recital commenté/lecture-recital « Improvising Cyborgs: Researching Computer Creativity with the eTu{d,b}e Framework »

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

eTu{d,b}e is a research-creation project utilising the eTube to research how improvising computers may share in creative performance with a human improviser. The eTube is a newly invented instrument fusing a plastic tube, a baritone saxophone mouthpiece, and a custom controller interface designed to facilitate interaction and communication between a human improviser and a computer agent. The eTube’s acoustic sound is purposefully limited in terms of traditional pitch and virtuosity, which in turn invites more possibilities for electronic augmentation. We are utilising and adapting various pre-existing improvising computer programs, which impart agency to both human and non-human actors through interactive improvisation utilising machine listening, audio descriptors, and our own sonic corpora. These interactive programs permit a performance situation which align with Donna Haraway’s concept of the “cyborg”, which is a “hybrid of machine and organism” and “whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction” (Haraway 1987; Hayles 1999). Although the electronics are adjusted and manipulated by the human performer or programmer between performances, this control is largely forfeited in performance, allowing the computer a certain amount of agency in improvised performance.

 Our approach to augmentation involves considering bidirectional communication between human and computer agents mediated by the eTube’s controller interface as an alternative to embodied communication often experienced between human performers. We are not interested in emulating or modelling human behavior, but rather using improvised electronics and an immersive sound environment to explore posthuman concepts and computer creativity more broadly. As the project title suggests, we are inspired by the notion of the etude, and each framework explores different aspect of human-computer interaction and communication. The French meaning of etude (to study) is also invoked as the computer and human improvisers study each other online during live performance contexts, and offline where learning and behavior adjustments may occur between performances. This collaborative research is undertaken by instrument builders, programmers, composers, and improvisers. For the lecture-recital, we will present the eTube and its controller interface, our research related to computer agency and human-computer interaction and perform examples of the different improvised frameworks followed by a performance of two complete pieces.

Tommy Davis

Tommy is currently a doctoral candidate and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music under the tutelage of Marie-Chantal Leclair. His research investigates live electronic music performance and computer improvisation through a research-creation project called eTu{d,b}e. His current research interests include improvisation, contemporary saxophone techniques, posthumanism, and human-computer interaction and agency in computer music performance. With a Student Award (2021–22) from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) at McGill University, Tommy developed an augmented instrument called the eTube alongside instrument builder and programmer Vincent Cusson. As a CIRMMT student co-representative, Tommy organizes educational, outreach, and research events for over 250 student members.

Vincent Cusson

Les projets de Vincent Cusson explorent l’audio génératif, immersif et interactif dans diverses installations et performances artistiques interdisciplinaires. Cusson a complété un baccalauréat en médias interactifs à l’UQAM et est auxiliaire de recherche depuis six ans pour le laboratoire nxi gestatio design (NXI). À l’automne 2019, il a entamé une maîtrise en technologie musicale à McGill. Il collabore à divers projets avec des collègues du Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) et du Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory (IDMIL).

Kasey Pocius

Originally from St. John’s, Kasey Pocius is a gender fluid intermedia artist located in Montreal who grew up experimenting with multimedia software while also pursuing classical training in both viola and piano. In late 2014, Kasey began to concentrate more intensively on the creation of digital audio works. Outside of fixed electronic works, they have also pursued mixed media performances with live electronics, both as a soloist and in comprovisatory collaborative environments such as CLOrk, Exit Points & Fillesharmoniques. They are particularly interested in multichannel audio works and spatialization, and how this can be used in group improvisatory experiences. They hold a BFA from Concordia in Electroacoustic Studies and are currently pursuing an MA in Music Technology at McGill under the direction of Dr. Marcelo M. Wanderley. They are also the current Technical Coordinator at Matralab.