Students Build Instrumental Interfaces CalArts-STEIM Exchange


Editor’s note: Stephanie Smith (Music MFA 11) recently returned from participating in the STEIM music residency in Amsterdam. 24700 asked her to recap the students’ work at STEIM.

Four students from The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts–Daniel Eaton (Music MFA 11), Carmina Escobar (Music MFA 10), Kristin Haraldsdottir (Music MFA 11) and myself–recently finished the CalArts-STEIM electro-instrumental music residency in Amsterdam. Selected by music faculty to participate in the program, our past projects have ranged from interactive circuit sculptures to multimedia ensemble performance.

During the course of 10 days, the participants built and programmed interfaces for live performance control:

  • Eaton, a trombonist, completed a control interface that integrated eight buttons and a three-axis accelerometer attached to the slide of the trombone. The controls allowed for live looping and real-time pitch-shifting.
  • Escobar, a vocalist, focused on using wireless controls with accelerometers to alter her voice through performative gestures and choreography.
  • Haraldsdottir, a violist, and myself, a violinist, worked on building interfaces that incorporated an accelerometer and buttons with our bows. Haraldsdottir’s controls allowed for live looping and various audio effects, and my controls consisted of real-time alteration of filter effects and varied response of color intensity in RGB LEDs (lights).

On Oct. 10, the STEIM residency and workshop culminated in a final concert featuring our integration of the new interfaces with musical performance.

Open to the public, the evening began with short presentations by each student describing his or her experiences while at STEIM, along with a discussion of the capabilities and challenges presented by building and performing with a new interface. To showcase our work, we then performed a 30-minute improvisational piece allowing each performer to “solo” and demonstrate his or her interface within a musical context.

Here’s a performance excerpt from the final concert at STEIM:

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