News and Media
Sam Fisher Composes for Cleveland Public Theater
February 12, 2015I spoke with Samuel Fisher, recent TIMARA grad ('14) who is already making waves in the world of theater through his work with the Cleveland Public Theatre. He composed an original score for the new performance, Fire on the Water, inspired by the infamous 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. It is the final production in CPT's Elements Cycle, a series devoted to issues of sustainability and environmentalism.
GJ: How did you get involved in composing for theater?
SF: My involvement in theater as a composer and sound designer began within the arts community at Oberlin. Throughout high school and during my transitional year at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music I spent a lot of time writing music in isolation- not just physical isolation but intellectual, creative isolation. I grew up in a quaint Georgia suburb where there were not a lot of established resources or communities for sharing and collaboration in the arts, especially when it came to doing something aesthetically or conceptually challenging. First stepping into the Oberlin's artistic landscape left me reeling. I was surrounded by this community of creative, talented, ambitious, and intelligent visual artists, film makers, musicians of all stripes, dancers, computer programmers, theater makers and more. I couldn't walk more than ten feet without meeting someone I'd like to have an evening-length conversation with. Seeing the curiosity and artistic awareness that was alive in my peers and teachers made me eager to collaborate. I knew, in some way, that my best growth would come from engaging with the open exchange of content and ideas through a variety of modes of expression that can allow a group of individuals to become a composite thinking, feeling supra-human mechanism. This is the thing that lead me into theater as well as the thing that holds me there. The TIMARA Program did wonders to help me realize this desire to collaborate. The intersection of technology and music, an interdisciplinary study in it's own right, is viewed in TIMARA as a foundational skill-set for exploring how a student's creative input might fit within a variety of contexts. My creative path through school included experimentation with film, installation works, and software design but landed squarely, given time, within the practice of creating auditory worlds for theater and dance pieces.
GJ: How did your relationship with CPT start?
SF: I was introduced to Cleveland Public Theater, not so coincidentally, in a semester long arts intensive built around the study of artistic collaboration. This program, created in part by our own Tom Lopez, was called OASIS. It was designed to give a selected group of students from a variety of artistic disciplines the opportunity to work in a focused, close collaborative environment within Oberlin without the distraction of other classes or extracurricular obligations. Throughout the course of the program we worked with Raymond Bobgan and Chris Seibert from Cleveland Public Theater to develop our creations into material for the devised theater work Water Ways. Water Ways was the first play in Raymond's element series. Fire on The Water, through sheer poetic justice, happens to be the last. During my senior year, one year after closing Water Ways, Raymond put out a call for applications for CPT's inaugural Kulas Composer Fellowships - positions for early career composers to gain experience in the theater. I was eager to apply, seeing this as an ideal continuation of a professional pathway into designing for theater. During the 2013-14 season I was one of three composer fellows, each of whom designed one show. The fellowship I am engaged in this year is a restructured take on this, with only one fellow who effectively absorbs the time commitment and budget of the other two positions. My current fellowship consists of designing original scores for three shows, operating and designing for a big holiday show, producing an album of Raymond's music from previous shows, and creating a installation piece for Pandemonium (CPT's annual party/fundraiser/happening.) It has been a tremendous opportunity to grow in the art-form. The unique challenges of each production have enabled me to grow leaps and bounds as a designer.
GJ: Awesome. What was the process of composing for Fire on the Water like?
SF: Creating Fire on the Water was a fearless and rapid process, full of twists and turns for all involved. I am overjoyed that I was able to bring back the Vaudevillian trio that Rachel Iba, Lisa Yanofsky and I started in OASIS with the addition of Brian Bacon on percussion. Our awkward little ensemble of violin, keyboard, multi-percussion, and vocals aplenty performs an eclectic host of incidental music and a few of own big musical numbers. I began creating the music by watching the many self-contained scenes of the play and rapidly scribbling down the ways that music might interact with the scene. With no script and only a tentative sense of the play's arrangement, there was little room to develop most of the musical material beyond it's outline during the rehearsal process. Once Rachel arrived from Boston we had a triumphant series of band rehearsals full of discovery and invention that fed straight into the first day of tech, when all of the show's music was integrated with the action.
GJ: What is in the works for you next at CPT?
SF: My next design for CPT is a world premiere of a new play called In A Word, directed by Beth Wood. It is a beautiful, clever, and surprising script about coping mechanisms and the constant attempt to repair one's emotional self in the aftermath of a traumatic loss. The sound design, like the play, will offer a challenge to the delineation between objective and imagined reality. It will be an exploration of how naturalistic sounds can give voice to the hidden world of one's deepest emotional self and how the music of this emotional world sometimes chooses to speak through us even when we are not listening.
Fire on the Water is up at the Cleveland Public Theatre until February 14th. Learn more and purchase tickets here. -GJ
Making waves on the air with Paulus Van Horne
February 3, 2015I recently talked to Paulus Van Horne ('16) about his radio show, Organized Noise, on WOBC last semester.
GJ: How did you come up with the idea for your show?
PVH: I started planning Organized Noise when I was interning at Q2 Music on the Meet The Composer podcast (part of WQXR/WNYC) with TIMARA alum, Alex Overington ('11). The production and format of that show are heavily indebted to Radiolab and it is no coincidence because both shows are produced on the same floor! I accidentally almost knocked Jad over one time. It was glorious. He does not know who I am am... but no matter! After 2 months worth of long days editing interview tape for MTC, I decided to make my own interview-based music program. I sent out 5-10 emails to composers I admired and received one reply... Since then my ratio has improved as I get in contact with composers through more stable means, like alumni connections or social networks.
GJ: What are you trying to achieve through these interviews?
PVH: The abbreviated description of the show is "a show about hearing, perception and understanding in new and experimental music." I guess that covers a lot of ground but basically I am interested in illuminating how composers of electronic music experience and think about sound. The end goal is to give the uninterested and/or uninitiated ways of approaching these new and often strange soundworlds. As a conservatory student and TIMARA major, I think I often forget my training, that I have had years of music education to condition me to "understand" or "appreciate" (for lack of better words) sounds and soundworlds that may otherwise not be considered worthy of attention or of the definition: "music." So Organized Noise hopefully, through interviews and heavy sound design, makes some of this music more graspable.
GJ: Will you continue the show this semester?
PVH: I think the beauty of WOBC shows are that they allow us all to experiment. I will find something different but equally as rewarding. I have been really inspired by the work of surrealist radio-poet Joe Frank (his show airs on WNYC the hour preceding my show!) and radio drama podcast, The Truth. I think I will do a more story-based program next time around and hope to include more voices from the community and college. Radio is about reflecting and sometimes even creating community, so including residents of Oberlin is really important. ...Ideas are still in the works...
Paulus has featured the following composers on Organized Noise. (*denotes a TIMARA alum)
Paulus Dolden, Christopher DeLaurenti, Peter Swendsen*, Elainie Lillios, Bernie Krause, Maggi Payne, Tom Erbe (author of soundhack), Asha Tamirisa*, Francisco Lopez, Mario Diaz de Leon*
Joo Won Park joins the TIMARA Faculty
December 11, 2014TIMARA proudly welcomes Visiting Professor Joo Won Park to the faculty! Joo Won is an electroacoustic composer who wants to make everyday sound beautiful and strange so that everyday becomes beautiful and strange. He performs live with toys, consumer electronics, kitchenware, vegetables, and other non-musical objects by digitally processing their sounds. He also makes pieces with field recordings, sine waves, and any other sources that he can record or synthesize. Joo Won draws inspirations from Florida swamps, Philadelphia skyscrapers, his two sons, and other soundscapes surrounding him. He has studied at Berklee College of Music and the University of Florida and has taught at the University of Florida, Temple University, and Community College of Philadelphia. - GJ
Check out Joo Won's recent project 100 strange sounds and more of his music on his youtube page and his website!
Mitchell Herrmann ('16) attends Atlantic Center Residency
November 20, 2014This year, TIMARA student Mitchell Herrmann (back row, second from left) was selected to participate in the Atlantic Center for the Arts' Master Artist in Residence program with composer Jonty Harrison. Mitchell was chosen by Mr. Harrison from a group of artist applicants from around the world, made up of university professors, post-graduate students, and professionals. The other arts were represented by full-time writers, dancers, and painters. During his stay, Mitchell got to work closely with Mr. Harrison every day as well as workshop with the other composers in residence.
"Studying with Jonty was a great experience. We had several excellent conversations about compositional strategies that I feel have really benefitted my music. The other composers in residence were quite helpful as well, and our group listening sessions helped me to hone in on the areas of my music which were in need of improvement." - Mitchell Herrmann
Jonty Harrison is a noted electroacoustic composer currently teaching at the University of Birmingham. In 1982, he founded the Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), a sound diffusion system with over 100 individual speakers that has toured around the world. His students have included Hans Tutschku (now director of the Harvard electroacoustic music studios), and Natasha Barrett. - GJ
Reed Hays ('90) returns to share successful career
October 14, 2014TIMARA would like to thank Reed Hays, (class of '90) who visited the studios to speak with students about scoring music for television, staying financially afloat in today's turbulent music world, and the merits of a liberal arts education.
Reed moved to New York to write music for television after graduating from Oberlin Conservatory with degrees in TIMARA and Cello Performance. In 1994 he joined forces with Phil Garrod to write the NFL on Fox theme which now brands all Fox Sports' broadcast, cable and internet. In 2002 Reed and Mr. Garrod formed OSI Music and created themes for thousands of titles on numerous sports and news networks, reality programs, and commercials, which have earned him several BMI awards and Emmy nominations.
"After the lecture a couple students and I walked up Professor Street to continue the discussion. When I looked down and realized that one of them was barefoot it became clear that not much had changed in 25 years." - Mr. Hays
Lyn Goeringer participates in the Ingenuity Festival
October 3, 2014This year, TIMARA professor Lyn Goeringer built an installation that was included in the Cleveland IngenuityFest. In her own words, "the project incorporates 3 large sculptures of trees that have a single fluorescent light on each tree that I use have 'tuned' to make three different pitches. These pitches are then sent into custom built cymetic sound basins, which causes the water to vibrate and illustrate the frequency spectrum of the pitches the lights are making. The sound itself comes from the lightbulb itself, not from the light spectrum it emits.
In addition to the three large tree sculptures, there are six smaller sculptures that are primarily aesthetic. They were placed in the connector hallway, to extend the forest from the primary atrium room within the connector hallway at the Great Lakes Science Center to the STEM school. In addition to the sculptures, four bells were being rung using an automated system that was driven by Arduino micro controllers. These bells took advantage of the highly resonant space of the hallway. In addition to the bells, the hallway featured the hum of two of the smaller fluorescent lights, which were not tuned and represented the default sound signature of a standard fluorescent bulb."
For this project, Lyn worked with a large team of Oberlin students and Alumni, including:
Will Johnson (Apprentice)
John Burnett (Apprentice)
Regina Larre Campuzano (Intern)
Cynthia Taylor (programmer)
Charlie Spears (Installer)
Elise Moltz (build team)
Judith Jackson (build team)
Yu Zheng (build team)
The project was sponsored by Oberlin College and Ingenuity Fest. - GJ
Students Attend Threshold Festival
September 26, 2014This year, the annual Threshold Student Festival of Electronic Music was held at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana on September 19th and 20th. TIMARA students Elise Moltz, Sage Jenson, Devin Frenze, Evan Zierk, Paulus Van Horne, and Mitchell Herrman presented electronic works alongside fellow student composers from Ball State University, Bowling Green State University, and Miami University of Ohio. Accompanying them was TIMARA Visiting Assistant Professor Joo Won Park. - GJ
George Lewis, composer-in-residence, returns
April 30, 2014Continuing his year long residency, Oberlin is excited to welcome George Lewis to campus for another week, from May 1st to the 7th. As a preeminent composer and improvisor, Lewis has held teaching positions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mills College, and UC San Diego, received a MacArthur Fellowship and USA Walker Fellow award, and had works 3resented by Ensemble Erik Satie and IRCAM. He currently teaches at Columbia University.
While here, George will give lectures, participate on a panel discussion, lead master classes, work with students privately, and play with OINC - look here for his schedule. Wednesday night, May 7th, Oberlin's Contemporary Music Ensemble will play his piece Anthem, for chamber ensemble and electronics at 8pm in Warner Concert Hall, don't miss it! - WJ
Sam Fisher ('14) premieres sound design at CPT
April 17, 2014Congratulations to TIMARA senior Sam Fisher for winning one of Cleveland Public Theater's inaugural Kulas Composer Fellowships. As a fellow, Sam has created music for "The Drowning Girls," a play directed by Missy Crum. Based on actual events, "Drowning Girls" was written by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson & Daniela Vlaskalic and premiered in 2008 at Alberta Theater Projects. The script tells the stories of three women who were murdered and the experience they share of the bathtubs in which they died. The Show will run in CPT's storefront studio from April 17th to May 3rd. Tickets can be purchased online at CPT's website. - WJ
TIMARA Launches SAW 2014
March 20, 2014From June 22-29 this summer the TIMARA Department will host its annual Sonic Arts Workshop (SAW). Dedicated to high school students ages 15 years and older, the program provides great 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 simply interested in experimenting with electronic and computer music. More information, including the application, is avaliable here.
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. - WJ
TIMARA welcomes Fred Frith
February 25, 2014The TIMARA department is excited to welcome Fred Frith to Oberlin this week! A versatile composer, improviser, and multi-instrumentalist, Frith is best known for his innovative reinvention of the electric guitar going back to the 1970's. His training primarily comes from playing in rock bands and recording, most notably with Henry Cow. As a professor at Mills College, Fred has mentored several Obies during graduate school, including current professors Peter Swendsen (TIMARA) and Julia Christensen (Art). He will be giving a concert at 8pm Wednesday in Fairchild Chapel (free admission). For more info check out our new music calendar. - WJ
TIMARA majors present at N SEME
February 21, 2014TIMARA sophomores Mitchell Hermann ('17) and Keenan DuBois ('16) are headed to Statesboro, GA for the third National Student Electronic Music Event. Mitchell will present an eight-channel piece entitled Kettledrum Organ and Keenan will show a live piece, Ucuelet Suite, for Flute and tape. Started by students and for students, this festival displays exclusively student works. Anyone in the area is welcome to attend for free, concerts will be ongoing throughout the day both February 21 and 22 on the campus of Georgia Southern University. For more information see N SEME's website. - WJ
Winter Term at the Banff Centre for the Arts
February 12, 2014For three weeks of Oberlin's 2014 Winter Term, seven Composition and TIMARA majors joined TIMARA faculty Lyn Goeringer and Peter Swendsen for a residency at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies. While in Banff, the students worked intensively on a wide variety of projects, which they presented to the Banff Centre community at the end of the residency. In addition to personal projects, the students met and collaborated with other resident artists from around the world. Taking part were Sam Fisher ('14), Keenan DuBois ('16), John Burnett ('16), Mitchell Herrmann ('17), Judith Jackson ('17), Eli Stine ('14), and Noah Chevan ('15).
The Banff Centre is the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet. Its mission is inspiring creativity. Over 8,000 artists, leaders, and researchers from across Canada and around the world participate in programs at The Banff Centre every year. Through its multidisciplinary programming, The Banff Centre provides them with the support they need to create, to develop solutions, and to make the impossible possible.