Design and Implementation of CNMAT's Pedagogical Software
1996-97 Natural Selection, released publicly with the software package Max 3.5 1998-99
2004 An Interview With Edmund Campion with Keeril Makan
Visit Edmund Campion's blog at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies
I belong to a generation of composers whose compositional training coincided with the demise of post-war avant-garde aesthetics dominating sectors of the American University education scene in the seventies and early eighties. The environment fostered a spirit of openness and experimentation for new musical ideas and at the same time instilled a sense of futility, stemming from broader feelings of cultural isolation. The many brilliant academically-housed composers I worked with and learned from, saw themselves as musical masters existing in a cultural space that did not comprehend their musical practices.
Between 1989 and 1996 I pursued educational and professional opportunities outside the United States and immersed myself in French, Italian and German new music cultures. I confronted my educational and cultural history and began developing a coherent personal compositional voice. I came to understand that the responsibility of a composer extends beyond the mastery of the techniques and materials of music to include issues related to the cultural fabric at large. My artistic interests are broad, oftentimes pressing the limits of the discipline itself.
Computers and music composition
My fascination with computers and music grew from a natural tendency to seek and explore new musical landscapes. Below, I briefly describe five new compositions that represent a microcosm of my creative work in relation to computers. These pieces were premiered collectively by the CNMAT/TEMPO Festival of Contemporary Performance in a monograph evening of music in 2001
Domus Aurea for vibraphone and piano uses only acoustic instruments, but the composition is reliant on current computer music techniques. Methods related to spectral analysis expose pathways for combining the instruments in new and unusual ways and algorithmic processes open the doors to expanded musical materials.
Natural Selection features the composer/pianist interfaced with a real-time reactive computer system. A codified harmonic grammar allows direct and immediate communication with the composer-designed computer software. The software tools employed in Natural Selection are re-formed and adapted to every new performance situation. It is a composition that continually evolves and is resilient enough to match the rapid changes in today's technology. To date, I have composed six versions of Natural Selection, the most recent for the International Computer Music Conference in Havana, Cuba. Each version expands upon a base of knowledge that is always growing.
L'Autre(The Other), for ensemble and electronics, was commissioned by Radio France and demonstrates my commitment to extra-musical explorations and collaborative art works. Through a deeply inter-woven exchange with poet John Campion, The Other attempts to create a common ground for the interaction of music and text; a shared space where one art form can co-exists with another to the benefit of both. L'Autre belongs to a large three-piece cycle. The second piece was commissioned by the Centre National de Création Musicale in Nice where I am invited to spend six weeks in residence next summer.
Corail for tenor saxophone and live computer-processed sound explores the prospects of open forms and open structures. In Corail, the musical fabric adapts to the extended possibilities of current computer technology. From the sonic well of the live instrumentalist (moving freely in the concert hall), the computer extracts fine details of pitches, dynamics, durations and silences, using the special grammar and syntax of the composer to transform the data into an oceanic flow. Corail unveils a computer-generated ecosystem that works to redefine the relationship of a composer to his materials, a performer to his practice, and a listener to a performance.
Finally, Sons et Lumières features a player piano with a computer generated score, live video projections and an eight-channel surround sound system. The concert space explodes with image and sound; the player piano ghosts a lost tradition of silent film accompaniment; the surround sound envelops the listener. The artistic concerns explored in this work were discussed collectively during the symposium Beyond the Proscenium that I organized with CNMAT and the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities in 1999.
I am deeply committed to exploring alternative sites for new music and collaborative arts. My work with poets, dancers, and plastic artists has resulted in projects that involve non-traditional performance spaces, new types of performance practice, as well as the development of related new music software. Metronome, a collaboration with the art team of Andrew Ginzel and Kristin Jones, is a sound installation with computer originally located in the heart of Manhattan at Union Square. Playback, in collaboration with choreographer François Raffinot is an evening length spectacle of dance, video, and live music with computers. Volume; bed of sound is a collective sound-art exhibition created by the Museum of Modern Art affiliate P.S.1 that is currently touring the United States.
My position at UC Berkeley was written for a composer specializing in computer music who is also qualified to teach the standard undergraduate and graduate curriculum offered by the Department of Music. The international reputation of CNMAT as a cutting-edge computer music research center combined with the high academic standards of the Department of Music has made this job exceptionally challenging. From the start, my goal has been to establish the greatest possible cooperation between the Department of Music and CNMAT. In 2005, I became the Co-Director at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies. My role there is to foster creation of new music and to build the pedagogical models necessary for new music creation and production.
I am especially proud of the course Musical Applications of Computers and Related Technologies (Music 158). I have updated Music 158 continually over the past ten years to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of technology and music; I have transformed it into a lecture/lab based course featuring the most up to date teaching materials and methods. CNMAT now hosts extensive software downloads to support courses like Music 158 which focus on music and music creation.The Max/MSP/Jitter Depot at CNMAT is a collection of software designed for all levels of users. It is an effort to create a solid community of composers who use and teach with emerging technologies.