Surface Tension

On September 24th, in the course of its live@CIRMMT series, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Technology (CIRMMT) featured pianist Eve Egoyan and visual artist David Rokeby. Both artists, hailing from Toronto, presented Surface Tension, a collaborative work for disklavier and interative video exploring various avenues as regard music-image interactions. On the stage, a screen placed above the disklavier gave the impression that the images, either manipulated or generated live by a computer, in fact originated from the instrument itself.

Five visual interactive “landscapesˮ were a priori conceived in order to enable Egoyan to explore, via a five-part improvisation, various image-music encounters. The first and last parts were oriented toward a specific videographic treatment, while the middle improvisations showed various synthesized images, generated live, which could be associated to the realm of Visual Music.

One of the most interesting moments was no doubt the third improvisation: a sort of tri-dimensional tower was constructed in front of our eyes, live, depending on the pianist’s playing. Perhaps also one of those sections in which Egoyan was in a most intimate dialogue with the images, modulating her playing to feed this strange architecture. Perhaps also one of those moments in which the images’ conception expressed the music best, due to the transparency regarding the synchronicity of audiovisual events, and the economy of means to which Rokeby restrained himself concerning their visual treatment.

As the title of the work indicates, some of those interactive “environments” conceived by Rokeby are based on natural processes, such as disturbances on water created by a rock thrown on its surface, or the trajectory of the planets. The use of those models is particularly explicit during the fourth improvisation. In a nutshell, a multiple-attractor particles generator was used. Some keys, or at least some registers, of the piano triggered the emission of particles associated with certain colours. Those particles traced trajectories which sometimes converged and sometimes moved independently. The musician consequently focused her playing around register oppositions. One thus had the impression that the visual component was somehow enhanced by the musical improvisation, the latter which depended on the particles generator’s behavior.

Listening to Egoyan’s improvisations, one is made aware of a musician fully in control of the instrument. The pianist seeks to explore image-music interactions instead of developing a playing centered on performance. Nonetheless, the musician never limits herself to easy instrumental solutions. She gives to hear an inventive music, imbued with sobriety and profundity, aiming to seduce while remaining demanding.

In some instances, and especially during the magnificent last section, one wished the images were not imprisoned in a traditional projection format. Those formats (SD, HD, etc…), surely appropriate for cinematographic or television works, may sometimes constrain a work which asks for more room to breath. One has to point out here, however, that the vast and superb space of the Multimedia Room (MMR) of the McGill University music faculty cast a shadow, or at least gave the impression that this screen was somewhat lost in such a vast space.

The concert ended by a moment whose whiteness stood out. Snowflakes, on the face of it of an almost bland appearance, with a cyclist in the background that one imagined somewhat in trouble in this storm…, intertwined and formed a dense network, as Egoyan drew from the piano a music which perfectly expressed the sobriety of those images.

Eve Egoyan

Born in Victoria, B.C., in 1964, pianist Eve Egoyan has been interpreting new works since 1994. Eve’s intense focus, command of the instrument, insightful interpretations, and unique programmes welcome audiences into unknown territory, bridging the gap between them and contemporary composers. Eve has performed the world première and North American premières of many works by Canadian and international composers including Martin Arnold, Allison Cameron, Alvin Curran, Maria de Alvear, José Evangelista, Michael Finnissy, Rudolf Komorous, Jo Kondo, Michael Longton, Juliet Palmer, Stephen Parkinson, James Rolfe, Linda C. Smith, Ann Southam, Karen Tanaka, James Tenney, Judith Weir and Gayle Young. Many of these works were commissioned through the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, Laidlaw Foundation, CBC, Japan-Canada Fund and the British Council. She has appeared as a solo recitalist in Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Japan, and the U.S. including performances at in the Huddersfield Contemporary Festival, (Huddersfield, U.K.), the Other Minds Festival (San Francisco), the Vancouver New Music Festival, the Kobe International Modern Music Festival (Kobe, Japan), and the Sound Symposium (St. Johns). In 2001 she made her debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, playing the world première of Figures by Ann Southam for the Massey Hall New Music Festival. Eve has released seven critically acclaimed solo discs, six of works by living composers and one disc of works by Erik Satie. She has acted as soloist and executive producer on all these discs. Her first solo CD, “thethingsinbetween”, was included in the Globe and Mail’s 1999 “Top Ten” list. Her most recent disc, “Simple Lines of Enquiry”, a one-hour long piano solo by Ann Southam written for Eve, was selected as one of the New Yorker magazine’s ten top of 2009 discs by Alex Ross, music critic and author of the critically acclaimed “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century”. As an improvising musician Eve has had the opportunity to perform with Fred Frith, Michael Snow, Malcolm Goldstein, Anne Bourne, Martin Arnold, and Casey Sokol. Other collaborations include dance projects, interdisciplinary performance, film work (including the Oscar nominated “Capote”) and sound installations. Her most recent collaboration “Surface Tension” with her husband media artist David Rokeby (structured improvisations on a disklavier piano and real-time images) can be viewed at: http://www.vimeo.com/6154175. Honours include numerous commissions and awards from the Canada Council, Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils, FACTOR, a University of Victoria Distinguished Alumna Award, a K.M. Hunter Award, and a Chalmers Award. Recently she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) and was one of fifty Canadian performers and conductors given and designation of “CMC Ambassador” by the Canadian Music Centre. Eve trained in standard repertoire at the Victoria Conservatory of Music with Anne Brayshaw and Winifred Scott Wood, the University of Victoria with Eva Solar-Kinderman, the Banff Centre of Fine Arts with György Sebök, the Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin with Georg Sava (German Academic Exchange Scholarship), the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, with Hamish Milne (Commonwealth Scholarship), and in Toronto where she completed her M.Mus. at the University of Toronto with Patricia Parr (Chalmers Award).

