Music with Context: Audiovisual Scores for Improvising Musicians

Thesis Venn Diagram 2.0 - New Page

A good stretch of my time working on my MFA in New Media at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) was spent working on my master’s thesis. Here’s the abstract:

This paper explores the idea of mutable, audiovisual scores for improvised musical performances through the description of personal perspectives, practical examples, proposed projects, and research. The author postulates that an audiovisual score can be a useful tool to connect improvising musicians to each other and their audience through the insertion of a mediating audiovisual layer within the work. These systems are used as a primary influential agent for an ensemble of improvisers, providing them with a context for a musical conversation. In contrast to traditional notation and graphic scores, audiovisual scores embrace the chaotic ambiguities of environmental influences giving the music the context of unpredictable everyday events. Presenting an unpredictable audiovisual score parallels the indeterminate improvisation of the ensemble. It activates the last vestige of what remains immutable within traditional forms of notation driven performance inserting it into a mutable layer within the work.

In my thesis you will find detailed, conceptual explanations for many of the projects that I have shared here over the last few years. There are also references to work by many other artists who have provided inspiration to me. If you’re interested please click the link below to view or download the document.

Music with Context: Audiovisual Scores for Improvising Musicians by John Keston

Machine Machine Touchscreen Instrument

Machine Machine (2013) is a 32″ touchscreen installation that functions as an electronic instrument. Granular synthesis is used to loop “grains” of sound and video at variable lengths and frequencies. These parameters are based on the y-axis of the touch point on the monitor. The x-axis determines the position of the grain within the timeline. The piece was exhibited last month at the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis during Art-a-Whirl and for Visual Storage; the MCAD MFA thesis exhibition.
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Spectral Tablature (2013)

<em>Spectral Tablature</em> (2013)

Spectral Tablature is a series of collaborative installations that explore sound generated through visual processes. Sound is recorded or synthesized using common techniques then converted into images called spectral analysis. These forms are re-interpreted as a visual artifact then converted back into sound. For each pair, or “duet,” the similarities and differences in tone and texture can be heard as well as seen in the work. This series, along with two more of my installations, is currently on display for my thesis exhibition at the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis. Please read on for images and descriptions of each pair of prints along with the audio.
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Post-prepared Piano by John Keston and Piotr Szyhalski

<em>Post-prepared Piano</em> (2013) by John Keston and Piotr Szyhalski

Piotr Szyhalski and I have just finished installing a piece titled, Post-prepared Piano, in the Burnet Gallery at Le Méridien Chambers, Minneapolis. Our installation is part of a show called Interactions and features the work of select MCAD MFA students in collaboration with their mentors. Our piece consists of several components. The first part is a 14′ wide and 17″ tall inkjet print of spectral analysis from a short piano composition that I performed and recorded using my custom built, binaural head microphone (otherwise known as Vincent).

Below the print is an installation that Szyhalski constructed from tarpaper, nails, and one continuous piece of twine. This handmade mapping of the spectral analysis was then photographed and converted back into sound using Michel Rouzic’s excellent application, Photosounder. Thirdly, we installed an iPad with headphones that allows the visitors to hear the original recording, the nails and string version, and a combination of the two layered on top of one another (visit the tablet optimized webapp). The show opens today and runs through February 24, 2013 with an artist’s reception on January 31 from 6pm to 9pm. Read on for more details, photos and sounds. Continue reading

Post-prepared Piano Animated Sequence

I put together this animated sequence of the media from Post-prepared Piano to illustrate the relationships between the spectral analysis, the mapping with nails and twine, and the music from the piece. Thanks to Photosounder developer Michel Rouzic for suggesting that I make a video combining the sound and imagery after seeing the documentation I posted a few days ago.

examples of work in sound and electronic imagery