This past summer I spent 10 days in residence at STEIM, where I was able to make progress on a number of projects, in particular on the installation component for a commission being created for ~nois saxophone quartet to be premiered in April 2019 at the Hairpin Arts Center in Chicago, USA, as part of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition.
The installation component can be installed for any duration of time–but is primarily intended to be interacted with as a performance space for this new work. The installation consists of numerous raw speaker cones of various sizes spread out across a large open dark room with some pin spotlights pointing horizontally across the space between 0.5 and 2 meters above the ground. Each of these speakers and lights can be addressed separately creating a multidimensional space of sound spatialization and light spotlights. For the performance use of this installation, each performer (in this case saxophonists) wear a wireless microphone that is inside their instrument. As they walk around the space, their quiet sounds are amplified through the speakers, using different spatialization strategies. Also, if they approach a certain speaker or set of speakers, audio feedback will begin to resonate in their instrument, allowing them to control the timbre of the feedback in the system. Different sound and structural events will trigger the lights to highlight and darken the space from various angles, calling attention to the spatial relationship of the performers, the speakers, the sounds, and the room.
While at STEIM I was able to spend time in the Pentagram (a 15 channel surround + 3 sub speaker system) to workshop some spatialization strategies for specific sounds. First, I recorded a set of improvisations using my eurorack modular synthesizer. I like using this instrument because it gives me a lot of tactile manual control over the sound while also giving me a lot of surprises so the material I end up with is a nice balance of deliberate sound design and happy accidents. Next, I programed a spatialization system in SuperCollider that would access the 15 channels of the Pentagram. Some considerations I coded into the software include: audio cues for distance such as amplitude, filtering, and reverberation ratio, audio cues for motion such as panning and doppler effects, simple motion machines such as circles and other basic shapes, and complex motion machines based on randomness or drawn spline shapes. By combing my eurorack improvisations with the control of my spatialization system, I was able to compose and record many gestures, textures, and phrases of spatialized audio, which I then was able to spend some time organizing and mixing, putting together the composition.
Another highlight of my time at STEIM was performing in the Connector Series. As a laptop improviser coming from the US, I am not yet familiar with the improv scene in Amsterdam, so STEIM was able to connect me with Yung-Tuan Ku a very talented percussionist and improviser. We did some rehearsing in the morning getting to know each other’s sound worlds and doing some recording for posterity. That evening we played a set that was one of the highlights of my summer.
Thank you STEIM for having me!