David Rokeby

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focussed on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, including: • the Venice Biennale in 1986 • Ars Electronica (Linz Austria) in 1991 • the Mediale (Hamburg Germany) in 1993 • the Kwangju Biennale (Korea) in 1995 • the Biennale di Firenze (Florence, Italy) in 1996 • Alien Intelligence (Kiasma, Helsinki) in 2000 • The National Gallery of Canada in 2002 • The Venice Architecture Biennale in 2002 • Ars Electronica in 2002 • Algorithmische Revolution (ZKM, Germany) in 2004 • Silicon Remembers Carbon (retrospective) (Fact, Liverpool, UK) in 2007 • Silicon Remembers Carbon (retrospective) (CCA, Glasgow, Scotland) in 2007 • Profiling (Whitney Museum, New York, USA) in 2007 • e-art (Museé des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal, Canada) in 2007 • Synthetic Time (Beijing, China) in 2008 • LuminaTO Festival (Toronto, Canada) in 2009 Awards include the first BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Interactive Art in 2000, a 2002 Governor General’s award in Visual and Media Arts and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art 2002. He was awarded the first Petro-Canada Award for Media Arts in 1988, the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art (Austria) in 1991 and 1997. See the “Invent” issue of Horizon Zero featuring a variety of perspectives on David’s work. Also see Audio Hyperspace for an interview with David regarding n-cha(n)t.On September 24th, in the course of its live@CIRMMT series, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Technology (CIRMMT) featured pianist Eve Egoyan and visual artist David Rokeby. Both artists, hailing from Toronto, presented Surface Tension, a collaborative work for disklavier and interative video exploring various avenues as regard music-image interactions. On the stage, a screen placed above the disklavier gave the impression that the images, either manipulated or generated live by a computer, in fact originated from the instrument itself.

Five visual interactive “landscapesˮ were a priori conceived in order to enable Egoyan to explore, via a five-part improvisation, various image-music encounters. The first and last parts were oriented toward a specific videographic treatment, while the middle improvisations showed various synthesized images, generated live, which could be associated to the realm of Visual Music.

One of the most interesting moments was no doubt the third improvisation: a sort of tri-dimensional tower was constructed in front of our eyes, live, depending on the pianist’s playing. Perhaps also one of those sections in which Egoyan was in a most intimate dialogue with the images, modulating her playing to feed this strange architecture. Perhaps also one of those moments in which the images’ conception expressed the music best, due to the transparency regarding the synchronicity of audiovisual events, and the economy of means to which Rokeby restrained himself concerning their visual treatment.

As the title of the work indicates, some of those interactive “environments” conceived by Rokeby are based on natural processes, such as disturbances on water created by a rock thrown on its surface, or the trajectory of the planets. The use of those models is particularly explicit during the fourth improvisation. In a nutshell, a multiple-attractor particles generator was used. Some keys, or at least some registers, of the piano triggered the emission of particles associated with certain colours. Those particles traced trajectories which sometimes converged and sometimes moved independently. The musician consequently focused her playing around register oppositions. One thus had the impression that the visual component was somehow enhanced by the musical improvisation, the latter which depended on the particles generator’s behavior.

Listening to Egoyan’s improvisations, one is made aware of a musician fully in control of the instrument. The pianist seeks to explore image-music interactions instead of developing a playing centered on performance. Nonetheless, the musician never limits herself to easy instrumental solutions. She gives to hear an inventive music, imbued with sobriety and profundity, aiming to seduce while remaining demanding.

In some instances, and especially during the magnificent last section, one wished the images were not imprisoned in a traditional projection format. Those formats (SD, HD, etc…), surely appropriate for cinematographic or television works, may sometimes constrain a work which asks for more room to breath. One has to point out here, however, that the vast and superb space of the Multimedia Room (MMR) of the McGill University music faculty cast a shadow, or at least gave the impression that this screen was somewhat lost in such a vast space.

