Inter-Section – May 2020

Inter-Section

is a new feature of the Interference Arts website, providing an opportunity for visitors to get a quick view into Artistic Director Craig Harris’ work and projects. Inter-Section presents highlights of specific projects with video and audio examples; contextualizes the work, illustrates connections between projects and initiatives; and provides pathways to navigate through the artistic, community development and research projects found on the Interference Arts website.

Thank you for visiting!

The May 2020 installment of Inter-Section features:
Untether – the Homewood Studios Concerts: a series of four solo keyboard concerts produced in 2019 at Homewood Studios in North Minneapolis. Specific video examples from performances include “Passing,” from the keyboard suite GONE; and Music Box Variations II;

Transformational Experiences: insights into Craig Harris’ artistic and research evolution, with a deeper view into the period working in the San Francisco Bay Area (1987 – 1994). Specific works presented include the second and fourth movements from the computer music composition inDelicate Balance (“Somewhere between” and “Room Views”), and the research project Configurable Space; and

My Journey Exploring the Extended Piano: a feature article delving into my decades-long exploration building upon the sonic and physical characteristics of the piano using digital technologies to extend the musical possibilities in both sound and musical process.

Links are provided to learn more about each of the featured topics.


Untether – The Homewood Studios Concerts

I have worked for many years in the realms of dance theater and large scale multimedia dramatic productions, and have created a great deal of music that lived for the period of a single show, and was never heard again. I also create work utilizing sampled and processed sounds and soundscapes, and over the years have developed and assembled large amounts of raw sound materials in service of those works that never even made it into use in those shows, and therefore were never heard in public in any form. Finally, I often created work that was presented as sound tracks to be played on amplification systems, and even in cases where I performed music live, I felt invisible – detached from my audience.

Untether #3 Concert by Craig Harris at Homewood Studios in September 2019

In 2019 I produced four solo keyboard concerts at Minneapolis’ Homewood Studios – entitled Untether – a theme that represents both the artist and audience being “released from tether” to explore musical and emotional terrain together in non-traditional and unexpected ways. For the concert programs I revisited music created for dance and theater shows throughout my career – revitalizing it, creating new work based on raw materials from these shows, and presenting new compositions currently in development. These solo concert programs provided a vital forum for me to engage with my audiences in an intimate setting.

Passing is a movement from the keyboard suite GONE, and represents the passing of a loved one. It was heard at Untether #1 as part of a performance of the entire suite. This revised version of Passing was performed at Untether #4.

Passing, from the keyboard suite GONE, performed at Untether #4 – the Homewood Studios Concerts by Craig Harris. Video by James Peitzman.

The Music Box Variations I & II are improvisational works based on a sampled music box gifted to me as a teen. The “instrument” that I developed to create this work is comprised of a softened traditional piano sound, settings using individual tones and musical fragments from the music box, and a setting based on the resonance from a sampled plucked piano. Music Box Variations I premiered at Untether #3, and is an improvisation based on a transformed music box melody. Music Box Variations II – the piece presented here – was performed at Untether #4, and is an abstract improvisation using the same instrument.

Music Box Variations II, performed at Untether #4 – the Homewood Studios Concerts by Craig Harris. Video by James Peitzman.

For more details about Untether – the Homewood Studios Concerts please visit this page on the Interference Arts web site.

Visit this page on the Interference Arts web site to learn more about the Music Box Variations, including the origin of the music box gifts, their personal meaning, and the nature and evolution of their use.


Transformational Experiences

Photo of Craig Harris by Susan Schaefer (2019)

In February 2019 Susan Schaefer wrote an insightful and brilliantly written profile – “Craig Harris – A Man for All Seasons” – for the Southwest Journal in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.

Click here to read the full profile.

This profile resurfaced, a little over a year later, as things do from time to time in social media, igniting some exciting exchanges with friends and colleagues, and providing me with a new opportunity to consider the trajectory of my work and career. I recently expanded upon some of the stories mentioned in Susan’s profile, including additional insights into several transformational artistic experiences going back to my teenage years. I also have been pulling music and video from previous work out of the archives, and have been incorporating this work into the Interference Arts web site.

As the profile illustrates, my life has been enriched and informed by deep immersion in a wide variety of musical and performance genres. Early classical music piano and theory training at Eastman School of Music’s Community Education program was balanced with performing in popular music groups and specialized training in improvisation and performing from fake books. Performing in bebop and then abstract/free jazz ensembles interleaved with contemporary classical music composition studies and practice at the Faculty of Music in Toronto. Graduate studies at Eastman School of Music in the early 1980s during the rapidly evolving field of computer music provided invaluable opportunities to explore new sonic terrain and compose music using these new resources, to integrate “non-real time” computer-based music (software synthesis and processing) with highly skilled instrumental performers, and to participate in the development of that field. Several years living in the media arts haven of the Bay Area provided rare opportunities to learn, create, and collaborate with artists, instrument developers, and scientists on an international scale. Working in the dance and theater worlds of the Twin Cities brought several threads of my background together to collaborate on many creative projects and to help develop the local arts infrastructure.

The following is one of the experiences described in a collection of several memories of formative artistic experiences.

Visit this link on the Interference Arts website to read about other transformational artistic experiences, including additional related music and video examples.

