Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Friday, 2 December 2005

Statement of purpose

Please describe your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for this field of study, your academic plans or research interests in your chosen area of study, and your future career goals. Please be specific about why UC Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you.

As an undergraduate at Mills College, 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 did not compose for a couple of years, but began creating tape music again in 2000. After writing many such, 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.

At UC Berkeley, I hope to work at CNMAT to learn more real-time techniques. Berkeley is my first choice for schools because of its excellent reputation and because it is a leader in developing computer music technologies, such as OSC. 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.

After graduation, I hope to teach or even become a professor. There is no better path to that goal than a PhD from UC.

Jean helped me edit that, because Jean is cool. She asked, though, does it answer the question.

so, um, does it?

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