News and Media
March 8, 2019
(T)echs Machina Music Festival
The TIMARA (T)echs Machina Music Festival will be taking place March 13th-15th. The festival will serve as a celebration of electronic music and creative music technologies. The two concerts will be in The Birenbaum on the 14th and 15th, at 7:30pm, and will be free and open to the public.
The festival will feature special guests including renowned composer and scholar George Lewis(Columbia University), Onyx Ashanti, Akiko Hatakeyama, Eli Stine ('14), and Alex Christie ('09), and Steven Kemper. Performances also feature Beverly Acha, Contemporary Music and Improvisation faculty, Dana Jessen, and TIMARA faculty members, Peter Swendsen ('99), Tom Lopez ('89), Abby Aresty, and Aurie Hsu ('97).
The concerts will showcase exciting and innovative performances with electroacoustic music, interactive electronics, interactive scores, Ashanti's "sonomorphic" bodyware system, robotic instruments, sonic-visual ecosystems, and multi-channel digital instruments. For more information on the schedule and details of events, click here.
This event is organized with support from the TIMARA Department, Office of the Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory, Office of Oberlin Conservatory Professional Development, and the Alumni in Service to Oberlin College (ASOC) Fund. - KR
February 25, 2019
Students Present at NSEME
This year, TIMARA had four student participants in the National Student Electronic Music Event (NSEME), this year, held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. TIMARA majors Ian English, Will Bertrand, Drew Smith, and Helen He attended six concerts, and got the chance to present their work and experience the works of others. The accompanying picture has (l-r) Ian English, Will Bertrand, Drew Smith, and Eli Stine (class of 2014 and co-presenter of NSEME)
Second year TIMARA major Drew Smith presented their piece, written in TECH 201, Open Your Window, written using using a Ciat Lombard Plumbutter, an instrument made by Peter Blasser ('01), the ARP 2600, and guitar - processed using the Buchla 200. "The piece goes from pleasant and calm to really intense, and then there's a disillusion of intensity. This piece was fueled by anxiety that gave me trouble sleeping." - Drew
Helen He presented her installation Memories of Light, her final project from TIMARA's technical director Abby Aresty's sound installation class. "The installation consists of five box modules, each containing a light sensor and speaker. Lights are programmed to turn on and off at certain intervals, and the light sensor triggers sounds from Max MSP. Memories of Light was inspired by a cemetary, because people always associate cemeteries with words such as creepy and unsettling. I see them as a place where the dead live. They are the land of our ancestors." - Helen
Will Bertrand, third year TIMARA and physics major, presented Dregs-Magic, a collaborative audiovisual piece with Austin Covell, student at SMFA. "I did sound and Austin did animation, and all the sounds came from a recording session we did with pots and pans with the excitement of using a good contact mic for the first time. I assembled all the sound stuff, and then he did the animation/video to go along with it." - Will
Ian English, third year TIMARA major, showcased their piece Organism 2.5. "It is basically the culmination of about six months of recording sounds. The piece was originally mostly bells and electric organ. I got most of the percussive blip blop sounds by using sidechain compression, phase inversion, and gate. There are earlier incarnations of the piece that are much more ambient and less genius." - Ian
Bertrand reflects on his experience at NSEME: "Helen's installation was great, the concerts were all cool! Someone did a piece where they did a broadcast from a local radio station and then drove people around the perimeter of the broadcast area to hear it come in and out of focus. The highlight for me was the late-night show, where I saw Aaron Dilloway (owner of Oberlin's very own Hanson Records) give a really pummeling noise set to close out the conference."
