tags: Juraj Kojs

In One, Juraj Kojs, curator

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

In this program, seven composers/performers will introduce their approach to extending, hybridizing and abstracting the principles of instrumental design in a multimodal musical performance. Spencer Topel will present a piece for violin and live electronics. Jorge Variego will perform a composition for clarinet and a joystick controller. Juraj Kojs will manipulate the Slovakian sheep bells with digitally modeled cyberbell structures, and the Zeta cello, novel K-Bow controller and narration will be the focal point for Sarah O’Halloran and Margaret Schedel. Chikashi Miyama’s hands will sculpt musical structures in the air over his non-haptic Peacock instrument, and Paula Matthusen will show her work for live electronic organisms in jars. It all has to be heard to be believed.


lathyrus (2007)     Paula Matthusen

Violine (2010)*        Spencer Topel

Mimic (2008)          Jorge Variego

At and Across (2007)        Juraj Kojs

…linger figure flutter… (2010)*     Sarah O’Halloran

Black Vox (2010)     Chikashi Miyama

* World Premieres

INTERVAL 4.2 Curator Juraj Kojs Video Interviews

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Juraj talks about his experience as a curator, how he arrived at the name In One and Paula Matthusen’s piece for laptop ensemble, Lathyrus.

Juraj discusses George Variego’s piece, “Mimic”, for Joystick and Clarinet.

Juraj Kojs about the upcoming world premiers of “Violine” by Spencer Topel, and “…linger figure flutter…” by Sarah O’Halloran and Maragaret Schedel. Juraj talks about the technical aspects of the electronic part for Topel’s “Violine”.

Juraj speaks about Sarah O’Halloran and Margaret Schedel’s piece “…linger figure flutter…”

Juraj Kojs speaks further about Jorge Variego’s “Mimic” for clarinet and joystick and again about Sarah O’Halloran & Margaret Schedel’s “…linger figure flutter…”

Juraj Kojs on Juraj Kojs!

INTERVAL 4.2 Juraj Kojs Blog #3

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Hello there: In my final blog, I would like to discuss some issues regarding improvisation and gesture areas of the programmed pieces.

1. What are the improvisation elements and how do the composers manage them?

While, the composer provides the performers with a set of sounds, effects and a score, the actual manifestation of Paula Matthusen’s lathyrus happens on the spot. Each performer uses their ears and musical sensitivities to modulate the samples.  And who decides when to move to the next section? That’s right: there is a button for that! If at any stage any of the performers decides to move forward, pressing the button will result in a playback of a particular sound sample which signalizes to all that it is time to progress to a new section. I am curious to learn whether you will be able to identify this sample at the concert!

Spencer Topel writes about the role of improvisation in his Violine: „Improvisation in this work comes together in the form of chamber music with the laptop. In particular, the second movement features a piece of software named SoundSpotter developed by my colleague Michael Casey. This particular application is the most responsive non-human chamber music partner I have ever performed with as it matches any sound I make to a specified source audio file. In short, I can create a second layer of performance by the interaction that happens via this spotting over the parameters associated with pitch and timbre.“

Jorge Variego’s Mimic is based on improvisation of various proportions: while the balance between the fixed and performance elements can be 30 to 70% in one performance, the ratio can be completely reversed in the next! In Chikashi Miyama’s Black Vox, improvisation constitutes 100% of musical activities. Chikashi compares the piece to jazz music in a way that „a performer improvises within a fixed formal structure.“

My own At and Across is pretty much composed. While there is some space for individual soundings in the opening section, the piece is strictly notated afterward. Yet again, the chaotic bell behaviors introduce clashes of unpredictability at the end of the piece. However, all of these improvised moments occur within well-defined limits.

Meg Schedel and Sarah O’Halloran select various note cells for their voice and cello improvisations in …linger figure flutter… The K-bow controller is used to pick particular video materials and prerecorded audio tracks. In this way, their composition is set up as a fixed architecture; the players modulate its details with each iteration.

2. What role do gestures and performance actions play in these works?

Gestures emerge from the relationship between the violin and audio sources in Spencer Topel‘s Violine. The gestures in fact assist in adding transparency to the work so that the audience can follow how the music operates. As for the performance actions, Spencer finds his inspiration in Ableton Live software‘s performance capabilities.

Performance actions control almost all aspects of sound in Chikashi’s Black Vox.  „The gestures sometimes have some sort of theatrical or dance-like aspects since one of the main subjects of this work is the relationships between gestures and sounds.“ The composition is actually built on the exploration of the relationship between the bodily actions and computer sounds.

This is a very similar approach to my own At and Across in which performance actions largely define the musical context. I called such music action-based. Digital models of instruments and interactions further enable action-based music in the sonic cyberspace. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article on the topic which you can download here: http://www.kojs.net/Kojs-JNMRArticle.pdf

But enough of teasing! My hope is that these blog entries increased your curiosity about the concert. Come and join us next week! I will be looking forward to seeing you all. Please, come by and talk to us after the performance!

INTERVAL 4.2 Juraj Kojs Blog #2

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Hi there: I would like to discuss some music parameters of the pieces that will be presented in our In One program. For example, what is the formal organization of these works? Is there anything they share? How do they differ? While all the compositions utilize some cutting edge technologies, some tackle aspects of classical formal models and some venture more adventurous music architectures.

Spencer Topel’s Violine is developed through three different segments from J.S. Bach’s Chaconne, suggesting postmodern re-contextualization. But what of Bach and Topel is really heard? Mmmm: come and check it out. Jorge Variego’s Mimic is based on a gradual role exchange between the clarinet and joystick instrument, expanding the duet paradigm in multiple parts. My own At and Across is structured as a trajectory of twelve parts each featuring particular performative actions such as hitting, bowing, shaking and plucking. Chikashi’s Black Vox also consists of multiple sections, 30 to be precise! Each of them is approximately 14 seconds long. While the sections manifest their unique identities, Chikashi argues that “it is very hard for the listener to grasp sections as solid blocks like in Beethoven’s sonata because the sonorities of the sections are interpolated very smoothly.” The form of Paula Matthusen’s lathyrus is organic: literally. It takes on the principles of self-organization, often observed in nature (and more recently urban environments). Do you remember Steve Johnson’s book Emergence?  While the author connects ant colonies with brains, cities and software, Matthusen’s lathyrus buzzes away with its own emerging properties. The performers collectively strategize what musical paths to take depending on their desirability and viability! Some are playful, some are provocative and other are just plain dangerous. “Continue crescendo until all speakers explode” is one of the possibilities that hopefully the players will reroute in our concert!

How do other music parameters manifest in these compositions?

Spencer Topel writes about his Violine in terms of “an auditory mixture” which engages timbrally differentiated events. The composition presents a stream of unsettling timbral transformations while excavating the “latent structure” in the Bach’s Chaconne recording of which was used as a sound source. In the end, however, it is a compromise between the designed system and compositional taste that is presented to the listener, Spencer claims. For Jorge Variego, there is nothing hidden between the clarinet and joystick instrument in his Mimic. Both of the instruments have access to the same bank of music parameters for sound production and control. They fight and reconcile in an unusual sonic marriage. What you can do, I can do better!

In my At and Across, interactions between the physical and cyberbells were pre-composed and based on particular melodic and harmonic plans. As the piece is dedicated to the memory of my late grandfather, the composition’s melodics are derived from his favorite Slovak folk song “Sadla muska na konarik” (“A little fly landed on a little twig”). Re-composed segments of the song appear in both physical and cyberbell parts. Each section of the composition is built around a fragment from the song. Depending on the performance mode and rhythmic complexity, these fragments may not be necessarily recognizable. Harmonic and dynamic structures mirror and accentuate the spectral relationships between the partials of J.C. Risset’s additive synthesis bells.

Transformations of music parameters are pre-composed in Chikashi Miyama’s Black Vox via 280 automated processes! Individual sections demonstrate simultaneous access to a multitude of sonic parameters such as frequency, amplitude, panning, modulation, filtering, playback head location, coefficients for chaos generator to name a few.  The performer reaches (literally with his hand) to this musical well with varying degrees of intensity and speed.

Paula Matthusen’s lathyrus features eight performers operating one of the following sample banks at the time: drones, field recordings, instrumental samples and rhythmic sounds. Individual performers select a particular sound from the bank, guaranteeing a varied coherence of the section and dynamically controlling the volume, speed and various processing units such as filtering, distortion and reverb of the sample. Such parametrical control results in pitch, texture and density alterations. While the directions are prescribed in the score, each performer makes their decision based on their taste and listening judgment. You got it: there is a certain improvisation aspect to lathyrus.

In my next and last blog entry, I will discuss the role of improvisation elements, as well as the importance of physical gestures and scoring methods in INTERVAL 4.2’s programmed pieces. Stay tuned!

INTERVAL 4.2 Juraj Kojs Blog #1

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Hello all. I am truly excited about our INTERVAL 4.2: In One concert and about sharing some of my thoughts with you through this blog! My first entry is going to discuss some aspects of the compositions programmed on the concert.  Principally, all the works combine the elements of creation, performance, design and technology. Written and performed by a group of up-and-coming national and International artists, they provide, I believe, a fine sample of what has been brewing around and about.

Paula Matthusen talks about the structure of her laptop ensemble piece lathyrus as a musical game in a sense that “multiple outcomes are possible for the piece, and it is up to the ensemble to navigate these potential options together collectively. “ The ensemble is encouraged to re-route their trajectories as the piece develops. The group must listen closely to each other very much the same way as in the chamber music setting, while constantly self-organizing. Using sampled and digitally modulated sounds, the potential results are plentiful.

Listen to an excerpt from Paula’s lathyrus performed by FIU Laptop & Electronic Arts (FLEA) Ensemble:

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Spencer Topel’s Violine is a three-movement composition for violin and electronics. The composer uses the source separation technique, which enables the computer to look for patterns in audio streams and extract individual sources such as vocals, bass and drums in a commercial track. Spencer engages extracted timbral and rhythmic layers from his prerecorded and live violin sounds in a creation of polyphonic voicing. Later on the composer also employs the SoundSpotter technique developed by Michael Casey at Dartmouth College. The SoundSpotter enables matching frequencies and timbres from a recording to an incoming signal. The structure of the last movement thus emerges as a result of timbral matching between aspects of live and prerecorded violin. Referencing classical music forms and genres, Violine is a captivating contemporary music commentary.

Filigrees: Filigrees

Jorge Variego defines his Mimic as a chamber composition for clarinet and joystick. The joystick is a controller for a synthesized instrument based on the clarinet timbre; yet the instrument has its own distinct sonic identity. We can think about the joystick as an arm or air column, which controls the pitch, dynamics and textural density of the digital instrument. During the composition, the clarinet and joystick instruments first battle for the sonic space and then proceed to develop an indecipherable musical interplay.

You can listen to an example from Mimic

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My own At and Across introduces Slovakian sheep bells and cyberbell structures. Cyberbell structures? What is that?
Simply said, the cyberbells are digital simulations of the physical bells. How did that happen? Well, I first looked at the acoustics of the bells a bit. Then I traveled to ACROE Center in Grenoble, France to create digital replicas using their physical modeling technique software GENESIS. After designing some good digital approximations of the bells, I could augment their various properties such as size, material and interaction mode. I ended up with some exciting cyberbell structures such as giant bells made of silk-like materials that I could hit, bow or even pluck! I could further reverse the interaction process and instead of plucking the bell, I could bell the pluck! Expanding this hybridization process to the performance and composition layers (plucking a performer, belling a composition) became a fun playfield for the electronics portion of the piece. I found the direct control over the sound production using physical modeling technique most stimulating. Instead of tweaking the resulting acoustic properties of sound (frequencies, amplitudes, etc.), you design the sound-making mechanism directly (e.g. bowing the bell).
You can hear excerpts from At and Across

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Meg Schedel explains about how her collaboration with Sarah O’Halloran began: “We met at a Deep Listening Retreat in 2005. Pauline Oliveros runs these mediation intensives to heighten awareness of sound, silence and sounding. We’ve done several retreats together since, and we always have fun creating works during these weeks away from the world.” In 2010, the two artists decided to create a piece in which the imagined experiences become stronger than memories of real events. The text, video, sampled sounds and melodies were developed collaboratively. Their …linger figure flutter… is a world premiere!

A few words about the technologies Schedel and OHalloran use:
Meg Schedel performs with the KBow and Zeta cello. The KBow is a string bow embedded with sensors which track the playing force and angle of the bow, the bow pressure, bow grip pressure, playing distance from the fingerboard and bow position.  You can learn about KBow here.

The Zeta cello is an electric cello with pickup microphones on each string. The collected data is transmitted to the computer and converted to MIDI. The MIDI streams are then used to control various aspects of sampled and digitally produced sounds.

In the composition Black Vox, Chikashi Miyama performs on his own custom designed non-haptic Peacock instrument. So, what exactly is the Peacock?
It is a bit like a Theremin. You create sounds without every touching a physical instrument! But while a performer can only control frequencies and amplitudes on the Theremin, the Peacock enables control over 35 different music parameters at any time! This is possible because the instrument is equipped with 35 infrared sensors.

Detailed description of the instrument can be found in Chikashi’s article “Peacock: a non-haptic 3D performance interface”. You can download it here

Check out the movie of Chikashi performing on the  Peacock