Composer Matt Malsky and his students use computer software both to generate new sounds and to modify those made by traditional instruments.
Knowing the score: turning classical music electronic
Professor Matt Malsky's creative work
Musician and composer Matt Malsky doesn't use his computer just for word processing. He uses it to bend, stretch, speed up and slow down the sounds from the flute.
For Malsky and his students, computer software is the ultimate instrument for making electronic music--enabling them to juxtapose new musical sound with traditional instruments.
Some recent student projects:
- Helen Ann Shea '01 composed an interactive
composition for electric bass and computer written in Max/MSP. It will be
premiered in May on The Living Room concert, an annual showcase of student
- Alex Bohr '03 created a musical installation, in
Max/MSP, that allows multiple musicians to play MIDI keyboards
simultaneously, and interact musically over an Ethernetwork.
- Working with the studio's digital audio synthesis
and processing tools, Colleen Campbell '01 created an original piece of
music in the style of musique concréte.
- Adam Slater '01 is producing a CD anthology of
student poetry, still photography and electronic artwork. He is working with
Flash to create an interface that includes music, sound, and transitional
movies with audio for each section.
- Pete Cianfrani '01 produced a CD of original blues
and pop compositions recorded in the studio's multitrack recording
The Well of Fancy Dry: Professor
Malsky's composition for flute and live computer processing
ways to make music
- New definitions of music
- How it's done
New ways to make music
live in an environment of sounds--some musical and some not-- created through electronic means.
The natural sounds of rain, birds, and wind have been supplemented and obscured
by the sounds of ATM
machines, doorbells, touch-tone phones, "muzak," car alarms, CDs,
radios and other electronic devices. Matt
Malsky and his undergraduates are making new, musical sounds with traditional instruments and
With the invention of the
turntable at the end of the 19th century, our expectations and
understanding of music began to change. Whereas
a previous age imagined music played on “real” instruments (acoustic,
mechanical devices like pianos or violins) and listened to "live," most of the music
we hear today has been created or delivered via
the use of electronics. Today's music, even when played on “old
fashioned” instruments, is electronic because we experience it most often in
recorded form: captured using microphones, stored on mechanical, magnetic or
digital media, and played back on speakers, usually in a time
and place different from its creation.
New definitions of music
with new ways to produce
and experience music have come new definitions of what music is. Phonographs and
samplers have been
instrumental in the development of popular music such as rap, which uses previously
recorded music as a source for new “instruments.” Classical music has also changed with the times. The modern
history of electronics in classical music begins at the turn of the twentieth
century with composers who included the sounds
of the modern age in their concert works—sirens, the noise of airplanes or
trains, and invented noise-generating instruments.
is the setting for Malsky's own compositional work. Trained as a classical
composer, he uses both new and old instruments in his music: acoustic
instruments such as flute, clarinet, cello and percussion instruments, alone and
combination with live, interactive electronics. He extends the goals
and traditions of the classical music, as well as making creative use of
The Well of Fancy Dry,Malsky's composition
for solo flute with live computer processing, is part of a series of works, each
for a single acoustic
instrument in conjunction with a specially designed piece of computer software.
This series explores the range of possible ways a live musician might
interact with electronics, sometimes as accompaniment, at times as musical
leader, and all the combinations in between.
How it's done
As the performer plays the flute, the sound is fed into the computer via a
microphone. Special software created by Malsky processes the sound and triggers
new synthetic sounds as accompaniment. The sounds generated by the computer can
vary according to the flute's pitch, the music's phrasing,
its dynamic level, and how the flutist "attacks"
the notes. These new sounds are sent through speakers and are heard in
real time as accompaniment to the flute. The delay between input and output is
miniscule--just a few thousandths of a second.
Professor Matt Malsky|
Score for flute. Click
to enlarge. The complete score can be viewed as a PDF