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Randall Harlow: Global Hyperorgan: new frontiers for intercontinental acoustic musicking

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This seminar is presented in collaboration with Research Axis 4 (Expanded musical practice).

  • Seminar
When Mar 12, 2020
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where A512 (enter through the library on the third floor), Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St W
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Global Hyperorgan 


The Global Hyperorgan is a creative space for intercontinental acoustic music interaction. A network of existing pipe organs, it is a new category of augmented-acoustic musical instrument for long-distance analog human interaction: a global sandbox for artists, the lay public and children to collapse geographic divides through real-time acoustic musicking. 

This lecture will first provide an overview of the long-term plans for the Global Hyperorgan, then focus on the initial phase of the project, a collaboration between McGill University and Orgelpark in Amsterdam that will culminate in a live public performance in June between instruments in Amsterdam, Montreal, and Vancouver. During the initial phase of the project, we will investigate best practices for networking and interfacing organs with contrasting technical and artistic identities across vast geographical divides. In doing so, we will interrogate issues surrounding the ecology of music performance, intersubjectivity and the emergence of voice in collaborative acoustic musicking. 

The technical challenges and limitations inherent in the concept arise from the differences in implementation of controllers and interfaces of the different instruments, which can be mitigated by establishing a common protocol for communication. The sheer distances involved create connectivity issues that can be solved using available networking tools, though some latency is unavoidable due to the fundamental constraints of physics. Such latency constraints and the requisite variable mapping possibilities between instruments afford a multitude of interactive spaces, yet compel careful consideration of the gestures and musical ecologies of participants in any given space. As such, the Global Hyperorgan is not an instrument, nor simply a collection of instruments, but a platform for the formation of acoustic instrumental space—spaces which are geographically heterogenous yet ecologically homogenous. Furthermore, beyond a simple mapping of pipe-to-pipe, key-to-key, the Global Hyperorgan interface must be multifaceted, incorporating a variety of semantic levels commensurate with diverse artistic practices, inviting the construction of intersubjective ecologies from which compelling artistic voices can emerge. 


Randall Harlow (DMA, Eastman School of Music) is Associate Professor of Organ and Music Theory at the University of Northern Iowa and currently a Visiting Researcher at CIRMMT on a Fulbright Global Scholar fellowship. As a performer he specializes in contemporary music and the art of transcription. His research focuses on gesture and embodiment in performance and the ecological construction of musical practices.

Johnty Wang is a PhD candidate in Music Technology at McGill working under the supervision of Prof Marcelo Wanderley. His primary research deals with sensor interfaces and mapping tools in the context of digital musical instrument design. He has been working with connected church organs since 2014, and has built software interfaces and connectivity tools for two Casavant organ consoles in Vancouver and Montreal. 

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