Video: 70 Crowdsourced Scores Performed in 9 Hours

On June 13, 2015 I collaborated with a team of nine students and nine musicians on a project I directed for Northern Spark, an annual, all-night, art festival In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We titled the project, Instant Composer: Mad-libbed Music and the intent was to engage the audience into instantly writing musical compositions for an ensemble of improvising musicians.

I discussed the concept here in-depth and also announced the project last June. I had no idea what to expect, but was thrilled with the outcome. Around 115 crowdsourced scores were entered into a database via our mobile application. During the nine hour performance we interpreted nearly 70 of those pieces for the audience.

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This video should give you a sense of what went on that night, but no media can fully represent an event like this. I can say that it wouldn’t have happened without the student collaborators, our collective of excellent musicians, the Northern Spark organizers, Art Institutes Minnesota, and the hundreds of people in our audience willing to engage in the process. Please see the video for the full project credits.

TV Takeover: Northern Lights.mn (Live Stream)

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Tonight I am going to be improvising electronic music on live television in reaction to projects presented by past and present Northern Spark artists. The event is hosted by Twin Cities Public Television and is open to the public with tickets available for the in studio event. Read more about the TV Takeover event or watch it live at the YouTube stream above. [Edit: the event is over, but the video is available above.]

Music with Context: Audiovisual Scores for Improvising Musicians

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Last May I completed my MFA in New Media at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. A good stretch of my time at the college was spent working on my master’s thesis. Here’s the abstract:

This paper explores the idea of mutable, audiovisual scores for improvised musical performances through the description of personal perspectives, practical examples, proposed projects, and research. The author postulates that an audiovisual score can be a useful tool to connect improvising musicians to each other and their audience through the insertion of a mediating audiovisual layer within the work. These systems are used as a primary influential agent for an ensemble of improvisers, providing them with a context for a musical conversation. In contrast to traditional notation and graphic scores, audiovisual scores embrace the chaotic ambiguities of environmental influences giving the music the context of unpredictable everyday events. Presenting an unpredictable audiovisual score parallels the indeterminate improvisation of the ensemble. It activates the last vestige of what remains immutable within traditional forms of notation driven performance inserting it into a mutable layer within the work.

Recently it occurred to me that many AudioCookbook readers will find the subject matter in my thesis interesting. There are detailed, conceptual explanations for many of the projects that I have shared here over the last few years. There are also references to work by many other artists who have provided inspiration to me. If you’re interested please click the link below to view or download the document.

Music with Context: Audiovisual Scores for Improvising Musicians by John Keston

Rule Based Electronic Music: Corpus of Utterance

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Here’s another improvised electronic track produced with a similar set of rules to the piece I posted in the article, More Rule Based Electronic Music.

Pop-up Music: Sangre Azur

This the sixth track in a series of mixes that I am creating by improvising on the DSI Tempest synched to the Korg Volca Keys, which is in turn synched to the Korg Monotribe. Minor editing for length and simple processing has been applied, but there’s no extensive post-production or mastering.

I have eleven of these tracks now. In the next entry I will share a link to an album preview on SoundCloud. I didn’t set out to make an album in less than two weeks. However, they kept coming and once I allowed myself to see the tracks as a sort of pop-up music making approach (more about this soon) I allowed myself forgo refining each piece any further.