Re: Virtual Concerto

Subject: Re: Virtual Concerto
From: Matt J. Ingalls (
Date: Thu May 13 2004 - 16:20:05 EDT

related to this topic i thought i would share
something some of you might enjoy --

"Cecil" -- little app i wrote that "improvises" in that energetic
free-improv style.
it runs on Mac OSX and plays QuickTime Synthesizer [it should be
the piano preset, you may have to change some qt settings?]

just launch and listen -- its more of a composition than an application,
you cant adjust parameters or anything.

comments welcome!

-- definitely inspired by george lewis [i studied with him for a semster
on my first interactive piece]


On Wed, 12 May 2004, Richard Zvonar wrote:

> At 11:37 PM -0400 5/9/04, Eliot Handelman wrote:
> >There's still a question as to whether Lewis' new piece
> >involved voyager or something newer.
> Here's something from George that might help:
> At 9:09 PM -0400 5/12/04, George E. Lewis wrote:
> >>Some discussion about your work is going on at the CEC list. Any comments?
> >Lewis, George, "Too Many Notes: Computers, complexity and culture in
> >Voyager." Leonardo Music Journal 10, 2000. Reprinted in Everett,
> >Anna, and John T. Caldwell, eds. 2003. New Media: Theories and
> >Practices of Intertextuality. New York and London: Routledge.
> >
> >What I can say for now is that my co-programmer (Damon Holzborn,
> > and I started with the old Voyager
> >code, which I had written in Forth. We decided to switch to OS X
> >Max/MSP as a platform for the new piece. Basically I pseudocoded
> >those algorithms that I wanted to use, and Damon created the MAX
> >code from that. Maybe he could add his comments as well.
> >
> >Certainly, a number of algorithms from the Voyager code were recoded
> >in Max (in fact, some of the algorithms date back to the Ircam piece
> >from 1984) but where Voyager was a virtual orchestra, the new piece
> >was a pianist, which meant that a lot of the complexity of Voyager,
> >with 64 single-voice "players" grouped in continually shifting
> >combinations, able to use different microtonal pitchsets and timbres
> >simultaneously, play in different tempi, etc., sounded a bit too
> >uncorrelated to simply graft onto the piano. Also, the 9-foot
> >Disklavier to be used in the concert could not really handle all
> >that data anyway, and of course there were no microtones.
> >
> >So we had to make a lot of changes. Also, as people who have used
> >the Disklavier have experienced, to get the maximum dynamic range
> >from the instrument, you have to pay a lot of attention to the
> >relationship between duration and velocity. That is, a staccato
> >note played at velocity of 1 is very different from one played at 80
> >or 90. That's mainly because of the physicality of the piano
> >response.
> >
> >To smooth that out required some extra work, basically creating a
> >velocity to duration curve at 50 ms intervals that translated
> >Voyager duration data according to the velocity being played at that
> >moment. That more or less eliminated the kind of thing you see where
> >the Disklavier is playing "pantomime" notes during rapid, very soft
> >passages.
> >
> >About a week before we had to leave for New York I became a bit
> >frustrated with some of the bonehead form decisions the program was
> >making, so I went back to an old Rainbow Family idea (pre-Voyager,
> >made at Ircam in 1984) and created a transition network of
> >probabilities that biased the space of possibility according to what
> >the program had been doing up to that point.
> >
> >The old Voyager code featured a set of "demons" that would create
> >transitions, but these demons didn't really care what had been
> >already going on. For instance, the duration demon basically
> >started with what was going on and made it faster or slower for some
> >period of time.
> >
> >The newer transition network had a bit more memory, and made it
> >unlikely, for example (though not impossible) for the program to
> >move suddenly from a very slow passage to an extremely fast one.
> >Rather, the transition would usually encourage more gradual movement
> >from slow to fast, or do very gradual shifts up and down in tempo.
> >At the same time, the transition program made it quite likely that
> >if the program had reached an extremely fast moment, it could
> >suddenly "break down" the tempo to a slow pace. Finally, every so
> >often the transition network would be overruled and a completely new
> >behavior would be instantiated.
> >
> > Of course, as with any algorithm, the choices made by this
> >transition network embodied aesthetic, culturally and historical
> >concerns, as well as the practical concerns involved with getting
> >the program to improvise in performance with a large orchestra. I
> >felt that having the program appear to be staying in one place and
> >developing "logically" from there, rather than jumping around
> >"randomly," might be more compatible with what the orchestra might
> >be doing.
> >
> >The seventeen-minute score was pretty much conventionally notated,
> >which required a scheme of presets in which the initial behavior for
> >a given section was specified, including which of the four soloist
> >mikes (clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin) to play attention to.
> >The program would develop its improvisation from the initial
> >behavior. Most of the cadenzas operated in this way, and you could
> >constrain the ways in which the program would develop from the
> >initial behavior set. Sometimes the preset just said essentially,
> >"go for it," with no initial behavior specified. The behavior set
> >idea comes from Voyager, and the Leonardo article explains the
> >basics.
> >
> >Tomorrow's concert, unlike the Carnegie Hall event, will be
> >open-ended, with no score or presets, and one of the great
> >improvisors of our time as a participant. This should allow Muhal
> >Richard Abrams to develop some interesting duo textures with the
> >computer pianist. I'm going to play also.
> >
> >As I indicated above, every algorithm is culturally mediated--or to
> >put it slightly differently, musical computer programs, like any
> >texts, are not "objective" or "universal," but instead represent the
> >particular ideas of their creators. As notions about the nature and
> >function of music become embedded into the structure of
> >software-based musical systems and compositions, interactions with
> >these systems tend to reveal characteristics of the community of
> >thought and culture that produced them.
> >For example, we were using MSP fiddle with some of Tristan Jehan's
> >modifications to do pitch following for Virtual Concerto, but for
> >tomorrow I'm going to use my old IVL machine, which in my view seems
> >to make it easier to parse discrete "notes." The two approaches
> >come from different networks of practice,and reflect different
> >audiences and constituencies. I read a paper which compared fiddle
> >with hardware followers, indicating that fiddle picks up the pitch
> >as quickly as the hardware machines do. My experience indicates that
> >this is true, but pitch isn't the only important dimension I need.
> >You need to be able to reliably parse duration as well to foster a
> >kind of rhythmic discursivity, and we seemed to have a harder time
> >doing that with fiddle. On the other hand, we were somewhat pressed
> >for time, and fiddle isn't something that did what we needed done
> >right out of the box. Perhaps if we worked on it a bit (and I
> >managed to learn a bit more about DSP algorithms) I could do better.
> >
> >Best--
> >
> >George
> >
> >World Music Institute & Thomas Buckner present
> >Interpretations
> >New York's Home for the Avant Garde--Now in its 15th season!
> >
> >Thursdays at 8 PM
> >Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W. 67th St. 212/501-3330
> >
> >May 13, 2004 George Lewis & Muhal Richard Abrams
> ><>George
> >Lewis, trombonist, composer, professor, and distinguished member of
> >the AACM, is known for his diverse body of work which spans
> >electronic and computer music, multimedia installations, notated
> >forms and improvisation. Tonight the 2002 MacArthur Fellow will
> >present a new interactive computer work for pianist Muhal Richard
> >Abrams, who will perform alongside a digitally driven Yamaha
> >Disklavier concert grand, as well as a duet between Abrams and the
> >composer on trombone.
> --
> ______________________________________________________________
> Richard Zvonar, PhD
> (818) 788-2202

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