Judith Shatins Interactive Tree Music Brings Forest
Alive at U.Va. Art Museums Brzezinski Exhibit
TV contact: (434) 924-7550
July 1, 2003
a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does
it make a sound?
age-old philosophical question resonates in Professor Judith Shatins
new music installation "Tree Music."
interactive sound installation is part of the University
of Virginia Art Museums exhibit, "Emilie Brzezinski:
New Directions," which runs through Sunday, Sept. 7. Shatins
composition was commissioned by the museum with support from the
Virginia Commission for the Arts.
who is also director of U.Va.s Virginia Center for Computer
Music, composed "Tree Music" using sounds recorded while
Brzezinski sculpted tree trunks. She captured the sounds of falling
wood, chisels, axes, saws, brooms and other tools that Brzezinski
used, echoing the sculptors goal to reveal the process as
much as the product in her large-scale works.
wanted to create music that embodies her process," said Shatin.
incorporated some of the recorded sounds, using the natural rhythms
of the tools hitting the wood. Other sounds she transformed electronically
beyond recognition, creating more than 100 sound files that form
the basic building blocks of the installation.
composition also directly involves people attending the exhibit
their movements choreograph elements of the sound installation.
A wireless camera with a wide-angle lens records motion in the exhibit
space and sends the image data to a computer where it is transformed
into signals that change elements of the music.
The composition has four linked sections. When someone enters the
empty room, the first section is triggered.
selection of short set pieces then plays. After a short break, the
second section begins. Sounds of differing density and duration
are layered in a way the composer calls controlled improvisation.
The computer decides at what time and which pieces are played together.
Shatin likens it to jazz where certain contrasting pieces go together
and others dont.
always like surprises," said Shatin. "Thats one
of the reasons I chose this technique."
comes the interactive segment. The motion of people in the room
changes the elements of the sound, including pitch and register.
"In this section the texture thickens," she said.
fourth section happens after the viewers leave the room. The camera
continues to monitor the motion in the empty room. Its in
this section that Shatin plays with the question: If a tree falls
in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make
a sound? At this point the computer plays a series of what the composer
has dubbed hypermeasures sounds unfolding over time. In extended
time-spans, ranging from five to 60 minutes, a certain number of
beats of one sound play against a different number of beats of another
sound. In "Tree Music" these rhythms play out over long
durations, creating large-scale polyrhythms.
really stretching rhythms over super-stretched time," said
Music" was created using Graphic Audio Interface Application,
a new computer software music program created by David Topper, technical
director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music. GAIA enables
the composer to work with user-friendly graphic elements, such as
sliders, timers and buttons, as well as programs that interact with
the graphics to create interactive pieces. Such pieces can use a
wireless camera, or MIDI, or a variety of other sensors. These provide
an interface that allows the composer to create pieces that involve
interaction between the environment and the art form.
compositions are internationally performed and widely recorded.
Her music has been commissioned by groups such as the Ash Lawn Opera
Festival, the Barlow Foundation, the Core Ensemble, the Kronos Quartet,
the National Symphony, the Dutch Hexagon Ensemble and Wintergreen
Performing Arts, through Americans for the Arts.
composes for a wide variety of media, ranging from traditional chamber,
choral and orchestral ensembles to electroacoustic, interactive
and multimedia genres. "Piping the Earth," a compact disk
of her orchestral music, will be released this fall by Capstone
VCCM, located in the Universitys McIntire Department of Music,
supports a wide variety of activities: courses at the undergraduate
and graduate levels and research in topics such as interactive media,
synthesis techniques and multichannel spatialization. Software developed
at the VCCM is made freely available as a service to the entire
computer music community. The VCCM Web site is located at http://www.virginia.edu/music/VCCM/.
museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Limited parking
is available behind the museum.
details about the exhibit and information about the museum, call
(434) 924-3592 or visit the Web site at http://www.virginia.edu/artmuseum/.
interviews, contact Judith Shatin at (434) 924-3052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.