Ben Neill – Mutantrumpet hardware and software residency

It was a thrill to be back at STEIM for a residency to develop the next version of my mutantrumpet and to learn about new developments in STEIM software from June 1-13, 2014. Since first coming to STEIM in the late 1980′s, the ideas and technologies from this remarkable institution have been the essential components of my work as a composer/performer. The software and hardware tools from STEIM are truly unique, and integral to the way I create and perform.

The first part of the residency was devoted to redesigning the electronic hardware of my hybrid electro-acoustic instrument, the mutantrumpet. Currently I am still using the STEIM Junxion board which was implemented in my last residency 6 years ago, but this device only works on computers with the older USB protocol so it needs to be updated. I worked with Frank Balde to create a new design using an Arduino board that will be implemented on a new mutantrumpet. New York based designers James Lo and Terry Pierce will work with me to complete the new instrument over the coming months, incorporating Balde’s configuration.

The instrument will debut next year at Stanford University in the premiere performances of The Demo, an electronic opera about computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart.

The Demo, live performance at the University of Illinois, February 2014

I also spent time learning the new RoSa software, Frank guided me through the structure of the program and I spent a considerable amount of time moving some of my LiSa configurations over to RoSa. While I don’t plan to switch immediately away from the LiSa XC setup I currently use for performing, it was great to get a start learning this new software, particularly spending time working with OSC rather than MIDI as the primary control medium.

The work with RoSa also gave me a new focus on Junxion since quite a bit of the control capability of LiSa has been removed from RoSa. I spent time working on a new piece that will utilize timers in Junxion to synchronize live sampling with RoSa and Ableton Live. This ability to work with rhythmically synchronized patterns in both programs will be essential to the new project, which is based on the sonorities and rhythmic structures of early Baroque music.

During my stay I spent time in the STEIM studio working on my new piece for a unique brass quintet and electronics, Manitoga. In this work I am utilizing 8 natural brass instruments in conjunction with the mutantrumpet in an outdoor, site-specific performance that incorporates field recordings and live sampling. It was helpful to work without distraction and the piece took its final shape while I was at STEIM.

 

I also had the opportunity to meet with Ivo Bol, another artist who is using LiSa and Junxion. It was great to compare our approaches and discuss the upcoming changes in the STEIM software platform. We discussed the possibility of creating a new LiSa users group or social media site to share ideas and solutions among STEIM products users.

Every experience I have had at STEIM has been extremely rewarding and productive, and the same was the case this time. The weather was beautiful, and the city felt less crowded than when I’ve visited before. Reflecting back on all of my wonderful times at STEIM made me a little nostalgic; I am ever grateful to the administration and staff for the amazing support I have received for my work here over the years. I love STEIM!

 

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