New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME-03) Conference :: Ian Stevenson

22nd – 24th May 2003 :: McGill University, Montréal, Canada

With the generous assistance of ANAT, I was able to attend the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference, accompanied by Donna Hewitt whom I have assisted with the development of the eMic Extended Mic-stand Interface Controller. Donna and I presented a joint paper at the conference, outlining the development and application of the eMic. Donna also gave a live performance of an original composition using the eMic, at one of the three concerts presented during the conference.

The NIME conference attracted delegates from around the world including the United States, France, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Sweden. The three day conference included ten paper presentations, 19 reports, ten demos, a poster session, and four special presentations including expatriate Australian Garth Paine’s installation work Plant A.

NIME is a specialist conference focusing on experimental digital instruments and interface design. This year’s conference was the third and largest with previous conferences held in Seattle and Dublin. NIME has gained a significant profile in the field and was attended by representatives from some of the more prominent public and educational institutions from around the world.

My work engages with our experience of sound in the contexts of the built environment, the media, entertainment and arts practice, and with the experience of the performer or composer. It is in this latter area that I have been working with Donna in the realisation of her designs for a new interactive musical interface for live vocal performance, the eMic. The eMic is a novel approach to solving a range of technical and aesthetic issues associated with contemporary, electroacoustically assisted vocal performance. The eMic incorporates a range of sensing technologies to capture new and existing performance gestures in order to facilitate an expanded repertoire of vocal performance with live electronics. The development of the eMic has reached the stage where Donna has employed the first fully working prototype in a composition and performance that was premiered at NIME. This was an ideal opportunity to gauge the response and obtain critically useful feedback from the world’s leading specialists in the field of experimental musical interfaces.

Donna’s performance went extremely well and the response was very positive. Subsequent to our paper presentation we received a number of very pertinent questions and suggestions that have assisted us in refining the concept. Specific information regarding development of some of the technical aspects of the project, including improved and proven sensor technologies and wireless and network integration was also obtained from some of the delegates. These included Sukandar Kartadinata from Berlin who was presenting his Gluiph integrated signal processing platform; Emmanuel FlŽty from IRCAM in Paris who presented new interfacing devices and gave me specific information regarding his work with wireless serial and network devices; Diana Young from MIT in Boston who provided specific technical advice on the low power interfacing and wireless transmission used in her HyperPuja Tibetan singing bowl hyper-instrument.

In addition to the nuts-and-bolts technical information, we were able to gain unique first-hand insight into some of the aesthetic issues and user experiences of some of the delegates. We benefited greatly from the performance and discussion of performance practice presented by Tomie Hahn and Curtis Bahn. We took the opportunity to reaffirm old relationships such as that with composer and sound artist Garth Paine, and to establish valuable new ones such as with EMF founder Joel Chadabe. These relationships were cemented with endless late night discussions on the relative values of the various aesthetic approaches demonstrated in the papers and the concerts. The three concerts included a diverse range of music and performance styles all utilising new musical interfaces. The instruments ranged from adapted commercial computer interfaces, to enhanced and extended acoustic instruments, biosensing devices, and radically new experimental interfaces.

Attending the NIME conference has been of immeasurable, lasting benefit from both a broad professional perspective and with specific reference to the eMic project.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply