Showing posts from 2018

A water clock to wish you a bright New Year

A picture of scientific glassblower Benj Revis and his wonderful water clock is featured in the University of Iowa's Office of the Vice-President for Research Holiday Greetings and New Year 2019 Card!
The picture was taken during the dress rehearsal for the Musical Chemistry show in April 2018. Happy New Year!

Writing Lyrics, Leonardo, and Music Business

From time to time, I share here some interesting readings. If you're curious, see what I was reading in 2011 and 2013. Here are three books I really enjoyed this year; I learnt a lot out of them! In July, I read Writing Better Lyrics(amazon links). Pat Pattison explains very clearly his vision on writing song lyrics. The book is well illustrated with analysis of song lyrics and practice exercices directly connected to the content of the different chapters. Moreover, as I am not a native English speaker, this book helped me understand song-specific concepts of meter and rime, which are very different than meter and rime in French poetry!As you can see in my work, I've been passionate about art and technology: it was almost obvious for me to read Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. It turns out that I had lost of pleasure throughout the book, even more than I expected. I learnt a great deal about Leonardo's life, and more generally about the history of art. I highly recomme…

Is the Serpent an Obsolete Instrument?

Let's start with some music: here Michel Godard (serpent) performs with the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio (fortepiano, violone, drums):I am featuring the serpent in my current composition project, so I've been quite intrigued to see that Forsyth actually mentions the serpent in his great Orchestration book (amazon link) - I often recommend the string chapters to student composers. Here is what Forsyth says about the serpent (bold underlining mine):No. 44. Obsolete Wood-Wind.
The Serpent.The Serpent, as we have already explained, was the predecessor of the Bass-Horn, the Russian-Bassoon, and the Ophicleide. It was really the bass of the old Zinke or Cornet à bouquin, the instrument which supplied the normal treble-part to the medieval Brass-band. All these instruments, whatever the material of their tubes, employed the same methods of tone-production and of scale-variation–the cup-mouthpiece and the laterally pierced holes.Originally the Serpent was keyless. It was merely provided wi…

Digital Arts Projects Fall 2018

On December 3, students of the MUS:2800 Digital Arts: an Introduction course at the University of Iowa presented their final projects in the Voxman Music Building. Each group had a unique distinctive vibe, which made for a very successful Digital Arts Fair. I hope to share video excerpts at some point; in the meantime, here are pictures for three projects: a beautiful reactive Tic-Tac-Toe, the controls for a video Mood Enhancer and a couple oftrash instruments.

LOUi in octophonic sound

I'm blessed to have worked with wonderful students in the Laptop Orchestra at the University of Iowa this fall 2018. Among other things, Will Yager taught us the performance practice for Anthony Braxton's compositions, we performed Composition #228, Tyler Lubke composed a new piece titled Voyager about... Voyager, Joseph Norman put together 8-channel live electronics for his compositions Fracture/Morphosis (for trombone, violin, bass and live electronics) and La petite divagation (for bass and live electronics), Day Beyer built a custom metal instrument and composed Warning Bells for the ensemble. Finally, I had the pleasure to work with Anika Kildegaard (soprano) and Mauricio Da Silva (bass clarinet), who performed a new version of Nattie's Air with string metallic accompaniment (2 violins and cello amplified through transducers affixed to a tam, a Chinese cymbal, and other metals.)Here was our basic set-up for this concert:

Another Electro Clarinet

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet with amazing musician and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh. Not long after giving him a copy of the Electroclarinet CD, I discovered that he did gave a concert titled Electro-clarinet in Beyrouth in 2007 (here is a review)! That was a treat to have Kinan and his CityBand visit the University of Iowa. Kinan signed the music for the new video opera Iphigenia, a poignant multimedia work.

Electroclarinet album released

The Electroclarinet album in out! Available on most streaming and download platforms: Spotify, Apple Music / iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal, etc.Thank you for listening!

First look at the Sabre clarinet sensor

In October, we were lucky to meet with clarinetist and inventor Matthias Müller. He has worked for years on designing and performing with an augmented bass clarinet. Recently, he declined a portable version of the sensor system for any clarinet: the SABRE Multi Sensor. It includes an air-pressure sensor, a 3D accelerometer, two buttons accessible from the left hand, two buttons accessible from the right thumb.
I love how they designed the buttons for the right thumb. You can change the orientation as you wish.
Air pressure sensor and accelerometer are attached to the barrel.
Graduate student Mauricio Silva working with Matthias Müller. Easy to connect to MaxThe sensors transmit data through Bluetooth. We had things working quite easily when tested on a Mac. I immediately tried to build an interactive delay in Max. It worked flawlessly: the sensors send OSC data.Mauricio plans on using the sensor for one of his main projects this year. I'll let you know his new music will be available.

