Greetings from Miami!
I spent two artistically inspiring weeks at STEIM. The first week I did the orientation workshop with two other artists: pianist and composer Eleonor Sandresky, and percussionist and electrical engineer Levy Lorenzo. I am a theatre sound designer and a singer/songwriter, so we were quite a mix. I found that this was great for exchanging ideas. The three of us were new to STEIM and to the concept of developing our own electronic music performance tools. I am glad that a place like STEIM opens its doors to artists entering the field, and I think this is important because it widens the span of the field.
The orientation workshop started with Robert Van Heumen’s introduction to STEIM. Robert’s presentation covered the entire scope of work that STEIM does, and this made me realize what a special place it is for electronic artists. His presentation also seemed to be geared at how artists can use STEIM, and it was exiting to discover the array projects that can be accomplished there. Robert also showed us the software LISA and how he incorporates it in his performances.
Takuro Mizuta Lippit gave us a great presentation about instrument design. He went over artistic considerations and different levels of technical knowledge. One of the things that I found most interesting were the examples of instruments created by STEIM or with the help of STEIM. There was quite a gamut of instruments and interfaces ranging form Michel Waisvisz’ CrackleBox to hacked Wii instruments, to Laetitia Sonami’s glove and Jorgen Brinkman’s web.
We had a session with Frank Blade, who gave us excellent demonstrations of the software Junxion using a joystick and a Wii remote. He also gave us a session where he demoed some of the traveling exhibit pieces, which I found very interesting and ingenious.
Daniel Schorno met with us individually and as a group. He gave me very useful pointers for working with LISA, and showed us his performance set up using LISA and several external controllers.
Jorgen Brinkman gave us a tour of his wonderful analogue equipment collection in the STEIM basement and showed us his special web with blue LED lights.
I was privileged to attend a concert that STEIM was holding that week with a season ending party. The concert had mix of international artist and musical styles. It was great to see how they applied the tools that we had learned about, and see the artistic side of electronic music with new controllers. Laetitia Sonami performed with her glove and later gave us an impromptu presentation of the design process for it. She also demonstrated her performance setup using Max/MSP.
Michel Waisvisz passed away the night of the concert. Despite this great loss, which also coincided with STEIM’s funding being in jeopardy, everyone at STEIM kept their liveliness up and remained exceedingly available for us. Everybody at STEIM is incredibly nice and courteous. They are extremely happy to show you their work or to explain anything. The people that work there are all talented in different areas, which makes STEIM a great resource for wide range of subjects. For me the best part of visiting STEIM was getting to know the people there. STEIM is a little gem in the Netherlands, which I hope will continue to grow and expand.
My awareness of STEIM came from my interest in using sensors in theatre to trigger aspects of the sound design. I brought my own sensors to STEIM and my sensor interfaces (icubex and teabox), but I had not idea what I would do with those tools outside of a theatre context. After being intrigued with LISA, I put the sensors aside and spent the second week trying out this software.
For a while I had been interested in exploring live sampling in performance, but I thought it was way too complicated for me. After being introduced to LISA I saw that I was wrong. LISA makes it very easy to catch sounds and quickly play them back live, however the challenge is to do something musically interesting with it. I found that composing music using a live sampler required a big shift in my composition process. When I compose everything is predetermined, there are no elements of surprise. Playing around with LISA I found that surprise is one of the fun things about performing with live samplers.
I did a simple exercise singing into LISA some predetermined notes, a chord, G: Bb: C, and then transposing it in LISA and layering those transpositions to create different harmonies. The idea was to sing a melody with words over that and to sample syllables and consonants to add a rhythmic element. I found that I never got to a point where I could always get the same results in LISA and since I am not an improviser, it was hard to write a predetermined melody. Again, this was a lesson for me about working with live samplers. Things can’t be so predetermined and making them like that isn’t any fun. At the end I left STEIM with this new notion in mind, which I will indeed continue to explore.
Many thanks to STEIM and I hope to be able to visit again with more projects!