The concert ended by a moment whose whiteness stood out. Snowflakes, on the face of it of an almost bland appearance, with a cyclist in the background that one imagined somewhat in trouble in this storm…, intertwined and formed a dense network, as Egoyan drew from the piano a music which perfectly expressed the sobriety of those images.

Eve Egoyan

Born in Victoria, B.C., in 1964, pianist Eve Egoyan has been interpreting new works since 1994. Eve’s intense focus, command of the instrument, insightful interpretations, and unique programmes welcome audiences into unknown territory, bridging the gap between them and contemporary composers. Eve has performed the world première and North American premières of many works by Canadian and international composers including Martin Arnold, Allison Cameron, Alvin Curran, Maria de Alvear, José Evangelista, Michael Finnissy, Rudolf Komorous, Jo Kondo, Michael Longton, Juliet Palmer, Stephen Parkinson, James Rolfe, Linda C. Smith, Ann Southam, Karen Tanaka, James Tenney, Judith Weir and Gayle Young. Many of these works were commissioned through the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, Laidlaw Foundation, CBC, Japan-Canada Fund and the British Council. She has appeared as a solo recitalist in Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Japan, and the U.S. including performances at in the Huddersfield Contemporary Festival, (Huddersfield, U.K.), the Other Minds Festival (San Francisco), the Vancouver New Music Festival, the Kobe International Modern Music Festival (Kobe, Japan), and the Sound Symposium (St. Johns). In 2001 she made her debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, playing the world première of Figures by Ann Southam for the Massey Hall New Music Festival. Eve has released seven critically acclaimed solo discs, six of works by living composers and one disc of works by Erik Satie. She has acted as soloist and executive producer on all these discs. Her first solo CD, “thethingsinbetween”, was included in the Globe and Mail’s 1999 “Top Ten” list. Her most recent disc, “Simple Lines of Enquiry”, a one-hour long piano solo by Ann Southam written for Eve, was selected as one of the New Yorker magazine’s ten top of 2009 discs by Alex Ross, music critic and author of the critically acclaimed “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century”. As an improvising musician Eve has had the opportunity to perform with Fred Frith, Michael Snow, Malcolm Goldstein, Anne Bourne, Martin Arnold, and Casey Sokol. Other collaborations include dance projects, interdisciplinary performance, film work (including the Oscar nominated “Capote”) and sound installations. Her most recent collaboration “Surface Tension” with her husband media artist David Rokeby (structured improvisations on a disklavier piano and real-time images) can be viewed at: http://www.vimeo.com/6154175. Honours include numerous commissions and awards from the Canada Council, Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils, FACTOR, a University of Victoria Distinguished Alumna Award, a K.M. Hunter Award, and a Chalmers Award. Recently she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) and was one of fifty Canadian performers and conductors given and designation of “CMC Ambassador” by the Canadian Music Centre. Eve trained in standard repertoire at the Victoria Conservatory of Music with Anne Brayshaw and Winifred Scott Wood, the University of Victoria with Eva Solar-Kinderman, the Banff Centre of Fine Arts with György Sebök, the Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin with Georg Sava (German Academic Exchange Scholarship), the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, with Hamish Milne (Commonwealth Scholarship), and in Toronto where she completed her M.Mus. at the University of Toronto with Patricia Parr (Chalmers Award).

David Rokeby

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focussed on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, including: • the Venice Biennale in 1986 • Ars Electronica (Linz Austria) in 1991 • the Mediale (Hamburg Germany) in 1993 • the Kwangju Biennale (Korea) in 1995 • the Biennale di Firenze (Florence, Italy) in 1996 • Alien Intelligence (Kiasma, Helsinki) in 2000 • The National Gallery of Canada in 2002 • The Venice Architecture Biennale in 2002 • Ars Electronica in 2002 • Algorithmische Revolution (ZKM, Germany) in 2004 • Silicon Remembers Carbon (retrospective) (Fact, Liverpool, UK) in 2007 • Silicon Remembers Carbon (retrospective) (CCA, Glasgow, Scotland) in 2007 • Profiling (Whitney Museum, New York, USA) in 2007 • e-art (Museé des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal, Canada) in 2007 • Synthetic Time (Beijing, China) in 2008 • LuminaTO Festival (Toronto, Canada) in 2009 Awards include the first BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Interactive Art in 2000, a 2002 Governor General’s award in Visual and Media Arts and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art 2002. He was awarded the first Petro-Canada Award for Media Arts in 1988, the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art (Austria) in 1991 and 1997. See the “Invent” issue of Horizon Zero featuring a variety of perspectives on David’s work. Also see Audio Hyperspace for an interview with David regarding n-cha(n)t.

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