December 20, 2018
Students Performing at Festivals
"Repressed Memory is a piece I wrote in my second semester of freshman year, and was my second piece for acoustic instruments and electronics. I wrote the piece in a very quick span of time, it was inspired largely by the experience of remembering a traumatic memory and attempting to relive it through sound as a sort of therapy. It's been performed twice: first at Oberlin, and recently at the SPLICE Festival at Bowling Green State University. Now having it selected for N_SEME, it's incredibly exciting to be able to hear it played again. It's also wonderful to see such a strong TIMARA presence at the event, I think it's really a testament to the program, having such a supportive environment from both students and faculty." - Drew Smith (TIMARA second-year Major)
"Electronic Music Midwest (EMM) 2018 took place at Lewis University from Thursday, Oct 11 to Saturday, Oct 13 and over the course of one weekend boasted 9 concerts with 61 pieces. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to the last two concerts on Saturday, but that didn't stop it from being worthwhile. The curators of the program did a wonderful job at filling the concerts with a variety of quality pieces that were both interesting enough and different enough from each other to keep me awake through more than two hours of new music in the same evening--which is an achievement considering my attention span.
Aside from the music, what really surprised me was the warmth of the community that I found at EMM. I had never been to a new music festival before, so it was a very pleasant surprise just how invested everybody there was in everybody else's work. Even people who weren't able to make it to the concert my piece was in asked me about my work, exchanged contact information, and welcomed me into the community with open arms. I don't know what I was expecting to come out of the experience with, but the new friends I made were a great surprise. Many thanks to the conservatory dean's office for their financial support in letting me attend the event! - Tori Ervin (TIMARA fourth-year Major)
The Arts of Conflict Resolution
December 11, 2018
This Wednesday at 10 PM, a StudiOC production entitled Some Things Cosmic Are These will be performed in Warner Main Space. Created by the thirteen students who took "Mixed Media Collaborations" (TECH 360 taught by Tom Lopez) and "Somatic Approaches to Conflict Resolution" (DANC 347 taught by Holly Handman-Lopez), the upcoming performance is the culmination of a semester in which the students collaborated on new works across a wide range of artistic disciplines.
Second-year TIMARA student Claudia Hinsdale explained that in the class, “a group of artists - music, dance, writing, circus arts, theater, etc - collaborated on work, and learned how to resolve conflicts inside and outside of this work creatively. We all got a chance to work in various group sizes, time frames, and under many leadership structures. Over the course of the semester, we have all created a massive amount of material that has taken many different shapes.”
Piper Hill, a fifth-year TIMARA student noted that “This StudiOC class has catalyzed a huge shift in my creative process… all art is collaboration whether we're actively thinking about everyone who's helped us make what we make. Being forced to work together to churn out a ton of work with very quick turnaround has been very liberating. I now feel really great about making art with my friends. I am now able to make faster creative decisions, because worrying about whether it will be the right choice or not is not super productive.”
Regarding the performance, Hill stated “I don't want to say too much, but I will say that I've gotten the chance to design lighting and sound, compose, act, sing, play guitar, perform choreographed movements, wear a fancy vest, and be a part of something absolutely magical! Come see me get sculpted from silk, perform in a mediocre rock band, and ride a bus. Watch as we thirteen humans and beings alter the fate of the cosmos!”
Some Things Cosmic Are These is a free event, but seating is limited. The show begins at 10 PM in Warner Main Space this Wednesday. - JA
November 12, 2018
This Tuesday, TIMARA will hold a student recital in The Birenbaum at 8:00 PM. The concert is free and will feature works by six students (Claudia Hinsdale, Jack Hamill, Drew Smith, Daniel Markus, Sophie Shalit, and Piper Hill).
Hinsdale, a second year, will premiere a new composition entitled Phase Canon which draws inspiration from 15th century vocal works. Describing the piece, she explains that “live input processing and improvisational percussion contextualize and create a narrative for the predetermined structure of a 36 voice canon from the 15th century.” The piece will feature performances from percussionist Jeremy McCabe and alto saxophonist Noah Hellman.
