Resonance Project Proposal
Album of Recorded Music
7-10 Original Compositions for Electro-Acoustic Instruments
Resonance (working project title) is an album of recorded instrumental music, written and produced for customized electro-acoustic instruments. Each composition will feature a live musician performing an electronically-modified acoustic instrument that expands the range of acoustic sounds available to the composer and performer.
Using MaxMSP, Arduino microcontrollers, and simple electronic components (i.e. transducers, servo motors, and physical sensors), I am building electronic instruments that excite natural vibrations, resonances, and electro-magnetic phenomena within an acoustic instrument's design. I am currently experimenting with prototypes for a variety of acoustic (or partially-acoustic) instruments: viola, cello, drums, electric guitar, autoharp, lapsteel. While the exact way that these instruments create sound differs (and is explained in more detail below), the designs are similar in that the resulting sounds are all generated acoustically.
I plan to record an album of 7-10 original compositions using 3-4 of these modified instruments. These compositions will primarily be solos and duets, written by myself, but tailored for performance by collaborating instrumentalists. Each composition will fall into one of two categories: studio recordings that have been thoroughly arranged, produced, and edited into a cohesive music thought; and structured improvisations, recorded live-in-studio, aimed at highlighting how a particular live instrumentalist responds to the spontaneous manipulation of their instrument. The over-arching goal of the record will be to raise questions about the boundaries of performer and instrument, with that of composer and producer, while offering variations on common stylistic tropes and production techniques found in acoustic and electronic music.
Compositions for performer and machine
Workshop Compositions &
Prototypes with musicians (on or off-site)
Build 'Performance' Instruments (off-site)
Record & Compose In Studio (on-site)
Edit & Mix (on-site)
Master & Distribute (off-site)
As I continue to build prototypes for electro-acoustic instruments, I will begin to narrow the scope down to 3 or 4 specific prototypes I would like to compose for (examples of these electro-acoustic prototypes can be found in the section below). Ideally, each of these prototypes would allow an instrumentalist to perform the acoustic instrument with something close to that instrument's traditional performance technique. The ideal modification can be controlled (either by the performer, or an algorithm) to produce a wide range of sounds, through controlling only a small number of variables.
Working with these instruments, I will compose 2 pieces for each modified instrument. The first piece will be thoroughly composed, edited, and produced by me, the composer, and will likely require more time for production. The focus of these studio compositions will be to capture the variety of sounds each modification can produce, and how it can be used in a musical context. The second piece will be a structured improvisation, that allows the instrumentalist room to explore and experiment with the instrument's modification within the confines of a loose musical form.
I plan to collaborate with the instrumentalists before the tracking process, by including their musical interests and wishes into the prototype. As I get working prototypes and sketches of each composition, I plan to workshop both the design of the electro-acoustic instruments and the pieces themselves. The instruments will then be finalized and packaged into a user-friendly housing, so that the performers can use the instruments as fluidly and musically as possible.
Once ready, I will begin tracking and re-working each piece in studio. For this record, I want to create an intimate, close-miced sound that exposes the mechanics and nuances of the manipulated instruments, as well as minute details in the instrumentalist's performances. The ideal studio environment would be an intimate, and acoustically dry room, that allows me to quickly move between composing, tracking, editing, and mixing.
The end result will be a fully produced and mastered album of original compositions. Additionally, I plan to make the instrument schematics, source code, and graphic scores publicly available online.
I am currently building prototypes for a number of instruments. The final instruments that will be used on the recording are subject to change, but the prototypes listed below give a sense of the direction the instruments will take me compositionally.
Viola - Vibrating Transducers
Arduino and MaxMSP-controlled transducers, piezo speakers, and vibrating elements are used to create percussion noises, and sustained tones that elicit natural resonances from the viola's body.
Viola / Cello - Resonant Feedback
Use MaxMSP, filtering algorithms, piezo speakers, and pick-ups positioned throughout the cello's resonant chamber to create a controllable feedback loop.
Drum Kit - Servos, Transducers + Mallets
MaxMSP and Arduino-controlled transducers, piezo speakers, and servo-motors strike and vibrate across a drum heads, cymbals, and auxiliary percussion in response to a live percussionist's drumming.
