Showing posts from 2011

My December readings

During this month of December 2011, I spent some time learning more about Physical Computing and the related topic Embedded systems . Here are the two books I found great: The first is the reference in the domain of physical computing for artists: Physical computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers . It is a very good reading to get started with connecting sensors and actuators to multimedia computers. The second is a book about PIC micro-controllers: Designing embedded systems with PIC microcontrollers . It requires a little more scientific background, and is not specifically written for artists, but it is a thorough introduction to the world of micro-controllers. I am going to include more physical computing studies in the course I teach in the "Multimedia Master - Music & Sound track", at the University of Franche-Comté. I'll let you know about that, in 2012! Happy new year!

Composit: a new music festival for composers

Young composers, get ready for Compos it , a new international summer music festival for composers. Dedicated to new music, this festival is staring, for its first edition (Summer of 2012), French "spectral" composers Joshua Fineberg & Tristan Murail . I wish all the best to this exciting project. Organizers include two dear friends of mine: Davide Ianni , who got a Ph.D. in music/composition from Boston University, and who is a very active music professional in the Boston area. Gabriele Vanoni , whom I studied with at Harvard University. If you are a young composer looking for a great experience in Italy next summer, make sure you visit the composit web site and get in touch with the organizers to get more details.

Electro-chamber music: playing with delays

The second session of our Electro-chamber music class was dedicated to delays. We played with a great piece of gear: the Boss DD-7. It's a powerful compact digital delay pedal, complete with expression pedal input to continually vary the delay time for instance. But to fully understand what's going on when we're using such gear, knowing about the history of delay effects comes very handy. Analog tape delays That's why I introduced in class a couple of great musical examples featuring tape delays. Of course, two major actors in 20th century electronic music are mentioned: the group Pink Floyd and composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Here are a few visuals: David Gilmour used a Binson Echorec extensively with Pink Floyd between 1968 and 1977.   The very first commercialized guitar delay was inside the Echosonic amplifier   Excerpt from Ray Butts' patent for the tape delay inside the Echosonic. Check out the recording head (REH) and the play head (PH).   O

10 Max patches for spectral sound processing

The 10 Max patches I designed for my workshop in Brooklyn on October 11th, 2011 are online. Download them from cycling74 : Live spectral processing . The set includes : 5 patches to have fun with audio freeze 4 variations on a phase vocoder a live machine learning tool - yes, machine learning we can use musically! Many thanks to Rob, from cycling74, who took the picture and sent it to me! Hope to see you again soon!

Beyoncé is the... one

I got interested in Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker 's choreographic work when I was a student at Strasbourg Conservatory . Around 2003, Marie-Claude Ségard, head of the conservatory, organized a visit to the dance school lead by the choreographer : P.A.R.T.S , in Brussels - I was invited and it was a great experience. At the same time, I and a couple of friends were playing Thierry De Mey's music: we performed a Maximalist! program during the international contemporary music festival Musica . You can imagine my surprise when, on October 27th, aboard the Boston-NYC Chinatown bus, I came upon the following note in the People section of the New York Times: I must confess that, among all of the new music I've been listening to this year, Beyoncé's album 4 (sponsored link) ranks at the very top. Anchored in the tradition, she is also innovating, but as importantly, the production quality is up to high standards. I was glad to read that Beyoncé completely acknowledges havi

Max/MSP: programming guide for artists

During Expo '74 in Brooklyn, New-York, it was great to meet again with composer Francisco Colasanto . But Francisco is much more than a composer, starting with being currently the technical coordinator of the Mexican Center for Music and Sonic Arts ( CMMAS ) . If you are interested in programming interactive music, especially in the software package Max MSP, I encourage you to check out his book: Max/MSP: programming guide for artists ( ). This first volume helps artists getting started with visual programming in the Max MSP environment. On the book's web site, you will find all of the "patches" illustrating the tutorials. Francisco is currently working on the second volume, an e-book including tutorial videos: it will be one more great addition to the electronic music litterature. To know more about Francisco and this book, make sure you read his interview on cycling74 web site . Finally, discover on the following video Francisco Colasa

