News and Media
TIMARA visits Laurel School during Tinkering Week
May 23, 2018
The TIMARA Department recently visited a group of 6th grade students during their annual Tinkering Week at the Laurel School, a private all-girls school outside of Cleveland, OH. Laurel's Tinkering Week has become something of an annual tradition for TIMARA, as students and faculty have visited Laurel for the past 6 years to lead sound-related workshops, take students on soundwalks, and to teach students the basics of field recording. This year, TIMARA staff and faculty Abby Aresty and Aurie Hsu designed a new, hands-on, interdisciplinary workshop for Laurel, blending physics, technology, and sound into a fun-filled 90-minute adventure in making art with sound. TIMARA students Margaret McCarthy, Helen He, and Julia Mills joined Aurie and Abby in co-leading the workshop.
In the workshop, students and mentors used induction coils and amps to go on a scavenger hunt for invisible electromagnetic fields. We used magnets, electromagnets, and index card diaphragms to make their own microphones and speakers. Then, we built homemade contact microphones from piezo discs and used surface transducers to turn everyday objects into speakers. We wrapped up the day with a rousing improvisation to a frog-themed cartoon, using all of our homemade technologies as well as one of a kind instruments created by TIMARA friend Kyle Hartzell.
The Laurel students were enthusiastic and bonded immediately with their Oberlin mentors, asking wonderful questions such as "How do I study this in college?" and "Can you come back for seventh grade?" Reflecting on the experience, Aresty said, "It was so rewarding to see our students mentor these girls - they did an incredible job, and the Laurel students clearly got so much out of working with them. Who knows, maybe there were a few future TIMARA majors in the room?" Plans are already in the works for next year's tinkering week, scheduled for Fall 2018. - JA
Rainforest IV in new TIMARA Gallery
May 16, 2018
Under the guidance of Technical Director Abby Aresty, six students in TECH 301 (Sound Art Installations: Design and Construction) recently performed David Tudor's "Rainforest IV" as a class project. Tudor, a pianist, composer, and renowned figure in the new music community, created "Rainforest IV" during a 1973 workshop in New Hampshire. Born out of a 1968 piece entitled "Rainforest" (originally commissioned by choreographer Merce Cunningham), the part-performance part-installation is a compelling experiment in space and audience interaction. Composers find resonant objects to suspend in the performance space, and then use their own sonic materials to excite the objects.
In a video reflection, student Julia Mills noted, "My friends had a lot of fun in 'Rainforest IV' even though this kind of experimental installation is not usually their kind of bag... I know they had a really great experience. They knew I'd worked really hard on it, and I think that kind of motivated them to scope out every object and stay for quite a long time. It was very cool to see them interact and have fun with it."
The two hour installation and performance took place in TIMARA's recently renovated gallery space; attendees were encouraged to experience the installation at their own desired pace, wandering and interacting with the resonant objects along the way. - JA
Aurie Hsu tenure-track
April 25, 2018
This year, composer Aurie Hsu accepted a tenure-track position in the TIMARA department. Hsu taught as a visiting professor at Oberlin during the 2015 and 2016 academic years. Previously, she taught at the University of San Diego and the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University. Her hiring is an exciting milestone in the program's growth, marking the first time in department history in which there have been three tenure-track TIMARA professors (instead of two with one visiting professor).
Hsu, a prolific composer, pianist, and dancer, brings an impressive array of talents and knowledge to the department. Her compositional work has been performed by ensembles including the Da Capo Chamber Players, Relâche, NOW Ensemble, and the Talujon Percussion Quartet, with presentations seen at NIME, ICMC, SEAMUS, MOCO, SIGCHI, Pixelerations, Third Practice Festival, Acoustica 21, the Logos Tetrahedron Concert Hall (Belgium), the Cité International des Arts (France), and the TivoliVredenburg (The Netherlands). Hsu's compositions span acoustic, electroacoustic, and interactive realms.
This includes the development of the Remote electroAcoustic Kinesthetic Sensing (RAKS) system, a wireless sensor interface for belly dance designed in collaboration with composer Steven Kemper, which was utilized in her ICMA award-winning piece Shadows no. 5 (2010) and Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? (2018), an Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology commission.
