift by microtones to illustrate harmonic cracks and fractures.