Research Blog – I

Greetings!

This blog is a space for documenting my work during my Masters of Music in Performance Technology studies at Norges musikkhøgskole between fall 2017 and spring 2019. I’ll use this space to record both the breakthroughs and challenges I experience during my studies and research as I work towards my Master’s project, to be presented in the spring of 2019.

The original proposal for my master’s project was to create a collection of “improvising” algorithms that could independently interact with improvising instrumentalists. My goal was to use the SuperCollider programming environment to design “instruments” that would use information from analysing the current musical setting to make statistical decisions during performance: when to play, what/how to play, when to stop playing, etc.

I have since decided to go in a different direction; considering how important I consider the community aspect of music making, designing an autonomous digital performer would effectively isolate me from rehearsing and performing with other musicians, countering my own values. While I still believe this could be a future direction to explore, I’m now directing my efforts towards designing a digital instrument that I can actively use in performance.

I see the role of laptop performer as curatorial: not all the specific musical decisions are being made by me in performance, but I choose the frame within which decisions (or content) are made. In the way that a bandleader makes curatorial decisions about which performers, program, or venue to work with, the algorithmic programmer makes curatorial decisions concerning degrees of randomness/density/etc. without necessarily controlling the specific details of each sound event.

With this approach, the laptop performer is in constant dialogue with the software and hardware, both in “rehearsal” or prototyping stages and in performance as well. In a live setting, as the computer is left to decide the details of musical events, the laptop performer (from a curatorial perspective), must decide how contextualise the music created by the computer; this can be done by modifying software parameters, introducing or removing new processes, or by simply turning the instrument off.

As I develop this instrument and my curatorial approach to laptop performance, I’ll try my best to update this blog regularly with video and audio documentation of various performances, my thoughts on the process, and also some of the SuperCollider code driving certain elements of my “instrument.” More to come soon!

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