News and Media
September 30, 2019
TIMARA's 50th anniversary celebration begins next weekend with the Crafting Sound Symposium. On October 4th and 5th, a group of guest artists, local artists, and students will present their work in a series of panels and workshops, culminating in a performance on Saturday evening. Crafting Sound seeks to "turn a critical eye towards the technologies of sound...[and] examine unspoken and unquestioned value systems inherent in these technologies." The symposium will feature a variety of lo-fi and DIY alternatives to traditional musical technologies in an exploration of "how these alternatives might engage new audiences in creative sound-making practices."
The event kicks off with a 'Sonic Super Buffet," in the Birenbaum on October 4th at 7:30 PM, featuring a variety of homemade instruments. The next day (October 5th) there are two workshops by guest artists at 10 AM and 1 PM in the TIMARA studios (RSVP now as space is limited). At 4 PM, there will be a panel of guest artists discussing their use of technology in creative practice in the Cinema Studies black box theater above the Apollo. Rounding out the symposium, a concert will take place at 7:30 PM in the Birenbaum.
The event, co-organized by TIMARA Technical Director and Lecturer Abby Aresty and Instructional Technologist Kyle Hartzell, has been in the works since last spring when Aresty reached out to Hartzell about organizing the event together. As an Instructional Technologist with Oberlin's Cinema Studies and Studio Art Departments, Hartzell has worked extensively as a Sound Designer and has "embraced the history of the form in terms of making individual devices for creating sounds." Discussing the weekend's events, he expressed particular enthusiasm for Saturday's panel discussion, nothing that "it's going to bring up a lot of interesting questions about how people see their own work and how they came to their current practice via craft... in some cases it will be a learned craft from their past in others it will be a conscious decision to embrace a different mode of creating work."
Made possible through the generous financial support of TIMARA, the Center for Convergence (StudiOC) at Oberlin College, and by the Alumni Office at Oberlin College, each Crafting Sound event is free and open to the public. Guest artists Afroditi Psarra, Jess Rowland, Asha Tamirisa ('10), and Jimmy Kuehnle, and local artists include Kyle Hartzell, Eli Stine, Abby Aresty, Rachel Gibson, Drew Smith, Dirk Roosenburg, Max Addae, and Max Kramer will all be presenting their work.
September 17, 2019
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first electronic music class taught at Oberlin. The department has organized several performances and special events throughout the academic year to commemorate the historic milestone.
The Crafting Sound Symposium will mark the first of these events, taking place on October 4th and 5th. Co-organized by TIMARA Technical Director and Lecturer Abby Aresty and Educational Technologist Kyle Hartzell, Crafting Sound will feature a series of workshops and panels which have been made possible through the generous financial support of TIMARA, StudiOC, and the Alumni Office at Oberlin College.
Aresty notes that the department is "...excited to be hosting a diverse collection of artists whose creative practices engage sound through handicraft in a variety of different manners. We have packed a lot into a short time - we will host an interactive listening event, workshops, a panel discussion, a concert, and a reception. We are particularly pleased to be able to showcase some excellent works by Oberlin students alongside the featured projects presented by guest artists."
On November 16th, the Kaleidosonic Music Festival will take place in Finney Chapel. Organized by Professor Thomas Lopez, this event will feature a large number of Oberlin ensembles and musicians coming together for one collective performance. The show serves partly as a tribute to Professor Olly Wilson, who taught the first electronic music course in 1969 and recently passed away (a composition of his will be included). It is also a general celebration of Oberlin's rich musical scene. Lopez has drawn inspiration from specific performances he was involved in at Finney Chapel during his time as a student at Oberlin. While performing works by composers Sergei Kuriokhin and Pauline Oliveros, he witnessed large collages of sound involving several performers and various musical styles colliding; the Kaleidosonic Music Festival will see a continuation of that tradition in the same space.
Once the spring semester arrives, the events will continue. On March 7th, TIMARA will be hosting the Exquisite Electrophonics Concert of Student Works in Fairchild Chapel. TIMARA Professor Aurie Hsu writes that "this concert celebrates student works in diverse media, including electroacoustic composition, live electronics, video, sound art, and custom instruments for performance. Experience immersive exquisite electronics in Fairchild Chapel, a favorite venue for the TIMARA community."
The next day on March 8th, the department is hosting the Sound in the Round TIMARA Faculty Concert in Wurtzel Theater. Visiting Assistant Professor Eli Stine explains that "surround sound technology enables the construction of 360-degree-enveloping sound environments, the choreography of sound through spatialization, and the creation of immersive 'cinema for the ear' experiences. The Sound in the Round concert showcases works by TIMARA faculty that take advantage of this unique sound technology using a state-of-the-art speaker system in the Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater. The history of spatial audio within the TIMARA studios dates back to 1989, when quadraphonic (four speaker) surround sound systems were installed in the studios. Last year  the studios were upgraded to a 15-speaker half-dome system, greatly increasing the potential for the creation of immersive soundscapes."
All of the events are free and open to the public, and the TIMARA Department encourages all to join in our 50th anniversary celebrations!
Find more TIMARA 50th events!
TIMARA Inaugurates GEAR
May 2, 2019
In just over a month, the TIMARA studios will host its first ever Girls Electronic Arts Retreat (GEAR). Led by Technical Director Abby Aresty, the Girls Electronic Arts Retreat (GEAR) is a 5-day day camp for local 3rd to 5th grade girls that fosters curiosity, creativity, and confidence through playful, collaborative projects that integrate science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Aresty will be joined by a team of current TIMARA majors, graduating seniors, and other Oberlin College students. At GEAR, kids will make their own contact microphones to paint with sound, make their own paper speakers, and listen to hidden electromagnetic fields and much more!
Asked why she is launching GEAR, Aresty said, "according to a recent study, the perception that certain fields require an innate brilliance is enough to deter many women from pursuing careers in these fields. Another study found that girls as young as six years of age tend to believe that brilliance is a male trait. By the time they reach college, women in technical fields are often already at a disadvantage since their male peers have been immersed in the culture for years; without the right support system and peer group, it is easy for them to think that a career in technology is simply not for them. At GEAR, we are committed to helping girls build confidence in technology in a supportive environment through fun, hands-on activities."
The pilot session of GEAR has been made possible by generous funding from the Oberlin Conservatory Dean's office, the Oberlin College and Conservatory's grants office, the TIMARA Department at Oberlin Conservatory, the Bill Long Foundation, and OCA, with additional support from Oberlin Conservatory's summer programs and the Oberlin City Schools.
Registration ends May 22 - visit the website and sign up your child for GEAR! - KR
Josh Augustin interns at Columbia Records
April 22, 2019
Josh Augustin, a third year TIMARA and Cinema Studies major, has spent this past semester in New York City attending the New York Arts Program. The NY Arts Program is run by Ohio Wesleyan as part of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (Oberlin is a member school). It's structured in 16 credits - 12 are for one or two internships in a creative field of your choice, and the other four are a weekly seminar with an advisor where you make, learn, and talk about art. "The music seminar was small this year, it was just me and one other student from Kalamazoo College, but we had a wonderful time making music together and discussing all things music-related with our advisor."
To fill the program's internship credits, Augustin is interning at Columbia Records in the Marketing Department. He says, "At a big label like Columbia, Marketing sort of functions as the glue that pulls together all the various departments as they work to promote the label's roster. They develop and execute campaigns and release strategies that involve a wide array of promotional pursuits and logistics, pulling all of these facets of the major-label system together into a precise and cohesive plan surrounding the release of a new single or album. These plans are executed over the course of several months. My favorite part of working at Columbia has been watching these campaigns play out in real time. I've watched artists like Solange, Hozier, Gesaffelstein, Lil Nas X, Vampire Weekend, and several others release new music during my internship. It's really impressive watching the coordinated efforts of Columbia's employees come to fruition."
Augustin speaks to how being in NYC for the semester has influenced him as an artist. "Musically speaking, it's left an indelible impact on my work. Most of the music I make, whether it's solo or with my friend Sam as Vansire, is a soundtrack to wherever I'm currently living or spending time. For most of my life, that's been southeastern Minnesota or Oberlin, both rural locations. The soundtrack to walking around Midtown at 6PM is obviously quite different from what I'd be spinning while driving through an uncrowded Rust Belt interstate. I don't think my compositional process has changed, but the geographic immediacies which inform the scenes and sensations I'm interested in depicting have shifted drastically."
