Since three years STEIM has a yearly exchange program with the „California Institute of the Arts“ (CalArts) in Los Angeles. This year three graduate students from CalArts‘ „Experimental Sound Practices“ master program came for an intense week of working and exploring.
The ensemble consists of the students Casey Anderson, Aniela Perry and David Casey, together with the director of CalArts‘ Computer Music and Experimental Media studios, Clay Chaplin. The group started as part of a class at CalArts called „music and image“ which focusses on audio-visual improvisation, networked performance systems, computer music performance practice and composition. The students have a background as instrumentalists and composers and are experienced in working with live electronics. In addition to working with sounds the group also integrated visuals which can be manipulated by the sound of the individual members of the ensemble. The plan was to create a 30 minute piece which could be presented in a lecture-presentation kind of setting at the end of the residency.
Text & video by Christoph Scherbaum.
The group wanted to use their stay at STEIM to get to know new interface technologies and to work on their capabilities of controlling computers on a network to improvise with sound and video. First thing they changed was their setup in the space: rather than having everybody just sitting on a table next to each other the group decided to set up in a circle surrounding the audience. Then the networking aspect was scaled down because it took too much of the improvisers’ attention away from the actual playing. Most of the remaining time was spend on building instruments and controllers: Clay got a rebuilt of his wireless glove instrument (done by Byungjun Kwon) and reprogrammed the corresponding sound-engine on his computer. Dave worked on using a Realplay gamecontroller (containing an accelerometer) to alter samples played back on his computer using STEIM‘s junXion software and also build a „virtual drum kit“ using contact microphones. Casey used cheap microphones to record sounds from inside his saxophone and process them on his laptop using the software Supercollider. Aniela got a modified version (built by Daniel Schorno) of STEIM‘s „Crackle-Box“ which can be used in conjunction with her cello. All the instruments can be seen in the video documentation. The idea was to always keep the physicality of playing a „real“ instrument, to be able to improvise and really perform with the laptop and not using the computer‘s keyboard or trackpad.
Looking back the ensemble was really pleased with the results of the residency and the final presentation. Although most of the time went in developing and not in actually playing the new instruments the group could increase their possibilities for performing and improvising together. The ensemble has three upcoming performances at venues in Los Angeles and is looking forward to continue and refine what they have achieved during their stay at STEIM.
Clay Chaplin: http://music.calarts.edu/~cchaplin/
David Casey: http://www.drcaseymusic.com
Casey Anderson: http://www.ctandersonmusic.com
(photo’s above by Christoph Scherbaum)
Photo’s by Daniel Schorno about Aniela Perry’s modified version of STEIM‘s „Crackle-Box“