Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Second to last draft of my Statement of Purpose

Now with expanded goal section!!

As an undergraduate, I went to Mills College to study computer science, but I quickly found myself gravitating to the Center for Contemporary Music. I studied electronic music with Maggi Payne, who taught synthesis techniques on a large Moog Modular Synthesizer. Its sound and musical possibilities captivated me, and I decided to double-major in music and computer science.

After graduation, I became immersed in Java and web programming and the dot com boom and I did not compose for a couple of years. I began creating tape music again in 2000, with an analog modular synthesizer. My method of creating music was to record interesting patches until I had enough of them for a piece, and then find an interesting way to mix them together. The compositional forms I used tended to be either intuitive or sonata form. After writing many such tape pieces, I branched out into acoustic instruments and focused on rhythm. In 2002, I organized a percussion quintet, for whom I wrote music.

That same year, I began volunteering for Other Minds, a New Music nonprofit in San Francisco. I was a driver for their festival and then I helped them catalog their tape archive and worked for them as a volunteer sound engineer. In 2003, I joined the board of directors.

Also in 2003, I composed a piece for a mechanized coin-operated toy piano nonette designed by Trimpin. The odd intonation of toy pianos got me interested in pitch and tuning. I studied Just Intonation techniques with composer Ellen Fullman and took on the Java Just Intonation Calculator project, for which I am now the lead programmer (see http://jjicalc.sf.net). My interest in tuning also led me to the fretless bass guitar, which I played in an improv art rock quartet. We had a few gigs in the spring and summer of 2003.

When I arrived at Wesleyan in the fall of 2003, I decided to focus on things that are not possible with my main instrument, the analog modular synthesizer. Taking advantage of being surrounded by performers, I created several compositions for acoustic instruments; I also played tuba in Anthony Braxton’s Ensemble. I worked with him: studying free improvisation and also helping him debug his SuperCollider patches.

My main focus, however, was studying SuperCollider with Ron Kuivila. I concentrated on tuning and on working with audio files using granular synthesis techniques. For source material, I generally used recordings of the voices of recognizable public political figures such as George Bush and various right wing pundits. Most of the pundits sound very angry, so I also include more meditative just intoned works interspersed with the politics. I’ve applied my homebrewed granular algorithms to process live audio input, as well.

At Wesleyan my music became more rigorously organized and algorithmic, and less intuitive. To some extent, this was because of the tools I was using, but I also began to feel that a purely intuitive approach had its shortcomings. I’ve continued to work on form and computer music techniques since receiving my degree. I thought a year abroad would contribute to my education in many ways: I was accepted into the program at CCMIX in Alfortville, France, in fall of 2005. I’m studying timbre, both how to manipulate it electronically, and how to make use of it within a form. I believe this will complement my interest in tuning.

Berkeley and CNMAT seem like the most obvious next steps in my path. As a long-time Bay Area resident, I’ve attended many CNMAT events that have affected my music. For instance, in 2002, I saw a concert where Professor Wessel improvised with Pauline Oliveros. He played granular synthesis algorithms where he processed sound from recordings released by Oliveros. That was the most convincing demonstration I had yet seen of granular synthesis and is what sparked my interest in that technique.

Of course, when I was a MAX programmer, I made frequent uses of objects developed by Berkeley, especially the multislider object, which was one of the closest things to a vector object available in MAX. Doing computer music means using tools developed at Berkeley. My primary music language now is SuperCollider 3, which uses OSC as a backbone for interprocess communication. This protocol was developed at Berkeley. In August 2004, I went to the OSC conference sponsored by CNMAT. One of the things discussed at this conference was the need for an authentication layer. The security problems inherent in SwingOSC seem to indicate that this is still an open problem. As a Java programmer, I’m both excited by SwingOSC and spooked by the huge security risks. Therefore, if admitted to Berkeley, one thing I would like to do is work on OSC authentication.

My primary goals are, of course, musical. I enjoy programming and technology, but I see it as a means to an end of creating interesting sounds. I love new ideas and I find that they tend to come from new tools. A new tool leads to a new way of thinking about sound, or vice versa. Being a part of a musical community also leads to new ideas, especially in a community such as Berkeley, where the goals are to create new things. I hope that being at Berkeley will take my music in new and unpredictable directions.

After graduation, I hope to teach or even become a professor. While I was a TA at Wesleyan, I discovered that I like teaching. Also, there are a lot of benefits for composers who are attached to universities, like access to performers and facilities and being part of a musical community. By teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and expand the userbase for my favorite tools. There is no better path to becoming a professor than a PhD from UC.

Berkeley is my first choice for schools because of its excellent reputation and because it is a leader in developing computer music technologies. With my background as a computer programmer, I hope to be able to help develop the next pieces of audio software and to use them to create art. Berkeley is ideally situated for me both in terms of educational philosophy and physical location. While there, I would be able to continue all of my interests: composing, performing, improvising and programming, and I would be returning to the Bay Area: my home and a place where I have many musical contacts.

The added new paragraphs are as rough as ring-modulated square waves . . . Or ten cent off tones . . .. Ahem. Going to submit this before midnight tonight Pacific Time.

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2 comments:

Polly Moller said...

I think it should be "percussion quintet, for WHICH I wrote music", rather than "for whom". The quintet being a collective and not a person.

Les said...

thank you. change made. I worked on the last few paragraphs:

Doing computer music means using tools developed at Berkeley. When I was a MAX programmer, I made frequent uses of objects developed by Berkeley. My primary music language now is SuperCollider, which uses OSC as a backbone for interprocess communication. This protocol was developed at Berkeley. If admitted, I would like to work on programming computer music tools. In August 2004, I went to the OSC conference sponsored by CNMAT. One of the things discussed at this conference was the need for an authentication layer. The security problems inherent in SwingOSC seem to indicate that this is still an open problem. As a Java programmer, I’m both excited by SwingOSC and spooked by the huge security risks. Therefore, if admitted to Berkeley, one thing I would like to do is work on OSC authentication.

My primary goals are, of course, musical. I enjoy programming and technology, but I see it as a means to an end of creating interesting sounds. I am always looking for new ideas and I find that they tend to come from new tools. A new tool leads to a new way of thinking about sound, or vice versa. Being a part of a musical community also leads to new ideas, especially in a community such as Berkeley, where the goals are to create new things. I hope that studying at Berkeley will take my music in new and unpredictable directions.

After graduation, I hope to teach or even become a professor. While I was a TA at Wesleyan, I discovered that I like teaching. Also, there are a lot of benefits for composers who are attached to universities, like access to performers and facilities and being part of a musical community. By teaching, I would be able to share my knowledge and expand the userbase for my favorite tools. There is no better path to becoming a professor than a PhD from UC.