Since geography plays such an important role in Augustin's music creation, being in New York has been a game-changer in his creative life. He speaks to what he misses about being in the more familiar and comfortable environment, of Oberlin: "In the most literal sense, I miss open rural spaces. Three and a half months spent trotting around the streets of New York has made me realize how much my understanding of the world around me is predicated upon plains, fields, and empty spaces. What I mean to say is that New York isn't really a creative “stasis” for me. It's an exciting and bustling place, somewhere I aspire to become a part of, but in my own personal narrative, it's a place that represents a culmination of the things I've learned and people I've met along the way. Which is very cool and exciting in its own way. On the other hand, Oberlin bears more similarity to where I grew up, and making music somewhere reminiscent of that time in my life sort of centers me in a creative capacity."
Sometimes a change in pace and surroundings can be invigorating. Augustin reflects on some of his biggest learning moments from his time in The Big Apple and beyond, "I think there's value in spending some time away from the places and people that you love. While challenging on occasion, the absence of locations and figures central to your life can help you more clearly determine why they're important to you, and how they've shaped you as an individual. So in that sense, I think I've learned to not shy away from opportunities which might seem onerous in their lack of normalcy. When I look back on my short time alive, the experiences in which I went for something outside of the norm have usually been the most memorable and meaningful. Life's fleeting as it is, so eh, you might as well give things a shot if you have the chance." - KR
TIMARA Offers SAW 2019
March 28, 2019
From June 16-22 this summer the TIMARA Department will host the Sonic Arts Workshop (SAW). The electronic music workshop, which has been offered for many decades, will continue this year with exciting recent facility upgrades. During summer 2017, the entire TIMARA studio complex was renovated, including the addition of two new studios. We are very happy in our new facilities and look forward to sharing them with SAW participants.
Dedicated to high school students ages 15 years and older, 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 the repertoire of electronic music. 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 (see Will's work with Fawn featured on NPR's First Watch)
March 25, 2019
Swendsen Dance Collaborations
TIMARA Professor Peter Swendsen will present a handful of collaborative performances with choreographers over the month of March. Swendsen states, "collaborations with choreographers represent a large part of my creative work over the last twenty years, starting with projects I did as an undergrad at Oberlin. By now, I've made nearly 50 scores for dance, and working with dance is one of my very favorite things. This confluence of dance events in March is a fun combination of new projects and old, long-time collaborators and new ones."
The first performance took place on March 8th at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. Swendsen shared his piece coldness and lightness, in collaboration with Ashley Thorndike. Swendsen speaks about his collaborative history with Thorndike, and his piece: "Ashley and I have been working together since 2003. Along with a third collaborator, Dinah Gray, we co-directed a small dance company in Charlottesville for several years, during which time we made many pieces together. A shorter version of coldness and lightness was first performed in Oberlin in 2009. We premiered the evening-length version in Washington DC in the fall of 2017, which led to this performance at the Kennedy Center. As Ashley says, this pieces is a portrait of the moment at which the ground cracks—a sudden destabilization of an icy landscape." You can find more information about coldness and lightness here.
On March 22nd, at 7 and 9pm, at the Pilgrim Church in Cleveland, Peter Swendsen, Dana Jessen and NYC-based Pam Tanowitz Dance will share five small dances for Cleveland. "The music for these pieces comes largely from Dana Jessen's album, Carve, which includes a piece Dana and I made together called Fireflies in Winter. Dana and I perform live with a combined cast of dancers from NYC-based Pam Tanowitz Dance and Cleveland-based The Movement Project in a beautiful old church in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland."
On March 22nd and 23rd, at The Theatre at Gibney (in NYC) Swendsen showcased his collaborative work LUNA. Swendsen speaks about LUNA and his collaborations: "David Shimotakahara and I made LUNA in 2013. It's one of four pieces I've made for GroundWorks, and last fall it was revived for a performance at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. There are many connections between GroundWorks and Gibney Dance in NYC, where the performance will take place. Chief among them is another long-time collaborator of mine, Amy Miller, who is the Senior Company Director and Gibney, and with whom I have performed there several times prior. LUNA explores the nature of desire and its deeply held and often opposing motivations. "These polarities developed into a series of physical relationships that reveal many facets in a cycle of experience," writes my collaborator, David Shimotakahara. "That cycle is like the moon, as primal and unknowable as it is familiar." - KR
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). 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: