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Durham University


Live Performance, the Interactive Computer and the Violectra (LPICV)

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Pictures of: 1) Max/MSP patch, 2) Violectra, 3) notation

What it is

We investigate musical interactions that integrate the compositional ideas with the idiosyncrasies of the Violectra electric violin (see image above) in the context of live performance with real-time digital signal processing (DSP). The project continues an established collaboration between composer Sam Hayden and violinist Mieko Kanno. The primary objective is to fulfil the potential of this collaboration through the creation of original compositions for this media, using appropriate software tools for innovative creative outcomes.

This project contributes to the field of performance and real-time DSP through the creative integration of e-violinist and interactive computer. The new work, Adaptations (2011) involves the application of a flexible, portable set-up that is usable in other musical situations involving the e-violin, e.g. improvisation. Through this practice-led research, a greater understanding of the creative potential of live performance using the e-violin with real-time DSP is gained.

The Project is funded by a grant from the AHRC Practice-Led Scheme (Ref. number: AH/H018425/2 Jan 2010-March 2011).

What it asks

The questions are broadly divided into two groups of issues: a) aesthetic/philosophical and b) practical/technical. The distinction is blurred, since they feed off each other symbiotically.

(a) Aesthetic/philosophical:

• What are musically interesting combinations of the e-violin and live DSP in the context of the investigators' work, and what defines these ‘interesting combinations'?
• What are the existing contemporary musical practices of live electronic/interactive computer-music using the e-violin, and what is their relevance to this project?
• Does the use of real-time DSP with the live e-violin input dissolve the opposition of acoustic and synthetic sounds?
• To what extent can the use of live DSP emancipate the live performer/investigator in this context?
• To what extent do ‘electronic' and ‘live' e-violin sounds need to be ‘integrated' for a successful performance, and what defines ‘successful' in this context?

(b) Practical/technical:

• What new, instrument-specific musical resources are available on the Violectra, and which are relevant to this project?
• What level of performer control over DSP is desirable in this context?
• What kinds of real-time DSP techniques complement extended techniques on the e-violin?
• To what extent should/can live DSP be automated, performer-driven or operated by a second (human) performer in this context?
• Which specific computer-music tools complement the Hayden's compositional imagination?
• How do we create more interesting perceivable relationships between what is played live by the e-violin and what is heard via live DSP (beyond reactive one-to-one correspondences)?

These questions are explored (i) to further establish the e-violin as an instrument (more usually associated with jazz and popular musics) for avant-garde contemporary music; (ii) to investigate its creative potential as a Davidovsky-esque ‘meta-instrument' whose specific timbres are enhanced through live DSP; (iii) to develop new contemporary repertoire for the Violectra and interactive computer; (iv) to develop a portable software interface which the e-violinist can operate without a specialist technician or additional performer.

Whom it involves

Principle Investigator: Dr Sam Hayden (Durham University)
Hayden develops patches; creates musical compositions for the Violectra
Researcher: Dr Mieko Kanno (Durham University)
Kanno plays the Violectra; tests the effectiveness of the patches and compositions; provides feedback
Researcher: Dr Nick Collins (University of Sussex)
Collins develops the machine listening and learning techniques