Dr. Yannatos passed away

Dr. Yannatos passed away yesterday, October 19th, 2011. I have been his teaching assistant the last semester he taught orchestral conducting at Harvard University, in the Spring of 2009. I remember his sharp humor. His great experience was very valuable to the undergraduates who were taking his class. The Harvard Music Department has not yet announced the news on their web site, but I guess they are going to plan a celebration concert. Besides being a great musician and a charismatic conductor, he was a true educator. Published in 1978, his book Explorations in musical materials: A working approach to making music was written while Dr. Yannatos was teaching elementary composition to students with little musical training. Just a quote from the preface: When teachers reexamine the elements of music with the fresh perspective and perceptions of their students, they can better organize their own understanding of basic musical elements - no matter what period of music they specializ

Sunday Max workshop

This is the list of patches I designed for the Max workshop I'm giving on Sunday in Brooklyn, New-York . It includes 5 "audio freeze" patches, 4 "phase vocoder" patches, as well as a surprise: a "live machine learning" patch. Stay tuned: I'm going to make all of these patches available online shortly after Expo '74 is over.

A mad musical scientist?

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this NPR program: The Mad Musical Scientist Of Burbank, Calif. It turns out to be a short portrait of composer and sound designer Diego Stocco . His work is very interesting: he is really at the crossroads of several musical traditions. Trained as a violinist, and still a bass player, he acquired valuable classical musician skills. But he is also a heir of Pierre Schaeffer : he is a true Musique concrète living composer. As in many cases, the traditions collide to make him a great creative artist! For instance, check out this 5 minute video showing parts of the creative process for a sound signature: A funny thing is that I just mentioned Diego Stocco as an inspiring person when I was asked a few questions by Cycling '74, in prevision of the workshop I'm giving during Expo '74. Read this short interview before this live spectral processing workshop with Max . And keep in mind that nobody needs any computer or any software tools t

Electro-chamber music: a new course

A new option at the Montbéliard Conservatory In French conservatories, some music students prepare the Diplôme d'études musicales (DEM) , a diploma most often with a major in instrumental performance, with an academic level corresponding to a high school diploma. In addition to developing their performance and interpretation skills, they take additional courses in Culture musicale . Next week, I'm giving the first class of a new course counting for such a Culture musicale credit. I entitled it Electro-chamber music (or, to be precise, Électro-musique de chambre ): The electric guitar revolutionized the course of music history by revealing previously unexplored sonic colors. Is it possible to further expand the range of possibilities by integrating our classical music intruments with electronic and computer technologies? All technologies are at our fingertips today, but how best can we use them to serve music? Such are the topics explored throughout this course. Each studen

The noligraph & Sibelius 7

I'm delighted to read the new features in Sibelius 7, but I'm also very excited cause I just received my first noligraph! Sibelius 7's exciting features Well, I'm quite happy with especially 2 features in Sibelius 7 that make it a more professional program. First, it can now import and export Music XML files. It seems like a minor update, but for many users it will be a very useful one, and it just makes sense that one of the leaders in music notation be able to communicate easily with many formats, especially the most open ones. Second, I love seeing the possibility to import natively SVG graphic files into Sibelius. It means that one can now generate a pdf out of Sibelius that can include the full vector based quality of graphics, for instance generated with Adobe Illustrator or other similar tools. It is no trivial function, but one proving that Avid has not forgotten serious music notators after integrating Sibelius to their teams. But what is a noligraph? The nol

Looking forward to Expo' 74

Expo' 74 , the second conference organized by Cycling' 74, is taking place in New-York City on October 14-16. The main product developed by the innovative music software company is Max , an environment to create interactive music, art, and much more. I'm looking forward to learning plenty of fun things there, meeting old & new friends, discovering Max 6 , and attending conferences & workshops. Among the community-driven workshops, I'm gonna check out the video-game prototyping in Max , lead by Ben Houge . I'm sure sopme of this knowledge would be helpful to the students in the Master "Multimedia Products & Services" where I teach a few classes. This Expo will be an inspiring event: expect more news about it in the coming months.