Second year Drew Smith will also premiere a new piece, entitled Axiomatics. Describing the piece’s inspiration, Smith explains “I wrote the code for the electronics in the program Supercollider, which contains both synthesized material that is triggered by the saxophonist, as well as live processing (running the saxophone to a set of guitar pedals and through a guitar amp). . . I've been really interested by the idea of speakers as instruments in electronic music, so having a speaker that's disconnected from the rest of the electronics with totally different sets of processing parameters was something I wanted to explore.” The piece will feature Gabe Heinemann on alto saxophone. - JA
TIMARA @ NIME 2018
October 19, 2018
TIMARA was represented this year at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) conference at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA from June 3-6. NIME is an international conference featuring research, demos, musicians, and performers specializing in cutting edge and forward-looking musical interface design from all over the world.
This year, third-year student Rachel Gibson presented a poster-demo of her research on The Textural Theremin Expander (TTE), which explores textures the theremin can produce when its sound is processed and manipulated through a Max/MSP patch and controlled via a MIDI pedalboard. Gibson worked with TIMARA Technical Director Abby Aresty on this project. Her work was met with great enthusiasm from conference participants.
NIME 2018 also included performances by Oberlin alums Hunter Brown (Percussion Performance/TIMARA, minor '17), Alex Christie (TIMARA/Composition '09), and Eli Stine (Computer Science/TIMARA '14). TIMARA faculty Aurie Hsu performed a collaborative piece with Rutgers professor, Steven Kemper, Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? for sensor-equipped belly dancer, robotic percussion, sound exciters, and live sound processing. Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? was commissione by the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology for the 2018 Biennial Symposium. - AH
What I Didn't Say installation
October 10, 2018
On October 12th, TIMARA Technical Director and Lecturer Abby Aresty will lead the creation of an installation entitled What I Didn’t Say. The collaborative sound installation is part of the Crafting Sound: Hidden Voices workshop for non-binary individuals and women in cisman-dominated STEAM fields. This event was created by Oberlin’s Center for Learning, Education and Research (CLEAR) and the TIMARA department.
What I Didn’t Say will consistent of a series of cards arranged on a single collective paper quilt. Each card will have an individual electromagnet made out of copper tape with a small recording and playback module. With the module, participants will record responses to the prompt “When x, what I didn’t say was…” The final paper quilt will be hung in a quiet public space.
Aresty explains that “the installation puts the onus on visitors to seek out and actively listen to the experiences and thoughts of women in STEAM. Installation visitors are given equipment that allows them to find and hear the participants’ recordings - entirely inaudible to the naked ear - transmitted through electromagnetic waves.”
The Hidden Voices workshop will take place October 12th from 4:30 - 7:30 PM in the Science Library. All non-binary and women students, faculty and employees working in cisman-dominated fields are welcome. The event includes free food, a panel and facilitated discussion, and a DIY electronics workshop. RSVP here. - JA
Students Learning Machine Learning
October 1, 2018
On October 1st, media artist Eunsu Kang will visit Technical Director and Lecturer Abby Aresty’s TECH 350 class: Workshop in Media and Music Technology. Kang is Special Faculty at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, focusing on Machine Learning and Art. A three-time recipient of the Korean National Grant for Arts, she has presented research at ACM, ICMC, and ISEA. Her work, which focuses on “audiovisual spaces that interact with people,” has received praise internationally for its “seamless integration of arts disciplines and innovative techniques” (University of Akron Ohio).
Last September, Kang’s solo exhibition “FACE” was shown at Youngstown State University. The installation featured machine learning neural networks which generated a series of faces after studying 200,000 real human faces. Described as “gorgeously diverse and intriguingly unique” by the Carnegie Mellon University School of Art, the project is just one example of the wide breadth of work created during her career.
Kang’s TECH 350 visit will be at 7 PM on October 1st in the TIMARA recording studio. The class is open to anyone who wishes to attend. While at Oberlin, she will also visit Professor Cynthia Taylor’s CSCI 313 class: Human Computer Interface. - JA
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: