November 15, 2015
I am a media artist who has a fascination with music, sound, and immersive interactivity. Within that distinction, I also consider myself a music technologist, installation artist, composer, performer, improviser, and artistic scholar. My artistic work finds expression through new media and new technology, collaboration with fellow artists and scientists, and through the process of “practice-led research, research-led practice”.
My philosophy and position on music is defined as the “organization of sound”, regardless of whether this organization occurs through traditional compositional means, or is the product of a listener organizing the sound event/s they perceive. I consider this aesthetic philosophy to be descendent from the work of musicians’ Edgard Varèse, John Cage, and Pauline Oliveros; artist Marcel Duchamp; and philosophers John Dewey and Marshall McLuhan. From this position, it can be said that an orchestral composition is equal in its potential musical validity to the temporal experience of sitting in the forest and listening to the way trees accentuate the harmonic relationships present in the wind.
Building from this definition, the music I now compose or play explores two major concepts; interactivity and system theory. The former involves the consideration of interactive relationships between agents; be they human or digital. This implies the potential for all agents engaged in an interactive relationship of enacting change in any other agent that is part of this relationship. The latter explores how organizational concepts from system theory can be used to create emergent art, as well as relationships to and within systems. Over the past few years I have found myself most active with two means of artistic expression; the composition of immersive interactive music systems, and creative improvisation. Both are natural vehicles for the exploration of interactivity and system theory. These two forms of art are also mutually beneficial and serve to support each other.
Creative improvisation, as I approach it, is the practice of making music or art without preconceived notions of form, style, influence, or outcome. This practice forces me to leverage the chamber music skills I developed during conservatory style training in music school, while at the same time digging into the sonic exploration of timbre, density, harmony, and space. It is the most involved and taxing creative activity I have taken part in, as it requires one to be fully present with everything presently occurring. I believe the communication skills explored and multi-media possibilities of this practice are an area ripe for exploration within academic creative practice.
My primary compositional activity over the past few years has been focused on sonic ecosystems. These are a sub-type of interactive music systems that are influenced from relationships occurring in natural ecosystems. The compositional process for a sonic ecosystem consists of defining relationships, rules, and interfaces for interaction between agents of the system. These composed interactions create connections and inter-reliance between every agent in the system such that removing any element results in changes to the entire emergent musical properties of the system. Sonic ecosystems can be presented as concert works or as installations. When presented as an installation, they become open-form, spatio-temporal installation compositions that allow for free exploration of the system by participants. In this way a participant to this sonic ecosystem has the time necessary to become part of the system, to explore the relationship between agents, and to find meaning in the emergent music. When presenting these sonic ecosystem compositions as installations, I encourage participants to improvise and make music in any way they feel comfortable within the space; thereby interacting with the digital agents and subsequently becoming part of the system.
I made an artistic choice a number of years ago to move away from the classical acoustic music performance and towards computers as my primary means of artistic expression. The sonic ecosystem compositions are organized and composed within programming environments such as SuperCollider, Max, and Python. These sonic ecosystems are made aware of the world through transducers such as microphones and cameras, and have the ability to interact with the world through speakers and physical controllers. The benefit of using these tools is that they enable collaborative possibilities with other artists and scientists. By using code-based environments that are highly flexible, I can easily bring in new tools from research fields such as music informatics, immersive audio, and virtual reality. Since these programming environments, particularly Python, also serve as standard development tools for scientists, I am able to work as a collaborator with scientists and engineers. I am able to create real-time interfaces to their work, offering them novel creative opportunities for their research. Through a number of these collaborations I have been able to further the artistic practice of sonic ecosystem composition while giving scientists application data for their latest technologies.
As I continue my path as a musician and artist, I intend to continue deep explorations of interactive systems, immersive art, virtual reality, ecosystems, and improvisation.