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David Wessel, University of California, Berkeley, USA: "Designing musical instruments that privilege improvisation"

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What
  • Distinguished Lecture
When Nov 25, 2010
from 04:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where MMR, New Music Building, McGill University (527 Sherbrooke St. West)
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PLEASE NOTE THAT THE VENUE FOR THIS LECTURE HAS CHANGED: IT WILL BE HELD IN THE MMR OF THE NEW MUSIC BUILDING.

 

This lecture will be followed by a concert by David Wessel.  For more information: Hands on Suite: David Wessel 

ABSTRACT:

Computer technology now plays an important role in musical composition and performance. Most popular music software applications involve a time line upon which musical material is placed in a sequence and performance is accomplished by rendering the sequence with adjustments in timing so as to synchronize with other musicians. While this approach may be satisfactory for a wide variety of music it overly constrains improvised performance.  Improvisation requires a higher degree of context dependant interactivity and expressive control.

This talk will address the design of computer-based musical instruments that serve the more mutable musical practices. Central are gestural interfaces and their mapping to musical material as well as machine listening strategies that assist the performer in assessing the rhythmic, tonal, and timbral characteristics of the ongoing performance. Special emphasis will be given to the design of expressive instrumentation that invites exploration and discovery and to a musical practice that involves a coordinated balance of software development and daily bodily engagement with one's instrument. 

 

David WesselABOUT DAVID WESSEL:

David Wessel received a BS in Mathematical Statistics from the University of Illinois and then a PhD in Mathematical and Theoretical Psychology from Stanford in 1972.  From his high school years onwards his musical activities were central to his life and after his PhD he committed himself to blending his science and technology skills with his musical interests.  In the early 70’s, at Michigan State University as an Assistant Professor, his experiments with perceptually-based dimensionality reduction techniques provided expressively powerful control of high-dimensional sinusoidal-track sound synthesis algorithms.  In 1976, at the invitation of Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor, he moved to Paris to work as a researcher at the then nascent Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustic/Musique (IRCAM).  In 1979 he was made head of IRCAM's Pedagogy Unit and linked the science and technology side of the institute and the artistic side.  In the mid-eighties he started a new unit in IRCAM dedicated to developing real-time music software for personal computers.  At the time Wessel taught the first computer music class at the Paris Conservatory.  For his work at IRCAM he was recognized as Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture.

In 1988, he arrived at UC Berkeley as Professor of Music with the charge of building the interdisciplinary Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT).  He organized CNMAT as a laboratory wherein both science and technology people interact on a daily basis with musicians. Wessel insists on an instrumental conception – the computer as musical instrument equipped with gesture sensing devices and sound diffusion systems. 

In addition to directing the music science and technology research at the CNMAT, Wessel is an affiliate Professor of Psychology, and member of the Parallel Computing Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science.

 

VIDEO ARCHIVE - DAVID WESSEL

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