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Durham University


Project History

Hayden's schismatics (2007) for e-violin and live electronics was the result of a collaboration between Kanno (e-violin) and Hayden (computer). Kanno had been working on a research project to develop the potential of the Violectra with Max/MSP since her 2005 AHRC Award, continuing this further with her fellowship at the Orpheus Instituut, Ghent (2008-9) and an award from the Leverhulme Foundation (2009-10). 

Figure 1: Extract from schismatics (2007)

Hayden's schismatics (2007) has been in the public domain since its premiere. The list below provides a sample.

9 Aug 2008 BBC Radio 3 ‘Hear and Now', 2007 BMIC Cutting Edge Series.

09 Feb 2010 Logos Foundation, Ghent, Belgium
31 Oct 2008 Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds 
23 Oct 2008 King's Hall, Newcastle University
22 Feb 2008 Rolston Recital Hall, The Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada
28 Nov 2007 Elvet Methodist Church, Durham University Concert Series
24 Nov 2007 Bludenzer Tage Zeitgemässer Musik, Bludenz, Austria
22 Nov 2007 BMIC Cutting Edge Series, The Warehouse, London
17 Nov 2007 St. Paul's Hall, Huddersfield, HCMF
11 Nov 2007 Grand Theater, Groningen, The Netherlands

One of the interesting points was the immediacy and liveliness of the e-violin's input and its sonic as well as physical proximity to the computer. When a sonic balance between the e-violin and the computer was achieved, the distinction between ‘acoustic' and ‘synthetic' sounds was blurred, as it became unclear where the e-violin stopped and computer processing began. More exploration of the potential of this digitally expanded instrument was required to achieve a more flexible relationship between the two elements. Hayden and Kanno were interested in innovative creative uses of existing and customised computer-music tools in combination with the technical and sonic particularities of the Violectra.

There is a substantial body of work for acoustic instruments with live-electronics/DSP. Many pieces exist for keyboards and percussion, instruments with relatively hard, short attacks, ideal for delay and reverb effects, e.g. Michael Jarrell's Rhizomes (Assonance VIIb) (1993) for two pianos, two percussion and live electronics; Philippe Manoury's Pluton (1988) for piano and live electronics (1988) and Neptune for percussion and live electronics (1991). Fewer pieces exist for acoustic, sustaining instruments, strings in particular, e.g. Pierre Boulez's Anthèmes II (1997) for violin and live electronics and Jonathan Harvey's Ricercare una melodia (1985) for 'cello and delay. Electric-violins themselves have been extended technically e.g. Dan Overholt's overtone e-violin, Dan Trueman's 6-string e-violin and RBow and Victoria Johnson's work with sensors, pickups and real-time manipulation of sound (see NIME, 2008, However, the contemporary repertoire for e-violin and electronics is in its infancy.

The computer processing for the 2007 version of schismatics was reactive, albeit unpredictably, functioning as a complex delay-line. Greater computer agency would make the process more interactive, responding intelligently to the live e-violin input, in a continuous feedback process between performer and computer. Nick Collins, expert in the fields of interactive music systems and autonomous agents for music-making, provided technical assistance with system construction and evaluation, utilising machine-learning techniques in order to facilitate a more intelligent musical responsiveness in the patches. This is encapsulated in his ll~ Listening and Learning system. This software development enabled the automatic clustering of textures and gestures in an adaptable stand-alone module, existing both as Max/MSP external and SuperCollider implementations. The team assessed the appropriateness of various tools for their creative ends, with the goal of the computer functioning more as an autonomous virtual-improviser without the necessity of a second performer intervening to keep things ‘musically' interesting. As well as being incorporated into the existing schismatics Max/MSP patches as part of the major revisions, the ll~ object is central to design of the Max/MSP patches for one of the other projects outputs, the new work, Adaptations (2011) for e-violin and computer.

The patch for the 2007 version of schismatics was a prototype requiring significant development to become a professional concert-patch. More subtle methods of sonic/gesture analysis and data-capture were required for a more ‘musical' response (e.g. attack detection, pitch recognition, temporal/spectral information, etc). More efficient enveloping/windowing associated with randomised sample playback and granulation was required to remove occasional glitches. The outputs were stereo, so it presented a possibility to increase it to 8 channels using the VBAP spatialisation technique. More differentiated spectral processing was required in order to achieve more varied timbres between sections. The DSP matrix~ was reorganised to increase the combinations of DSP modules and hence the timbral flexibility of the patch. Further refinements included the creation of improved visual and physical interfaces, such as MIDI and USB mouse pedals for performer control of parameters.

Figure 2: Part of prototype Max 4.6 performance patch used with schismatics (2007)

Figure 3: Part of revised Max 5 performance patch used with schismatics (2007, rev. 2010)