Commission Music

Commission Music
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Monday, 27 January 2003

Mills College Music Supplemental Application

1. Submit an annotated, representative list of your works, including both electronic and non-electronic works. List and describe your work in other media (i.e., film, video, theatre, dance, multi-media, etc)

In addition to the works in my CD portfolio, I

  • Worked on an installation in the Exploratorium as a part of their Second Wednesday Art Series. I worked with two other people to put contact microphones on three exhibits that had moving parts. We then amplified the sounds, unprocessed, and played them out of small speakers placed near the exhibits, so people could hear the quiet sounds of the machinery, which they might not otherwise hear. Also, for the same event, I wrote a MAX patch to create the kind of feedback loop that Alvin Lucier used in his piece I am Sitting in a Room.
  • I also wrote a Toy Piano Nonette in response to a call for scores for an installation by Trimpin. The piece was selected for inclusion. The score, the call for scores and an article about the installation are included in this mailing.
  • I wrote a duet for tuned percussion tubes. The piece uses differently lengthed loops set against each other, so, for instance, the first player plays a four-beat pattern three times and the second player plays a three beat pattern four times. The piece was premiered at an art opening, at a caf�, where a local artist was having an exhibition.

2. Which contemporary composers have been most influential in your own compositions? Why?

The most influential composers have been my teachers, especially Maggi Payne and John Bischoff. Maggi first introduced me to analog synthesis and modular synthesizers, which has been my medium of choice ever since. Her sound aesthetic has also greatly influenced my own. She has had a profound influence on how I think about sound and music.

Although I only took one class with Bischoff, it was my first class at CCM. He was fond of telling his students that the weaknesses of any musical system were also its strengths. Since then, I am constantly looking for artifacts of sound processing and ways to amplify them or use them in composition. One of the pieces in my CD portfolio, Breaking Waves, is based on the artifacts of mp3 conversion.

The most influential composer aside from my instructors is John Cage. I was listening to the radio when I was a freshman in high school and they started playing Lecture on Nothing. It was the version with a woman narrating. I had never heard of John Cage and I had no idea what I was listening to, but I stopped everything I was doing to listen. It was like nothing I had ever heard, but it seemed to be somehow related to the Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger that I had been reading for my English class when the piece started. The piece stayed in the back of my mind until I was at Mills I took a seminar class on John Cage, taught by David Bernstein. Since that class, I�ve read many books by and about John Cage. His thoughts have influenced me on questions such as, �what is art or music?� and issues, such as anarchism. My senior concert, a collaboration with Christi Denton, was modeled on a Musicircus. One day I hope to live in a society modeled on John Cage�s poem, Overpopulation and Art.

Alvin Lucier�s work has influenced my own, especially his piece I am Sitting in a Room. I wrote a MAX patch to create the kind of decay loop that he uses in that piece. This was written for an installation at the Exploratorium, but I�ve used it in pieces since. One of these, Drum Decay, is on my CD portfolio.

The music and writings of Pauline Oliveros have influenced me. I like her sound. I have a book of her sonic meditations that I like to use. I organized a percussion group to play my music and the music of some of my friends. Some members of the group were not always listening to each other. I found that starting rehearsals with Oliveros� Deep Listening exercises helped this a lot and that we were able to get more done as a result. I�ve talked to her and read her book Software for People and have tried to incorporate her ideas into my own thinking.

Another influence is Annea Lockwood. I�ve always liked her work, ever since Maggi Payne introduced me to it. Last year, I had the good fortune to be hired as the driver for the Other Minds festival. As a result, I had several conversations with Annea. We talked about electronic music and how sometimes it doesn�t seem to have �air� in it. This conversation inspired me to start writing a series of tape music pieces called Airwaves, the first three of which are included on my portfolio CD.

I�ve also been influenced by Phillip Glass, especially his operas. I like his style very much. I also read his writing on Einstein on the Beach. In that opera, he uses repeated phrases, but with notes added in the middle in different parts to create loops of different lengths. I�ve used this idea in some of my percussion music and also in other notated music, such as in the attached toy piano nonette, No No Nonette.

