Musical advances through the use of new technologies hit the right note at a King’s conference

Musical advances through the use of new technologies hit the right note at a King’s conference

Artists let their imaginations run wild at the Music in New Technology (MINT) forum. They came from all over the world to show off inventive ways they make music, using instruments that may not have previously existed or perhaps weren’t intended to be instruments at all. The inaugural event, presented by Vocalypse Productions in collaboration with the Upstream Music Association and the University of King’s College with support from The Canada Council for the Arts, hosted various performative lectures, concerts, demonstrations and networking opportunities at King’s last weekend.

MINT asked: how can technological innovations affect a musician’s creative process and the way a listener consumes music? From sensory suits that allowed artists to physically move sound, to a “throat mic” (usually worn by jet pilots) used for an operatic commentary on French politics, the performances offered a completely unique experience for everyone involved.

Australian Donna Hewitt showcased a wearable device (i.e. instrument) she created using Arduino boards that were wired to sensors that detected arm movements, with switches that could be turned on and off and captured samples of Hewitt’s voice while she was singing. Her second invention was what she called “the e-mic,” a microphone stand that allowed her to bring the technology and effects used in a recording studio to a live performance. Hewitt’s performance was an incorporation of singing, recording, producing, and body movements but it flowed to look like someone singing and dancing. “Pretty much anything you want to do with the sound is possible, so it’s just up to your imagination,” Hewitt said.

B.C. composer Andrea Young connected herself to a condenser microphone, typically for horn instruments, to create noises with her mouth and digital effects that ranged from a stream of running water to a UFO takeoff. Her “Resynthesized Voice” has been performed all over the world including the UK, Germany, Austria and Greece. Young was also one of the featured speakers at MINT this year in a session called “Voice as an Interface.”

In a gripping performance, a wall of dangling pieces of sheet metal and a throat microphone were used to make a statement about the 1968 workers’ occupation movement in France. Composer and Berkely Conservatory of Music lecturer David Coll had a computer plugged into two audio interfaces hooked up to numerous amps fed into 12 channels of separate audio. Transducers sat behind pieces of sheet metal that were turned into unique speakers, bouncing sound off each other and throughout the room. While Coll engineered the audio, Janice Isabel Jackson performed as the French politician yelling at the audience with her unarticulated speech and grunts captured by the laryngophone sitting on her throat. Coll said the elaborate idea just came to him.

Jackson not only performed at MINT but also organized it. Her company Vocalypse Productions presents new opera and improvisation in singing. The forum was the result of her interest in the marriage of music and technology. “I felt it was time to get a lot of people together to talk about technology as it pertains to voice, improvisation and new instrument design,” Jackson says. With a great turn out, Jackson believes the first edition of MINT, the different performers and technology were stimulating for everyone involved. “Hopefully, they were inspired to continue their work by all of the positive energy which was encouraged during the conference.”

Listen to some short sound clips from the conference.

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