Every year, the Music Technology program at CalArts puts out a compilation of some of the best tracks produced by students, whether from an assignment or just a personal project. They are selected by a curating member of the major and assembled for free on Bandcamp, alongside previous years' compilations, and other documents of live shows, like those from the ChucK concerts.
The compilation for the 2012 - 2013 school year arrived a little behind schedule, but it was quietly released on October 28th. It features two tracks by me.
- Raphael Arar - "Notes from the Apartment" (5:45)
- Lewis Godowski - "Durin's Bane" (4:17)
- JAEGER - "sun i want" (4:42)
- Nick Suda - "Morse" (6:34)
- Mark Morris - "Arctan" (4:18)
- Devin Ronneberg - "Hyfy" (4:44)
- Andrew Flores & Ashley Jacobson - "Senseless" (6:12)
- Rutaraj Wankhede - "Untitled" (4:52)
- Nick Suda & Andrew Flores - "Sneezestep" (4:59)
- Christopher Knollmeyer - "Ewan" (1:09)
- Jingyin He - "Stateless" (2:48)
- Youngmin Joo - "December Frost" (3:57)
- David Howe - "Cochlea Envy" (5:57)
- Bruce Lott - "Club 33 (Mutek Mix)" (4:23)
My first piece, "Morse," was a composition for Ajay Kapur's Composition for Robotic Instruments class. While the bulk of our semester was spent repairing Ajay's famous robots - such as MahaDeviBot, GanaPatiBot, and BreakBot (and also the RattleTron and Dimitri Diakopoulos' Glockenbot)- from the state they were left in following the move back into the Machine Lab from being used in Samsara, we also installed a new permanent robot, the Clapper, which is a series of solenoid strikers attached to blue LEDs that tap along a grid on the ceiling of the Machine Lab. Then, we very quickly assembled our compositions. They were presented at a concert event called Meet the Bots in late 2012 in the Machine Lab.
Each piece interpreted the idea of "composing" for the robots - which were radially distributed all around the room - very differently. Eric Singleton augmented a traditional Ableton Live-based through composition with reinforcement percussion from the robots. Jon He used a Monome playing John Conway's "Game of Life" to procedurally trigger accelerometer-augmented rhythms amongst the robots. Kameron Christopher leveraged neural network techniques with brainwave-reading sensors to play a piece with his mind. I just wrote a through composition using only the robots, which was a multi-section sort of thing that I've never quite written similarly to before.
I made a point of primarily basing the composition around Trimpin's permanent exhibit installation inside the Machine Lab - the JackBox. Many people avoid working with the JackBox when exposed to the robots because it's difficult to work with; its MIDI mapping is very complex across many different kinds of instrumentation (toy tennis rackets, shotglasses, single-stringed fretless guitar and bass necks), and because it operates in a mixed amplified and acoustic setting, and also responds quite inconsistently to the MIDI commands issued to it, in terms of velocity response and the pickups feeding back and such. Consequently, playback of my piece was pseudo-performative on my behalf, in the sense that I had to mix the electric stringed parts on the Machine Lab's mixing console as the piece was happening, even crawling off of a moment of feedback.
My second piece, "Sneezestep," was I think the third piece of music I ever composed and performed at CalArts, after the two from Decoding Dreams. It was a first attempt at wrenching myself away from through composition, of breaking the singer-songwriterly ways of working in ACID from the days of old to trying to figure out how to be performative. My partner Andrew Flores and I found a common ground in old, super-distorted, funky, aggressive tracks by LFO from the early 90's especially "Tied Up," and this became our main reference point for the ensuing track.
It was also the feature piece for some of my earliest compositional experiments with TouchOSC and later Lemur - and consequently the template which would eventually grow into the iPad-based instrument I'm creating now. There was also lots of use of using the Arpeggiator model to constantly re-trigger new sequences of two-bar phrases by mapping them to keys and holding them all down - one of my favorite Ableton Live tricks. It was a very rigid structure and in many ways a difficult project to realize, but that bubbling, industrial bassline I added at the last moment really gave the track what it needed.