Ben Neill > Mutantrumpet residency

My residency at STEIM from July 24-August 12, 2008 was focused on continuing to develop my recently redesigned mutantrumpet, which uses the Junxion board and software as its interface.  The previous version of the mutantrumpet had been designed at STEIM in the early 1990′s.  I was also interested in developing a more complex approach to my use of LiSa, which I have been working with for nearly a decade.

the new mutantrumpetBen Neill in the studio

Frank Balde and Jorgen Brinkman were both available to work with me extensively while I was there.  Frank demonstrated his approach to programming in the Junxion software environment, offering new possibilities for complex responses to control data that I had not even considered.  He also answered my specific questions about features in Junxion, including the use of timers, display states, and a binary keyboard setup from the switches on the mutantrumpet.  Frank and I also spent a lot of time discussing the aesthetics and practical considerations of interactive performance, as well as where the field is headed.  He demonstrated some of his work with the IPhone as well as the Wii controller, both which point to amazing new possibilities.  Jorgen assisted me in refining the physical switches and continuous controllers to make them more robust.  Frank showed me how to further perfect the controllers using tables in both Junxion and LiSa and snapshots in LiSa.

Another goal I had was to add a controller to the mutantrumpet’s slide mechanism.  I worked with the Wii controller for several days, which is a very powerful interface for Junxion.  However, I decided at this point that it is not the correct solution for this problem.  Jorgen and I discussed other options, including ultrasound sensors, but none of these presented themselves as solutions.  I will continue to work on this issue, however after the great strides I took with the current setup during my residency, it is not as high of a priority as before.

In working with LiSa over the past several years, I had never used multiple MIDI channels and layers, rather I focused on one sample and its manipulation.  One of the important ideas in my recent music is using the sounds of the mutantrumpet for all of the sonic material in a piece.  The multiple layer approach interested me because it would make it possible to create several musical parts with differently processed versions of the live sampled sound of the mutantrumpet. This would enable me to create percussive rhythms, bass lines, and other types of material in addition to the complex evolving textures that are characteristic of LiSa, all being updated in real time by my acoustic playing.  To achieve this goal I use Ableton Live as a controller for LiSa.  While at STEIM, I was able to explore this approach in depth, and created a new piece based on this mode of performance.  In addition to using a different approach to the sonic material, I programmed the piece to be more improvisatory and open ended, another goal that I had in mind when I was offered the residency at STEIM.  I will post a verson of the new piece once I have it recorded.

In summary, the residency was extremely successful both on the technical and creative fronts.  I came away from the experience feeling that my current system of Junxion, LiSa and Ableton Live controlled by the new mutantrumpet is a platform that will enable me to develop new music and performance techniques for years to come.

I would also like to acknowledge the entire STEIM staff and particularly Nico Bes for the hospitality, I was able to bring my family on this trip and we all thoroughly enjoyed being in Amsterdam, particularly my 13 year old daughter Kadence.

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