Steve Reich�s pieces that phase with each other have been a source of inspiration to me. One of the pieces in my CD portfolio, Phase, was inspired by this idea.

I�ve tried writing pieces based on the idea of Terry Riley�s In C, but so far have not met with success.

3. List the musical instruments you play and give some indication of the degree of skill you have on each.

  • I play the analog modular synthesizer, sans keyboard, but only to tape.
  • I play punk rock on bass guitar with my friends.
  • I played the tuba in the Mills College CPE five years ago, but have not played it since.

4. What is your level of experience with the hardware of electronic media? Indicate whether you have a comprehension of or design experience with circuitry and describe your experience with electronic music instruments, audio, recording/or other related equipment.

I can read a schematic and have experience assembling kits. I also built a theremin from parts and a schematic (not a kit). I took a class in math and analog systems and so understand how different arrangements of resistors work and could use this knowledge to build a plug for a signal that is too hot, for example. I have never designed an analog circuit, but I took a digital circuit design class as a part of my Computer Science degree.

I make extensive use of an analog modular synthesizer and understand some of the math involved in the patches I make. I also know some obscure tricks, for example, analog chaos, which I use in a piece on my CD portfolio, called Chaos Patch. I also use non-patchable analog synthesizers. My experience with digital synthesizer hardware, excluding softsynths, is limited to John Bischoff�s class in computer music.

I took Maggi Payne�s recording class twice for credit and have confidence recording to tape, analog or digital. For my own work, I record direct to disk using pro-tools. I have experience using protools for editing and have produced or help produce several CDs for Other Minds, an arts nonprofit in the City, to use for grant or promotional purposes.

I also use programs like Sound Hack to process recordings and mp3 converters.

I know how to use a voltmeter and a soldering iron.

5. What computer languages and systems have you had experience with? Describe the level of involvement, i.e., designer, programmer, user, etc. Include computer music systems and/or computerized musical instruments you have worked with.

In addition to studying Electronic Music, I also majored in computer science. I have worked programming in C, C++, Java, Perl, Javascript and various markup languages, including HTML, PHP, NROFF and GROFF. I have worked on systems running DOS, Windows, Linux and OS9. My preferred environment for development is Linux. My preferred environment for music is OS9 or OSX. Since OSX is UNIX, I would just as happily program for it as Linux. My last several jobs were in web programming. I have also worked as a release engineer. I informally wrote the Product Requirements Document for ChefMoz, a user-generated online restaurant database. I�ve worked for a short time as the Product Manager for AOL�s Online Music Group.

I know basic system administration. I know how to configure a web server. I belong to a co-location cooperative, where members share administration duties and costs for a colo cage in the south bay.

I started programming when I was eight years old. As soon as I started playing music, in fifth grade, I became interested in how the computer could also make music. I wrote programs in BASIC in an attempt to computer-generate music using arpeggios. In this way, I learned the difference between equal temperament and just intonation.

I now do most of my music programming in MAX/MSP. The only softsynth I�ve used since graduating is ReBirth. I would rather write a custom MAX application, usually, than go looking for software to buy or download. This takes a lot of time, so most of my music is analog. I worked for several months writing an algorithmic techno generator written in MAX. It is unfinished.

Please see attached resume for more information.

7. Is your interest in electronic media primarily for composition or research and design or both?

Both. I would like to learn more compositional techniques. I am also interested, especially, in algorithmic composition. After graduation, I would like to work as a music researcher at a center such as STEIM, IRCAM or ZKM.

8. Why have you selected Mills College for graduate work in electronic media?

Mills has a reputation for being the best place to study electronic media. It is also located in an area with a thriving arts scene. I�ve learned a lot from Mills already, and there is certainly more to learn.

Obviously, the influeces section needs work. it's really hard to write about.

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