Classical concerto, modern cadenza

Concerto cadenzas may be written or improvised. Today, the performer of a classical concerto often plays standard cadenzas, composed in the style or transcribed from earlier performances. As we are going to see today, there are also more adventurous approaches. Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote cadenzas for Mozart's clarinet concerto & flute concerto No. 1, and for Haydn's trumpet concerto. The recording is available: Stockhausen conducts Haydn & Mozart (with his own cadenzas) . Beethoven improvises for Mozart... (details at the Beethoven Gateway ) For Harvard professor Robert Levin , himself an amazing improviser, a cadenza to a classical concerto is a real one only when it is improvised. And he is a master at re-creating the magic of improvisation within a given style. The new cadenza: modern, composed & improvised, with live electronics, too! The approach pianist Seda Röder took for Beethoven's Emperor concerto inherits from both the composer's and the i

Composing & Automatic Score Following

In the field of computer music, whether developing automatic score following projects is worth the effort is a debated question. While some composers find it absolutely necessary, others have been disappointed with the early results, or question the artistic need, and don't want to consider it. Yesterday at Ircam, Arshia Cont presented the anticipatory score following system Antescofo . The most important in Arshia's approach is that beyond technical considerations, he underlines the importance of the creative act. When you compose music for traditional instruments and live electronics, you should strive to conceive the electronic music at the same time as the written notes . The paradigm of the "instrumental score" separated from the "electronic music instructions" should have disappeared already! Thanks Arshia for your presentation, it's always a pleasure to see you!

Benedictus premieres tonight

I'm thrilled to announce the première tonight of Benedictus , the seventh part of my Arc-en-ciel cycle . I'm even more thrilled because the performance features two unique artists, with whom I profoundly enjoyed working: Isabelle Jost, a great singer and professor. I already worked with her in 2005 for the première of Zygomatic Jean-Marc Larché, the excellent saxophonist who plays notably in the Tarkovsky Quartet (they recorded on ECM: Tarkovsky Quartet's recordings ) Sacred music In the Arc-en-ciel cycle, Benedictus is associated with the color purple, and with the theme of spiritual life. Religion, life & death collide when the latin text meets Baudelaire's poem L'examen de Minuit , from Les Fleurs du Mal . The composition has also been inspired by the French artist Mylène Farmer . Tonight's concert Concert is taking place in Montbéliard, in the Palot concert hall, at 8:30 p.m. The program features many compositions for acoustic instruments and liv

Benedictus is a pop song

Last summer, I presented you with the first sketch for a new composition called Benedictus . A few weeks later, the sketch had received a number of updates. You can see additional layers on the most recent version: Well, this composition turns out to be a kind of pop song. The singer is accompanied by an electronic music track which production I just finished, and by a live soprano saxophone. Benedictus will be premiered very soon: stay tuned to get all the details!

Risorius: more musical laughter to listen to

I just uploaded a recording of Risorius , a composition for six singers premièred a year ago by the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart . Listen or download below: Risorius by Jean-Francois Charles On a post about the related composition Zygomatic , I mentioned other examples of musical laughters. Thanks to the Library of Congress, I must now add to this list a 1906 recording of different laughters , including one during the final musical piece...