Beyond her compositional work, Hsu is also an accomplished pianist. She frequently performs her own prepared piano pieces. The San Francisco Classical Voice has praised her playing as "incendiary" and as having "dazzled the audience." Hsu is also a skilled dancer; a former member of the Fire in the Belly Dance Co. (2005 - 2012), her interest in dance and composition often overlap in engaging studies of physical and musical gesture.
Hsu says "I am elated to join the Division of Contemporary Music faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory. I am excited for the opportunity to work alongside incredible my colleagues in TIMARA, Peter Swendsen, Tom Lopez, and Abby Aresty. I am constantly inspired by all of the students involved in TIMARA. Their creativity, dedication, and imagination is unparalleled. Oberlin was essential in shaping my own musical and creative life from my piano performance training to my interest in experimental and electronic music. It is an immense privilege to have the chance to teach and grow at Oberlin, which is so special to me." - JA
TIMARA Re-Launches SAW 2018
March 20, 2018
From June 16-23 this summer the TIMARA Department will host the Sonic Arts Workshop (SAW)P. The electronic music workshop, which has been offered for many decades, will relaunch this year after a skipping 2017 due to renovation work. Last summer, the entire TIMARA studio complex was renovated, including the addition of two new studios. Official announcements (with photos!) about the renovations will be posted here shortly. Needless to say, we are very excited about our facilities and look forward to sharing them with our SAW participants.
Dedicated to high school students ages 15 years and older, the SAW provides broad exposure to the world of electroacoustic music and offers a variety of technical and creative resources. Topics will include field recording, real-time techniques, audio processing, and discussion of electronic music repertoire. The program is great for students headed towards conservatory studies, as well as those interested in experimenting with electronic and computer music. You can find more information, including the application, here (financial aid is available).
When I attended as a high-school student the program provided gave me a direction and a passion. I couldn't recommend anything else if you are interested in exploring sound as a medium of creation. - Will Johnson
New TIMARA Technical Director
March 7, 2018
2017 saw the hiring of Abby Aresty as Technical Director and Lecturer for the TIMARA department. A renowned sound artist and composer, Aresty's work explores human relationships to the natural world and built environment through engaging sound experiments which "seek to provoke audience reflection on habitual listening practices in contemporary sonic environments."
Aresty's installations have been featured on NPR's All Things Considered, and praised by news outlets such as the Seattle Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She's held fellowships at the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, Grinnell College, and the Acoustic Ecology Lab at Arizona State University's Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts.
Her hiring coincided with a major renovation of the TIMARA studios. In her arrival, she's played an integral role in the reorganization and updating of the studio spaces. The job of Technical Director and Lecturer was previously held by John Talbert, who retired in 2017 after nearly forty years in the role.
Aresty says "I met my first group of TIMARA students by chance at a winter residency at the Banff Center for the Arts in January 2013. They were a great bunch -- friendly, funny, creative, supportive and welcoming. When I visited TIMARA last Spring, I found this same wonderful sense of community among the students and the faculty here on campus. It's a privilege to be a part of such a wonderful creative community and I am grateful for my students and colleagues every single day." - JA
Premieres and Reunions at TIMARA Faculty Recital
February 22, 2018
On February 23rd, the TIMARA faculty will hold a performance of original works at 8 PM in Fairchild Chapel. The program features music by all four faculty members, including premieres of new compositions by Tom Lopez, Aurie Hsu, and Abby Aresty, with instrumentation ranging from live electronics to found objects, percussion instruments and prepared piano. This event marks Aresty's first performance as an official TIMARA faculty member since her hiring as Technical Director and Lecturer.
TIMARA Chair, Peter Swendsen, will reunite with bassoonist and Director of Conservatory Professional Development, Dana Jessen, to perform a collaborative piece from Jessen's album "Carve." The composition, entitled "Fireflies in Winter," has not been performed in Oberlin by the pair for two years. He notes that since then, Jessen has performed the composition across Europe and America, and that he looks forward to presenting it again on campus. - JA
Stephan Moore shares industry insights
February 16, 2018
The first week of classes was especially busy for the TIMARA Department this semester!
On February 8th, sound artist Stephan Moore visited a combined group of TECH 204 Performance Technology Workshop students and TECH 202 Real-time Techniques students to deliver a lecture about his work. Moore teaches at the Sound Arts and Industries program at the Northwestern School of Communication.