Cedar Rapids Opera Theater Season Preview Party

On Thursday, October 25th, the Cedar Rapids Opera Theater are presenting their 2018-19 Season Preview Party. I am thrilled to be working with them on an upcoming opera about Grant Wood: I'll let you know more about this work in the coming months. In the meantime, please come to the preview party: tenor Benjamin Kawsky is going to perform my song Flip the Page. In the opera, Grant Wood sings this tune while studying in Paris at the Julian Academy.

Prisma Meeting - Summer 2018

This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting my friends and colleagues from the Prisma group. The conference was held at Ircam, the Institute for Research and Coordination on Acoustics and Music. Örjan Sandred presented his string quartet, Jean Bresson shared his work beyond Open Music: o7, Jacopo Baboni Schilingi presented his recent projects, asking why would there be no composer in a fashion store?. Andrea Agostini showed the developments in the bach assisted composition library for Max, before Hans Tutschku showed applications of the bach project, when linked to Max, the Kontakt sampler, and more software tools. There were also interesting presentations by Vincent Iampietro, Michele Tadini and Sami Naslin, as well as Giorgio Sancristoforo.I presented the Live Geometry durational performance, as well as how we used the Axoloti platform for New Musical Instruments.The presentation that generated the most vivid discussions was given by artist and developper Cyrille Henry about hardware …

Gentiana Video

Gentiana is a composition for double-bell trumpet augmented with cymbals, guitar, percussion, violin and cello. It was premièred by the Nebula Ensemble on June 22, 2018, during their summer festival. They just posted the video of the performance:Gentiana evokes characteristics of alpine flowering plants. The three sections of the piece are: Esprit, Vertige (from around 2:50), and Racines (starting around 5:25).In Racines, you might recognize a traditional song... Let me know if you get the quote!For more information, see my previous post showing the true digital synths for string instruments.
The cymbals augmenting the trumpet's sound.

From Max 3.5 to Max 8

Cycling74 just released Max 8, the new version of the graphical programming environment for music, video, and more generally interactivity with new media. I won't tell you about all of the new features (multi-channel objects and patch cords, etc.), you can read that on their web site. Rather, I'll celebrate with a picture I took when I attended the first Expo 74, in San Francisco, in 2009. Yes, at this time, cycling74 had offices in San Francisco!An interview with David ZicarelliHere are a couple of sentences from an interview with David Zicarelli, cycling74's CEO. I believe the interview took place in 2001. I find reading these sentences so enjoyable, I hope it will make you happy as well!Are you surprised at the affection that users hold for Max?In order to get anything out of the program, you have to get into it in a way that demands a certain level of commitment. In many situations in life, commitment and affection are found together.What version of Max is now the most…

Digital Arts Projects Spring 2018

This Fall, I started teaching the third version of the course Digital Arts: an Introduction at the University of Iowa. Here are a couple of memories from the Spring 2018 edition of the Final Project presentation:See also the Digital Arts Creative Projects 2017.

Gentiana in Denver

Tonight, the Nebula Ensemble with guest conductor Kornel Thomas are performing Gentiana, a new composition for trumpet, guitar, percussion, violin and cello. Concert is taking place at 7:30 p.m. at the Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver.True-digital synth for string instrumentsI adapted Andrew Bentley's true-digital synth original design to string instruments: Violinist Arlo Adams and cellist Julia Emery trying out the instruments during yesterday's rehearsal:Program NotesGentiana evokes characteristics of the alpine flowering plants used to produce herbal medicine or distilled beverages. During the three sections of the composition, Esprit, Vertige, and Racines, the musicians connect traditional techniques to the physical nature of their tools.

Nattie's Air in Strasbourg

On Thursday, June 28, Françoise Kubler and Armand Angster are going to première Nattie's Air, a composition for mezzo-soprano, bass clarinet, and cymbal with live electronics. The cymbal is similar to the instrument I used to perform Absalon Crash during the NIME 2018 conference.The concert is part of a three day festival: Ensemble Accroche Note's Rencontres d'été in Strasbourg, France. A recital for soprano, clarinet, and electronicsHere is the program of this exciting concert:Luigi Nono: La Fabbrica Illuminata for soprano and fixed media (1964)Luis Naon: Ultimos Movimientos for soprano, clarinet and electronics (2013)Jean-François Charles: Nattie’s Air for soprano, bass clarinet and electronics (2018) – world premièreFrançois Bousch: Dualité Miroirs for soprano, clarinet and fixed media (2012)Philippe Manoury: Illud Etiam for soprano, clarinet and electronics (2013)

Absalon Crash @ NIME 2018

Absalon Crash is a composition for cymbal & live electronics. I performed the piece during the NIME 2018 opening concert. With composer Alex Christie and Virginia Tech's L2Ork laptop orchestra, we had the pleasure to perform right before Ikue Mori's 30 minute audio-video set!
This piece consists in an interpretation of Mirrored Resonances, the theme of the NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) 2018 conference: the sounds build on the natural resonances of the cymbal, which are delayed, transposed, reversed – in a way, mirrored – by the effects pedal.Program notesAbsalon Crash, a composition for cymbal and live electronics.
Homage to Søren Absalon Larsen.
A cymbal is equipped with a piezoelectric sensor and a transducer. They are connected through a custom-built effects pedal to form a feedback network. A performer acts on the system to explore different sonic worlds. The performer shapes the sound by using her/his hands on the cymbal to muffle or suppress certain fre…

Axoloti at NIME 2018

I'm thrilled to take part in the NIME 2018 conference (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) next week at Virginia Tech. I'll be presenting a poster paper titled Using the Axoloti Embedded Sound Processing Platform to Foster Experimentation and Creativity. We wrote the paper with students from the New Musical Instruments class I taught in the Fall: musician and computer scientist Andrew Willette and composers Carlos Cotallo Solares and Carlos Toro Tobon. I'll be performing a new piece, as well. More on that later!

At the Record Store: Art Ensemble of Chicago

So glad after my most recent visit to the Record Collector store. Look what I found: an original Made in West Germany CD from the Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Third Decade. I remember when, middle ou high school student, I discovered the group's music with the Urban Bushmen CD, at the public library...
The Third Decade is a great album; it also reminds me of my days in Lyon, when we attended so many ARFI shows (Association à la Recherche d'un Folklore Imaginaire).

Live Geometry

What happens when a video/new media artist (Daniel Fine), a composer, an engineer (Steve Baek) and a ceramicist (Andrew Casto) break out of their silos and collaborate for a year? Come to Live Geometry, this Friday 4/20, 4:20 to 8:20 in the Arts Building West, University of Iowa.Presented as part of Dada Futures.


On March 15th, I drove to Pittsburgh for the 52nd annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. I had the great pleasure to collaborate with ceramists Andrew Casto and Evan D'Orazio, as well as Engineering Professor Stephen Baek.We collaborated for the exhibition What We Made Sounds Like This, which presented ceramic pieces with live sonification.
Exhibition in Pittsburgh during the NCECA 2018 conference
Andrew Casto's Assemblage 158
From my notebook A core idea was to generate sounds from the negative space of the pieces. To this end, we inhabited the empty space around the 3D scanned pieces with 27 balls, which bounced around or inside the objects. The distance and position of each ball drove in real time a sound synthesis engine.
The three engines in Ceramix: physics simulation, visualization, and sound synthesis
Behind the scenes: live parameters in Max We took part to a panel presentation on March 16th: that was a great occasion to meet other artis…

Gentiana for Nebula

Composed for the wonderful Denver-based Nebula Ensemble. A composition in three sections, evocative of the Gentian, an Alpine flower.
On the illustration, the beginning of each section. I'll let you know more before the première, set for June 23, 2018.

Before recording six clarinets

Getting ready early January before the recording of pieces for clarinet & live electronics.

Carlos x3 @ I Hear IC

I Hear IC is a series of concerts taking place in different venues in Iowa City. On Friday, I had the pleasure of performing with composers Carlos Cotallo Solares and Carlos Toro Tobon at The Mill:Carlos Toro Tobon is playing the Buchla Music Easel, I'm playing a feedback cymbal with DIY FX pedal, while Carlos Cotallo Solares is playing the guitar and his DIY guitar pedal.We took the stage after the High Water Mark's bluegrass and Jill Abrusio's songs & ukulele; the night ended with a group of great young musicians, Non Prophet: check out their video.