teleMotions: a networked intermedia concert (2011)

Artistic direction: Mark Dresser, bass; Myra Melford, piano; Michael Dessen, trombone; Victoria Petrovich, scenic design; John Crawford, telematic video
Performances: 8 pm, Saturday, April 16, 2011 2 pm, Sunday, April 17, 2011
Co-locations: Calit2 Theatre, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego Calit2 Auditorium, UC Irvine

For program notes and more info, see below.

5 min. excerpt from “Threads and Promises,” composed by Michael Dessen:

Video of entire concert:

Concert Program

The concert will be one set of roughly 70 minutes duration, with no intermission. All works were composed by the performers during 2010-2011.

Opening remarks: Larry Smarr, director, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology

Part 1:
Rasa (comp. Mark Dresser)
Red Beach*
Threads and Promises (comp. Michael Dessen)

Part 2:
Telemotives (comp. Mark Dresser)
Yours, Mine and Ours (comp. Mark Dresser)

Part 3:
Untitled 4*
Optiputatively Speaking (comp. Michael Dessen)
City of Illusions*

Part 4:
Piano Music*
Deep Forest*
Quark Charms (comp. Michael Dessen)

* Scores for improvisers based on drawings by Don Reich

About this concert

The range of music you’ll hear on this program reflects our shared interest in integrating approaches that emphasize pitch and rhythmic syntax with those that come more from a deep focus on the tactile subtleties of sound itself. Many pieces also involve a sensation of multi-dimensionality, exploring the dynamic contrasts – whether simultaneously or across time – between expressing a vibrantly independent sound world and flowing within a composite, social space.

The music for the Telemotions project pushes several musical envelopes. The compositions of Mark Dresser and Michael Dessen explore improvising upon complex rhythmic cyclical forms and non-cyclical forms that normally are only possible through the intimacy found in live jazz performance. These pieces are not just rhythmic and melodic forms to play directly, but also materials to abstract in a new space between multiple levels of duration, velocity, pulse, and feel.

In addition to the compositions by Dresser and Dessen, the program also interweaves six pieces based on visual art by Don Reich:

“Don Reich’s drawings and paintings provide a wealth of suggestions for translation through improvisational music. In some cases, as in “Curtain,” we are literally interpreting the drawing as a “score” to be read from top to bottom. Other drawings, such as ” Red Beach” or “Piano Music,” may be “read” in any direction or simply provide a point of departure. The rendering of these colorful and dynamic visuals into music is very much a collective process, drawing on each musician’s personal lexicon, with a keen ear to the multidominant, and in this venue, co-locative, composite. The performance of these works is lovingly dedicated to Don Reich who passed away in December of 2010.” – Myra Melford

This music developed gradually during the past year, beginning with fragments of material that we would workshop and extend through improvisation, a practice common to us from our long involvement with the jazz tradition. Thanks to the software platform, JackTrip, developed by Stanford Professor and UCSD Music Alumni, Chris Chafe, the trio has been able to rehearse regularly from our studios in San Diego, Irvine, and Berkeley.

The Telemotions project includes a visual component through the contributions of intermedia artist John Crawford and scenic designer Victoria Petrovich, creating a shared visual space that links the two sites. Crawford brings many years of work in telepresence and intermedia improvisation in both dance and musical contexts, and Petrovich’s scenic design moves beyond the flatness and centrality of traditional projection screens, instead creating a more multi-dimensional and integrated environment.

The projected video is a real-time improvised response to the music in visual form, generated by John Crawford’s Active Space intermedia performance system. Live video feeds are processed simultaneously by multiple networked computers running the Active Space software at both sites and directed by Crawford in Irvine to produce abstract, painterly representations of the performers, incorporating other visual material. In continuous development since 1994, the Active Space system has been used in dance and music performances, public art projects, gallery installations and teaching environments.

The stage design at the UC San Diego site is a small-scale exploration of scenic space as an expressive, flexible component of the telematic performance environment. Translucent screens are meant to integrate with the environment, and evoke a sense of expansion and an articulation of atmosphere through the diffusion and direction of light, i.e. video projection. The intention is to enhance the performance, rather than present a faithful reproduction of imagery on a traditional film screen.

An essential technical element in this project is the high-performance Optiputer network maintained by Calit2, with two dedicated 1 Gigabit per second optical links connecting our studios at UCSD and UCI. Eliminating the network jitter (variable latency) and low bandwidth of the shared public Internet, this optical network provides essential connectivity to facilitate tightly coupled multi-site digital media arts research. The open source UltraGrid software from Massaryk Univesity in the Czech Republic is being used to provide low-latency uncompressed high-definition video (1080i over IP) between the two sites.

Artistic and Technical Crew

Music: Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen, Myra Melford
Telematic video design: John Crawford
Set design: Victoria Petrovich
Project director: Todd Margolis
Camera operator and video assistant: Ash Smith
Lighting design and video assistant: Omar Ramos
Network Audio: Michelle Daniels
Audio: Samuel Nacach, Spencer Oliphant, Chris Lavender
Video assistants: Shannon Cuykendall, Tyler Spencer

Supported by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Department of Dance and Department of Music at UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School for the Arts, and the Department of Music at UC San Diego.

Special thanks to Larry Smarr, G.P. Li, Peter Otto, Ramesh Rao, Qian Liu, Hector Bracho, Tad Reynales, Sheldon Brown, Chris Battista, Tom DeFanti, Gregory Gallardo, Shellie Nazarenus, Anna-Lynn Spitzer, Tom Erbe, Mike Gao, Ross Whitney, Chris Dobrian, Lisa Naugle, David Brodbeck, Miller Puckette, Rand Steiger, Carol Del Signore