Automation Is My Salvation: Eight Studies for Automatic Piano by Seth Horvitz

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 5:15pm - 7:00pm
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Seth Horvitz (b. 1973, Los Angeles) is an interdisciplinary artist, electronic musician, composer, and designer whose work revolves around the perception of sound and the idiosyncratic behavior of machines. Since the mid-1990s, he has created experimental electronic dance music under the name Sutekh for dozens of record labels and performed extensively throughout the world. In recent years he has gravitated towards a more studied approach to composition and sound art. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley (1995) and an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College (2010).
Eight Studies for Automatic Piano makes use of simple, computer-aided compositional processes to test the limits of human perception while relying on one of the most recognizable musical sounds in the Western world: the acoustic piano. The work relies on a bare minimum of technical means to explore notions of temporal distortion, iterative process, and elegant complexity. Presented in an immersive concert setting without the presence of a human performer, Eight Studies advocates for an expansion of traditional notions of live performance and musical “life.” During the concert, extraneous sensory input is removed in order to draw attention to the connection between the sound of the piano and the abstract geometric nature of the piano keyboard. By controlling the lighting with a single spotlight and providing a video projection of the light reflected on the keys, the keyboard is depicted on screen as a simple row of lines and dots. Adhering to a set of machine-dependent parameters, this work raises questions regarding the relationship between nature, humanity, and mathematical precision. Building upon the practical, theoretical, and aesthetic contributions of James Tenney, György Ligeti, Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich, and Charlemagne Palestine, Eight Studies plants the seeds for an ongoing, focused and innovative approach to composition and performance for automated piano.
The 45 minute concert presentation will be followed by a discussion of the work.
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