Voilà! Photograph by Martha Stewart from the GSAS web site images of commencement 2011 It was a great pleasure to meet many friends in Cambridge last week. Thank you all for your friendship. Thanks for your support during my years as a Ph.D. student! Bénédicte photographed the early procession This Commencement was also a musical event. Tenor Plácido Domingo was made Doctor of Music. Then, hearing that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an opera aficionado, he improvised a little song for her (see embedded video below):

Commencement approaches

On Thursday, I'm having the honor to serve as one of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Commencement Marshals during the 360th Harvard Commencement . Last year, I played clarinet during a 6 a.m. procession to the Tercentenary Theater . For sure, this year will be different! Commencement 2010, playing an early gig with my friend Alan, and others.

Megumi Tabuchi's Ballade

My friend clarinetist Megumi Tabuchi just e-mailed me the youtube link to her version of my Ballade for dancing clarinetist . Thank you Megumi for taking the time & energy to learn this piece! Congratulations on your performance! I made the score available online in 2009: Ballade's score .

Multiphonic series & glissando : the fingerings

Following up on last week's clarinet multiphonic sound video , here are the fingerings for the multiphonic series: And for the combined multiphonic sound and glissando:

Sonograms of Clarinet Multiphonics

Last summer, I posted a few pictures of clarinet multiphonic sound sonograms (sometimes called spectrograms ). I just posted a new short video: Sonograms of Clarinet Multiphonics . It includes four sounds: Bb clarinet multiphonic series Bb clarinet multiphonic with glissando on part of the sound Bb clarinet split tone showing formants Contrabass clarinet from subtone to full sound (not a multiphonic, but such a rich spectrum) I'm indebted to Pr. Eric Heller , professor of the Harvard General Education course The Physics of Music and Sound , and to my clarinet teacher, Armand Angster , a specialist of all things clarinet.

Italian music in Boston

Tonight, don't miss the new music ensemble L'arsenale in Cambridge, MA: these great performers from Italy are playing music by composers Beat Furrer , Salvatore Sciarrino , Federico Costanza , Riccardo Vaglini , N. Buso, and Michele Tadini . Suggestioni, a festival of Italian music This event is part of Suggestioni 2011, a festival of Italian music in the United States. I am thrilled because both co-founders are composers, and friends. Gabriele Vanoni is a fellow Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University's Music Department , while Davide Ianni is a Ph.D. candidate over the river at Boston University , where he works with Joshua Fineberg . I hope they will get to collaborate with another remarkable composer of the same generation: Daniele Bravi . I just spent two great days in Roma, where he was a wonderful host. We have known each other since we were both fellows of the seminar De musica at Villa Medici with Pascal Dusapin . And we had a great time in Strasbourg, too, when

Analog synths rule... for education

I just got my first analog synth: a Waldorf Pulse . Today, most electronic music students work first with digital technologies, given the more and more accessible price of computers. That's one more reason why music schools should certainly keep on investing in analog gear. Analog synthesizers that I would suggest as teaching tools include the Moog Voyager series, or in the vintage ones, the Korg MS-20 : students can work at home with the iPad iMS-20 app or with Korg's own software emulation . Of course, at Harvard, we had 24 hour access to the Huseac studios, with their prototype Serge synthesizer and Buchla 100 modular synth ... Hard to replicate! I chose a Waldorf Pulse because it is rack mountable, and because of its extensive MIDI capabilities, including complete SysEx commands. That's great when you want analog synths to work nicely with modular digital environments such as Cycling 74's Max . But I'm surely going to use it for educational purposes too: I'

Harvard, Jazz, and graduate students, too!

This week-end, Harvard is celebrating 40 years of jazz , and the Boston Herald finds this is cool . The jazz program at the college has been lead by trombonist Tom Everett since 1971! If you're in the area, don't miss the concert on Saturday in Sanders Theater. The 1972 Harvard Jazz Band! But remember that Dudley House , the graduate students center at Harvard, hosts a dynamic jazz program as well! One of the great recent events was the performance of Mary Lou Williams ' Zodiac Suite, a project led by my friend Michael Heller. Make sure you read the fascinating article written by scholar Ryan Banagale: a comparison of the Dudley House performance with historical recordings .