As a past president of the American Society for Acoustic Ecology and member of the Wingspace Design Collective, Moore has led a career of diverse sonic pursuits. From six years spent touring with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (2004-2010) to curation of several art installations across the globe and collaborative engagements with popular artists such as Animal Collective (2010), his experience in the world of art, music, and composition made for a lecture of great insight to the TIMARA community. - JA
Eastman Presser returns
February 12, 2018
Oberlin alumnus and TIMARA graduate Eastman Presser ('14) will perform an original work entitled "Good Listener" tonight in Bibbins 237 at 8:30 PM. According to Presser, "Good Listener is one possible iteration of an ongoing practice that examines listening critically. It is an invitation to listen, in different ways, to different sounds, some of which might happen to be music. This partially improvised performance combines and borrows from live music, lectures, stand-up comedy, and installation to create an auditorium in which how we make meaning through listening is questioned."
Presser is currently studying Performance Practice as Research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, in pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts degree. His visit to Oberlin included a lecture to the collective TIMARA studio and to the TECH 204 Performance Technology Workshop class. - JA
John Talbert retires
May 12, 2017
John Talbert began working at Oberlin during the summer of 1978 when the Ohio Scientific Instruments microcomputer was brand new. John has been instrumental in helping the TIMARA Department embrace every technological development since then: from reel-to-reel tape to MIDI and the DX7; from simple circuit design to Arduino programming and iOS apps; and everything in between. "That's what was so cool about the job," he says. "Every year it was a new job. Every year things changed."
Erich Burnett interviewed John recently, you can read more here.
You can also learn more about John's various projects on his personal site.
The photo above shows John in his studio circa 1989.
Hunter Brown wins Allen Strange Award
May 8, 2017
Hunter Brown '17 was awarded the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States' (SEAMUS) Allen Strange Award for "Best Composition by an Undergraduate Student" at the 2017. Brown's winning piece, "Bicorporal," is described in its program notes as "an interactive electroacoustic performance system that uses timbre and amplitude tracking to manipulate digital signal processing modules. This enables the performer to control all electronic components of the performance by simply playing the acoustic instruments." Brown's interests include free improvisation with percussion and electronics, audio-visual work, sound art, audio engineering, composition for dance, and machine learning. This summer Hunter will be working as a recording engineer at the Marlboro Music Festival and School, and in the fall he will be attending Dartmouth College to pursue a Master's Degree in Digital Musics. More information and works by Brown can be found on his website: www.hunterbrown.net.
Hunter appears in the photo above (on the right) receiving the award from Eli Fieldsteel at the SEAMUS Festival.
Sounds of TIMARA...Today!
April 19, 2017
Judy Jackson (18') is featured in this online article. She can't pick her favorite part of Oberlin Conservatory's TIMARA Department. She loves everything about it.
"I'm 100 percent adamant that it's the best major on campus," she says. "It's a really strong community with some really wonderful people. There's a good exchange of ideas that happens within the department."
March 3, 2017
The Talbertronics Festival is underway! Join us in our celebration of John Talbert and his nearly 4 decades of incredible work in the TIMARA Department. We are thrilled to have many guests on campus, including former faculty: Gary Lee Nelson, Lyn Goeringer and Joo Won Park; former students: Peter Blasser, Leif Shackelford, Travis Johns and Patrick Richardson.
We have a studio open house, two workshops, three lecture/demonstrations, and three concerts. The studios are buzzing today as folks set up their open house installations.
If you're nearby, please join us. If you're far away, drop John a message!
TIMARA releases vinyl
February 28, 2017"Electroacoustic Music at Oberlin" was just released by Hanson Records. It features music by current and recent TIMARA students and faculty: Lyn Goeringer, Mitchell Herrmann, Sarah Snider, Evan Zierk, Matt Omahan, Paulus Van Horne, Charlie Abbott, Tom Lopez & Stephen Sloan.
Judy Jackson performs on the Alles Machine
January 30, 2017The Alles Machine, also knows as the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, was built in the 1970's. This video recording features Laurie Spiegel in 1977.
In 1981, the instrument was donated to the TIMARA Department, although it was barely functioning and lay dormant till recently. TIMARA engineer, John Talbert, has repurposed the machine for future generations of TIMARA composers - thanks, John!
You can read more about John's creative technical work here: