Baroque Dreams – Innovation in Musical Instruments at Swissnex

On October 30th I will be giving a presentation on Innovation in Musical Instruments, at swissnex San Francisco, the Swiss nexus for science, education, art and innovation in the Bay Area. I’ll be describing our initiatives at the BEAM Foundation; building tools to achieve our goal of sparking a new Western classical music movement based on the technologies and aesthetics of the 21st century. I plan to cover the role of technology in inspiring new art, how some current issues facing live electronic music performance can be overcome by new musical instruments, and some ways that we can ensure electronic pieces are playable for years to come.

I’ve titled the talk “Baroque Dreams” because the Baroque period was one of incredibly active innovation that spawned new musical genres that have been with us to this day. Since then however, new instruments have only seen limited use in the mainstream art music world. Hopefully, I’ll be able to address some of the reasons why.

In particular, I will be showcasing the K-Bow and the StringPort, our two new technologies that allow traditional string instrumentalists to utilize the open sound world of the computer in ways never before possible.

I’ll be followed by Gil Carnal, a Swiss guitar designer, who has been crafting the more analog kind of new instrument for years.

Where? 730 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

The event is free, but RSVP is mandatory, by clicking here.

From the Swissnex site:

Traditional musical instruments and traditional performance on these instruments resonate too strongly to be disregarded in the modern musical era. But how can musicians bridge the gap between centuries-old instruments and today’s electronic compositions? Our guests demonstrate the spectrum of adaptation, from refinements to the classical guitar to new techniques for performing computer-generated music.

Gil Carnal, a Swiss guitar designer based in California, who for thirty years has been working on designs for classical guitars, is an expert at coming up with shapes and materials that enhance movement and touch while also upping the ante on how instruments sound. For his presentation at Swissnex San Francisco, Gil decided that theory needed practical demonstration, and thus extended an invitation to perform to Mesut Özgen, a classical guitarist of the highest caliber and a long-time user of Carnal’s forward-looking designs.

An important presence at the forefront of musical technology and digital culture, Barry Threw tackles the question of how to relate the traditions of musical performance and seemingly abstract, computer-based musical creations. He’ll present two products that go a long way towards overcoming the disconnect: the K-Bow and the StringPort, both designed for performative use with classical violins.

As Barry puts it, “Over the years, the development of new technology has been a primary driving influence in the creation of new artistic forms and movements. During the Baroque period, an influx of new instruments created an outpouring of new musical styles that continue to influence music to this day. However, the contemporary classical performing arts world continues to exist primarily by performing centuries old works using even older instruments, even in our era of abundant computer technology. At the same time, electronic composers exploring new forms are often relegated to presenting pre-recorded ‘tape’ music. With no way to re-perform electronic works with multiple musicians, the new music of today lacks the interpretive performance culture that has made music such a rich medium for interaction. How do we close this gap between the virtuoso performer and the near infinite possibilities of the computer? Is ‘remix’ our era’s best answer to a contemporary musical genre?”


7:00 p.m. Doors open, mixer

7:30 p.m. Presentation by Barry Threw

8:15 p.m. Presentation by Gil Carnal

9:00 p.m. Classical guitar performance by Mesut

10:30 p.m. Doors close