Basset horn & live electronics: Electroclarinet 3

Looking for the studio album? Visit During my guest talk on Music & digital art , I premièred Electroclarinet 3 , a new composition for basset horn & live sound processing. The piece is an homage to Carl Maria von Weber , who composed lots of great music for clarinet. The theme, which manuscript you can see above, was inspired by the theme from Weber's Opus 33 (7 variations for clarinet & piano). At a larger scale, the form draws on Weber's composition as well: Theme Four parts corresponding to the Variation III (Adagio) of the Opus 33 Coda referencing the Opus 33's final seven measures I couldn't resist including a "WEBER" series of notes: W  Mi / E E   Mi bémol / Eb B   Si bémol / Bb E   Mi bémol / Eb R   Ré / D In the coda, these notes are transposed for the basset-horn:

Spectral music in Boston

Yesterday, the Boston Musical Intelligencer published an interview of Joshua Fineberg by composer David Dominique. I was lucky to work with Joshua Fineberg during my time at the Harvard Music Department . He was a great tutor when I was writing the article A Tutorial on Spectral Sound Processing Using Max/MSP and Jitter . But don't get fooled by the spectral word: I was not really talking about spectral music . To know more about spectral music, make sure you read the interview, and—even better—attend the concert on Saturday, March 26, 8p.m. at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts Concert Hall. You'll hear ensemble Sound Icon perform Fineberg's Recueil de Pierre et de Sable and Gérard Grisey 's Partiels . Joshua Fineberg's 2006 book: Classical Music, Why Bother?

Labanotation in Perpetuum mobile

Last week, I promised I would tell you more about my recent meeting with Jacqueline Challet-Haas: I wanted to check the dance notation of my Perpetuum mobile , a composition for dancing clarinetist. (Perpetuum mobile starts at around 2:27 in the video PPP for dancing clarinetist .) An excerpt from my dissertation. I have been interested in dance notation for years, and especially since the composition of Wu jú sè , a quartet for clarinet, double bass, five Chinese opera gongs, and dancer—incidentally, the first piece I composed in my Arc-en-ciel cycle. I chose then to use Labanotation (kinetography Laban), rather than other movement notation systems. I have been lucky to work several times with Jacqueline Challet Haas, the leading specialist of Laban notation in France. In August 2007 with Jacqueline Challet-Haas Jacqueline Challet-Haas will be a guest at the Conservatoire de Strasbourg during their event Rudolf Laban, le danseur de cristal , June 17-19, 2011. I think I'll be

Ballet books

Last Monday, I was in Paris to meet with Jacqueline Challet-Haas, the French specialist of dance notation, and more precisely of kinetography Laban (Labanotation). We talked about numerous topics, including labanotation (I'll let you know more about that next week) and my interest in classic ballet. I didn't know she had written a reference on the subject (in French): Manuel pratique de danse classique . Jacqueline is such an expert in movement analysis that I'm looking forward to reading her manual: I thank her very much for offering me a copy. The table of contents reads like this: Éléments de base (page 15) La barre (page 105) Le milieu, les pas (page 155) Fourth part (page 231) including table of common defaults and list of steps notated in kinetography Laban There are several editions of the book. The latest, from 2009, is there: Manuel Pratique de Danse Classique and at the publisher's site: Ressouvenances . Ballet books in English I started reading about bal

Harvard Music Library in the news

This is the untold story of this week's New York Times article on the International Music Score Library Project . It features a prominent picture of the IMSLP founder, with the following caption: Edward W. Guo's online repository of free, downloadable music works has grown to 85,000 scores, with additions every month. But what the journalists don't mention is that Mr. Guo was photographed in another beautiful score library: the Harvard Music Department's Loeb Music Library . And today, there are still more music scores in this library than in the IMSL (more than 168,000). The IMSL is very useful to find public domain scores. But make sure you visit Harvard's Digital Scores & Libretti : you will find treasures there. An excerpt of Mozart's Magic Flute overture. To get the news on newly digitized scores, read the Loeb Music Library's blog ...

Sound & digital art: guest talk

This Thursday, February 17th, I'm talking in the Cafés numériques ( digital cafés ) series. My talk is entitled Le son et l'art numérique (sound & digital art - link to more information on the series) I'm focusing on two topics: What does it mean to talk about digital sound and analog sound? what sound is short history of audio recording technology LP record versus CD why artists today (like Jay-Z & Kanye West) are still recording & mixing with analog gear in studios such as Peter Gabriel's great place advantages of digital technology... including the fact that almost anybody can play with sounds today! Inside a LP record groove: picture by Chris Supranowitz Do we compose differently with digital technology? Well, I'm answering the question in a very applied way: as part of the talk, I'm performing the première of Electroclarinet 3 , a new composition for basset-horn & live electronics.

Local news

These days, local means France: have a look at the article Les Échos recently featured on Harvard and the Harvard Club de France . But even more local means the Belfort-Montbéliard area, between Lyon and Strasbourg. Tomorrow Monday, I am the guest of Maïté's Pause Café on France Bleu Belfort Montbéliard at 1:30 p.m. That should be fun. But I doubt this program will be streamed, sorry!

New course: Introduction to electronic music

On Tuesday, I started teaching an introduction to electronic music at the conservatory of Montbéliard. I designed a hands-on course, during which the teenagers hear and analyze a few major works from the 20th century, learn about the nature of sound and its processing inside a computer, record sounds and compose original works. The students are musicians (they play piano, trumpet, bassoon, etc.), but it's the first time they're hearing about Musique concrète , Karlheinz Stockhausen , or DAW . The students must be able to work at home, so I chose to introduce two free cross-platform tools: the sound editor Audacity the DAW Traverso Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: the students are analyzing parts of this masterpiece, and learning a lot about electronic music. The titles of the course plan: Introduction to electronic music Part 1: Pierre Schaeffer & the railways music editing techniques from the era of magnetic tape Part 2: Pink Floyd & the dark side of the m

Electroclarinet 1 this Friday

Looking for the studio album? Visit Clarinetist and clarinet teacher Rebecca Pourchot will be performing Electroclarinet 1 during a concert in Montbéliard on Friday, February 4th. She did a great job at performing both the Bb clarinet and the live electronics. One of the main ideas behind the Electroclarinet is to have the performer play as organically as possible both the clarinet and the sound processing, as electric guitar players are used to doing so well! An excerpt of the draft score: Concert is at 8:30 p.m. in the "Palot" concert hall. Hope to see you there! You'll also hear music by composers Daniele Segre Amar & Lorenzo Bianchi, and by students of the conservatory composition program.

Musical expectations

Music composers are continuously playing with an audience's expectations . As soon as the music starts, the composer has already created expectations in the audience minds. Whether the listeners will get 100%, 50%, or 0% of the expected sounds, whether they will get them at the expected moment or later, all of this is part of the artist's choice. Here is a beautiful video featuring the great Bobby McFerrin . He doesn't need many words to show alive musical expectations: ( link to youtube video - Bobby McFerrin & expectations ) ( Bobby McFerrin on )

Start the year with a cool synth

For many musicians, January is the month of the NAMM show. Although NAMM means National Association of Music Merchants, they also call themselves the International Music Products Association, and the trade show is really an international event. Let's start the year 2011 with a cool synth, the OMG-1: This synth was built and presented by Eric Persing . It won't be a commercial product, but a prize in a competition to be announced. The instrument features true analog synthesis (a Moog Little Phatty), digital synths (a Mac mini is inside the case), keyboards and touch surfaces (here, 2 iPads and 2 iPods): there is little doubt that more than a musician will work with some kind of similar set-up in 2011!