Prepared Snare Drum - Servos, Transducers + Mallets
A similar concept to the electro-acoustic drum kit (explained above), except using a single snare-drum. The drum can be prepared with a variety of mechanized snares, nails, and small hammers that can play or alter the sound of the snare drum. This example may work best as a purely electronic instrument, one that is pre-programmed and controlled via MaxMSP, as opposed to improvised performance by a live percussionist.
'Ebow' Modified Lapsteel Guitar
Build an electromagnetic string driver and feedback circuit (in the style of the popular guitar accessory, Ebow) into a lapsteel guitar to create sustained harmonic resonances across multiple strings at once.
Similar to the 'Ebow' concept above, an acoustic autoharp could be modified with an electromagnetic string driver, allowing for endless sustain across multiple strings at once. The autoharp's built-in chord dampers, could be prepared with foil, snares, nails and other commonly used "prepared" items.
Composer & Collaborators
Will Stanton - Composer & Programmer
Will Stanton is a New York-based composer and producer with a passion for experimental music and new technologies. Will’s work draws on his varied past as a classically-trained improviser and multi-instrumentalist, as well as his time as an audio engineer. Will has spent the last 7 years creating sonically compelling music and sound for records, film, dance, and concert hall listening. Many of Will’s compositions and arrangements integrate programming and advanced production techniques with an in-depth knowledge of pop, jazz, classical, and experimental music.
Will’s awareness of stylistic genres was honed by his time spent interning and engineering at a number of prominent studios: Brooklyn's Grand Street Recording, LA's Clio Award-winning Emoto Music, and famed hip-hop producer Just Blaze's Harlem-based recording studio Stadium Red. Will has also worked as the house engineer at live performance and new music venues with a range of performers, artists, and musicians as the house engineer for jazz and new music venues ShapeShifter Lab, La Sala, and Spectrum. Will has worked with a wide range of artists, musicians, publications and public figures, including Nels Cline, Roomful of Teeth, Snarky Puppy, Todd Barry, Ilana Glazer, Judah Friedlander, Baratunde Thurston, Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio), Vicky Chow, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ethan Hawke, Psychic TV, George Soros, Eric Schmidt (Google), Richard Branson, Mark Guiliana, The New York Times, Fox Business News, and VICE Media.
In addition to writing and performing his own concert work, Will has written over 13 film scores and works for dance. His compositions have been heard in venues including the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit, Toronto Film and Video Awards, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, and the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival. Will’s latest film project–a score for the short documentary film The Festival–was recently selected for exhibition at the 2016 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
Will is currently preparing for his 4th international tour as front-of-house-engineer and programmer for the Virgil Moorefield Pocket Orchestra. He recently celebrated the release of Énouement I & II with violist Jeanann Dara, and is currently in production for two albums of original music.
Will graduated with a BFA in Performing Arts Technology and Sonic Arts from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, where he studied engineering, electronic composition, improvisation, and Carnatic music under Stephen Rush and Bob Hurst.
Jeanann Dara - Violist & Improviser
Jeanann Dara has developed her own sound with modern viola performance, improvisation and composition. She has performed and composed with some of the finest experimental and new music artists, including Brian Chase (YYY’s), Lea Bertucci, Sam Hilmer (Z’s), Zack Layton, John King, David Linton, Jherek Bischoff, Dary John Mizelle, Spencer c Yeh, the Cassatt Quartet, Nick Hallet (voice), Robert Dick (flute), Frances-Marie Uitti (cello), and Rachel Mason (performance art) to name a few.
As a violist, Jeanann has performed on projects with Bjork, Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Joanna Newsom, Jon Brion, Max Richter, Nora Jones, and MONO. She is also a violist in multiple performance ensembles including The Wordless Music Orchestra and Soloists, SEM Ensemble, Anthony Braxton’s Tri Centric Orchestra, , Anti Social Music and Manhattan Camerata. Her blending of genres between art and classical music has allowed her to perform at venues including The Stone, Issue Project Room, Lincoln Center, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall, Microscope Gallery, Signal Gallery, Reverse Gallery, ART BASEL Miami, and the Satellite Art Show Miami.
This summer, Jeanann composed a live musical score to the Impossible Hour (Jorgen Leth) with Simone and Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead, was invited to participate in electro-acoustic research with University of Padova's ECCOL project, as well as being selected study interactive music, video, and performance as a as a fellow at the Atlantic Music Festival's Future Music Lab. Most recently, Jeanann released two EPs (Énouement I & II) with producer and engineer Will Stanton.
Jeanann received her undergraduate degree from The Juilliard School where she held the position as teaching assistant and continued her education at New York University where she received her Masters degree in Multimedia Composition and New Media. She is currently working on finishing a new collection of works to be released on Florabelle Records.
Related Projects & Experience
Electro-Acoustic Compositions & Collaborations
Below are a collection of my original compositions, which were written explicitly for an acoustic instrument with either a electronic 'tape' accompaniment, or for live-triggered electronic elements.
Failure To Observe - Piano + Processed samples triggered via MaxMSP
Twin (work in progress) - a demo of one track from an upcoming solo record featuring 11 original pieces for piano + electronics. The record is currently in production, and will be finished by year's end. This version of Twin is a preliminary sketch, and still has to be edited, recorded, and mixed.
Antelope Towards Lancaster... - Vibraphone + Tape Accompaniment. Commissioned for the University of Michigan, Museum of Art's exhibition Positive Space.
Énouement I & II - Slow
Énouement I & II are two EPs in a series of recordings I did with violist Jeanann Dara. The Énouement series brings together improvisers to record against a simple song structure. Each improviser was recorded separately, often unaware of what other improvisers had recorded. The multi-tracks were then sampled, processed, and edited into loops, from which the songs were then re-constructed.
In addition to producing and engineering the albums, I co-composed a number of the tracks, performed synths and provided arrangements for the electronic elements. The process of sampling and taking liberties with editing improvisers is something I would like to bring into Resonance.
Slow : Maria Minerva, vocals; Jeanann Dara - vocals + viola; Diamond Terrifier - sax + electronics; Brian Chase - drums + percussion; Will Stanton - synths + electronics
This Machine Breathes To The Rhythm Of Its Own Heartbeat
This Machine... is a composition for piano and MaxMSP-controlled transducers composed by sound artist Adam Basanta and performed by Vicky Chow. I tracked and mixed the recording. My experience working with Vicky and Adam helped shape my thoughts on how to use essential electronic components in novel ways.
Structured Improvisations & Live Manipulation of Sounds
An excerpt from an improvisation between two collaborators and myself.
Will Stanton - synths + electronics; Larry Kwartowitz - drums + percussion; Jeanann Dara - viola
Lester St. Louis
An original structured improvisation for piano, live MaxMSP processing, and cello.
Will Stanton - piano + electronics; Lester St. Louis - cello
The Western Enisphere
From 2013-2015, I performed as a member of The Western Enisphere Drone Ensemble, an improvising music ensemble co-founded by guitarist David First and violist Jeanann Dara, whose primary focus was to create psycho-acoustic music that evokes a meditative state. The ensemble often performed in different configurations, including members David First, Jeanann Dara, Sam Kulik, Jeff Tobias, John Bohannon, Clinton Wilkins, Brian Chase, Danny Tunik, and Will Stanton.
Zodiac (work in progress) - record of 12 ambient-drone pieces, each one corresponding to a certain Zodiac sign. The drones' pitches and fluctuations are loosely based on an assemble of tone-Zodiacs - arcane systems designed to connect celestial patterns with musical tonalities.
Interactivity, Programming & Algorithmic Art
In collaboration with composer and guitarist David First, I developed a Jitter patch that draws visualizes based off of manipulations to Lissajous patterns. The program was mapped to midi controllers and used for performance by David's Western Enisphere Drone Ensemble. The program was also used a compositional tool in some of David's solo work. Below are two examples of video pieces by David, using the Lissajous program.
From 2013 until present, I have worked as a systems programmer and audio engineer for composer and percussionist Virgil Moorefield (Swans, Glenn Branca).
In addition to handling duties as the front of house engineer for multiple international tours, I helped develop software that live-generates audio and visuals for the ensemble's 7.1 surround sound PA, and 40-foot projection-mapped wave screen.
Below is a video of a performance of Chakra Spiral from a recent Swiss tour.