#Picnic09: STEIM, Music, and Training Our Intuition

On: October 1, 2009
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About Chris Castiglione
Chris is an alumni of Universiteit van Amsterdam and the New Media M.A. Currently, he is the co-founder of One Month (www.onemonth.com), and the host of the On Books Podcast (www.book-podcast.com).


A few members of STEIM, the electro-instrumental music foundation located in Amsterdam, came together at PICNIC to show the importance of music in our increasingly complex and out of control culture.

“Say goodbye to control. Say hello to improvisation,” these were a few of the opening remarks made by STEIM director Dick Rijken. He stressed that in a world of less control we need to concentrate on training our intuition. For Rijken (and STEIM) musical instruments play a significant role in developing the skills of intuition and improvisation.

STEIM’s Kristina Anderson took the stage next to highlight a variety of “instrumental objects” that challenge traditional notions of music creation. One example was Dick Raaymaker’s Intona (1992), a video in which he records a live microphone as it melts under the heat of a blowtorch – or as Anderson explained, “the sound of a musical instrument burning alive.” Other examples included works by Sonia Cillari and Tarek Atoui that experimented with digital sounds being generated from physical body movements.

Frank Balde then demonstrated how the Nintendo Wii can be repurposed into an impressive musical instrument. In conjunction with STEIM’s junXion software Balde was able to manipulate the pitch, amplitude, and frequency of a variety of sounds such as a grand piano, bass guitar and techno drums. All of this culminated in a stunning musical performance by Balde which received enormous applause from the crowd.

Finally, Robert Van Heumen and Ariel Qassis concluded the session with their beautiful, yet haunting live performance: an improvisation piece using real time sampling.

All the projects showcased seemed to show how creativity through musical experimentation bridges the gap between the human body and digital objects. Or in other words, music is where electronic sensors and the human senses come together to create art.

VIDEO: Hacking the Nintendo Wii into a Musical Instrument


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