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works for live performer and interactive computer


Since about 2001 I have been working with the object-oriented program MaxMSP. I have been using this application primarily to build interfaces for live, interactive music and improvisation. I have also been utilizing MaxMSP to teach the basics of digital audio to my students at Syracuse University.

Recently, I have composed 2 pieces that use MaxMSP as an interface for linking a performer with a computer. In 2003 I composed Schism, a series of three improvisatory pieces for saxophone and computer (see the list of works link). In 2006, I composed Shadowed, a piece for soprano saxophone and computer, using a very similar interface, though this time the saxophone music is completely written out, and the computer, using MaxMSP, follows the saxophonist during the performance. Next, I would like to incorporate more than one instrument and computer. Future projects include a piece for saxophone quartet (each instrument with a separate mic) and computer that is being proposed to be premiered at a future North American Saxophone Alliance conference.

“inter-sax-tive” is a series of improvisational works for saxophone and interactive computer. The major difference between “Interplay” and many traditional works that combine live instruments with electronics is the fact that in these works the computer and the performer interact with one another in real time. Each piece consists of a collection of pitch materials and special effects that the saxophonist improvises freely with. The computer reacts to the saxophonist producing a series of sounds based on what the saxophonist plays. The computer is also capable of creating random elements throughout a work, thus allowing the saxophonist to react to the computer. The interactive computer environment is designed to maximize flexibility in performance to generate, layer, and route musical material with the same improvisational freedom that one might develop in a purely acoustic environment.

The technical setup for “inter-sax-tive” is relatively simple. One needs a saxophone, a microphone, a computer capable of running MAX/MSP, an audio interface with input and stereo output, a MIDI foot controller, and a pair of speakers.

I recently purchased a pair of hemispherical speakers from Stephan Moore. To find out more about these speakers, please go to his webpage, Other performers who use similar speakers include Dan Trueman, Curtis Bahn, and Steve Mackie (to name but a few).

Many of the sounds generated by the computer come directly from digital signal processing algorithms that manipulate the live sound from the saxophone. The saxophonist controls the sequence of events during the improvisation via MIDI foot pedals as well as from the saxophone itself. The saxophone sound (signal) is sent directly into the computer, where pitch, amplitude, and overtones are detected by the computer interface. Specified orders of pitches and/or extended techniques then determine the types of sounds that the computer will produce.

At the core of these pieces is the interface that I developed using the MAX/MSP environment. This interface coordinates MIDI continuous control messages from several foot pedals, as well as raw signal data from the saxophone (pitch, amplitude, and overtone detection) - mapping them into real-time performance processes. The interface encompasses numerous palettes of sampled sounds, interactive compositional and mixing algorithms, and live digital signal processing algorithms for harmonization, modulation, comb filtering, various delays, granular synthesis, and physical modeling. Many of these digital signal processes draw heavily on the PeRColate, a collection of MSP externals by Dan Trueman and Luke DuBois, with additional credit to Miller Puckette for his pitch and attack detection externals.

For information on past and future performance, please visit the news section of this webpage.

inter-sax-tive: improvisations for saxophone and interactive computer
-- excerpts --

sax-improv1 an improvisation that involves a variety of granular synthesis techniques (utilizes Dan Trueman's munger~ object, with a bunch of delayed effects)
sax-bubbles a bunch of chorus and flange effects applied in real-time to a "slap-happy-sax"
sax-minimalism uses changing delays
thereminsax an accelerometer (X and Y axis) attached to the base of the saxophone determines pitch and grain duration of a sampled sound (granular synthesis)


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...more information, sound clips and pictures will be added in the near future...