The Bay Area Era

My artistic life evolved tremendously living in the Bay Area during a period of amazing evolution of new media arts resources (1986-1994). I was composing inDelicate Balance, a composition that incorporates sampled and transformed piano and spoken voice sources; I was working at Yamaha Music Technologies, a research facility focused on developing new computer-based music instruments and resources; I was working to advance the field, first as President of the International Computer Music Association, and then as Executive Director of the International Society of the Arts, Sciences and Technology; and I was continuing my own research and development trying to improve resources for composers working in computer music through my Configurable Space project. inDelicate Balance and Configurable Space were presented widely in international festivals, and provided a research foundation that resulted in articles published in field journals such as the Computer Music Journal, Contemporary Music Review and Leonardo, and the Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conferences. My compositional approach working with both computer-based and traditional instrumental materials evolved tremendously during this period, and I significantly advanced the foundation of tools that I continue to use and develop today in my work.

inDelicate Balance

The composition inDelicate Balance (1989) exists at the unseen, imaginary barrier, at once on all sides, and always inside and outside. It contains found sounds, live and manipulated piano sounds, and representations of sounds from the inner ear and internal world. inDelicate Balance was realized using a combination of digital software processing and mixing techniques, and real-time sampling, processing, and mixing systems.

The second movement of inDelicate Balance – “Somewhere between” – was created using sampled piano tones and gestures, and is an early example of my exploration of the “extended piano,” where I play with harmonics; incorporate different kinds of attacks, resonances and sound structures; filter, process and layer sounds; and explore alternative approaches to musical & compositional process.

“Somewhere between” plays an important role in “My Journey Exploring the Extended Piano”.

Somewhere between
Somewhere between this and that
   Somewhere between here and there
      Somewhere between then, now, and later

The fourth movement of inDelicate Balance is “Room Views,” a narrative soundscape that employs the same music software systems used in “Somewhere between” to offer a perspective on contemporary existence utilizing the sounds that surround us.

Room Views
Views into the present,
   Views into the past,
      and the future always becoming itself,
         because of what it is,
            what it was, and
               what it has to be.

Unmemorable, unforgettable moments,
   and exquisitely insignificant details,
      like gentle ghosts, follow everywhere,
         aching to be more than what was
            left behind in the mist.

Visit this page on the Interference Arts website for more information about inDelicate Balance, and to listen to the full composition.

Configurable Space

interferencearts.com/transformational-experiences/(opens in a new tab)

In 1987 I launched a long term research and design project entitled Configurable Space, exploring future creative work environments, the creative process and the use of new technological resources to support artistic functions. The fundamental premise hypothesizes that it is possible to develop integrated, technological resources that encompass the breadth of our beings in all of its complexity. These comprehensive resources would allow us to deepen our understanding of ourselves, and to communicate on these deeper levels in a conscious and purposeful manner.

Configurable Space is directed towards the development of a balanced understanding about how we use the visual, aural, tactile, and configurable capabilities of digital technologies, and how the tools developed affect ways that we think, feel, formulate, and develop on intellectual, spiritual, and emotional planes. It is built upon the simulation of future creative environments using any available technology that could be used to support the illusion that the implied resources already exist. The simulations incorporate representations of interactive computer display tables, walls, and holographic images, within a multi-dimensional sound environment. This creates the context for exploring relevant issues and for imagining how the space might be used in actual circumstances. The simulations represent ongoing research and artistic explorations, probing the creative process, and the relationship between artists and new technologies. In Configurable Space the artist dynamically constructs the total environment and the creative tools to suit specific requirements.

Configurable Space VII, a hybrid performance-presentation produced at Yamaha Music Technologies in 1990. Photo by Marion Gray

Configurable Space VII was a hybrid performance-presentation sponsored in 1990 by Yamaha Music Technologies in Marin, California, a long term research and development facility working towards creating new computer-based music instruments and music resources. The purpose of the event was to demonstrate the underlying concepts of Configurable Space in a context permitting experimentation with multimedia communication resources – at times performative, while at other times presentational; sometimes didactic, and sometimes sensational.

The event space, appropriately located in an office presentation space intended for corporate communication, was built around a large, white wall. Multiple slide projectors were positioned carefully with respect to image size, angle, and proximity. A multi-layered sound environment included original music, prerecorded music from different cultures and styles, and prepared soundfiles of sampled and processed sound, all placed in a variety of simulated room environments.

To learn more about the Configurable Space Project, including a collection of published writings, visit this area on the Interference Arts website.

Visit this page on the Interference Arts website to explore the full Transformational Experiences page.


My Journey Exploring the Extended Piano

The piano was my first instrument and it will always reside deep in my heart. In the early 1970s as a young student at the Faculty of Music in Toronto, I became fascinated by highly innovative music created by composers like Henry Cowell and John Cage who were exploring new sonic dimensions to extend the musical “language” of the time. After spending a few years experimenting with the physical attributes of the piano and various ways to extend the instrument, I returned to the United States do do graduate work at Eastman School of Music in part to learn how to use some of the emerging computer-based resources to continue this exploration.

“Somewhere between,” the second movement from my composition inDelicate Balance highlighted above, is an early example of my work using computer-based resources to explore the extended piano.

Legacy 21120 is a more recent example of this journey. Legacy 21120 is from The Legacy Project, a series of reflections/meditations by Craig Harris on the expression “We sow what we reap.”

This article elaborates on My Journey Exploring the Extended Piano, and includes additional music examples to illustrate the evolution of my work in this area.