A computer composing and playing jazz

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has some unusual teaching programs. One PhD student, Øyvind Brandtsegg, is a graduate of the jazz program and has developed a computer program and a musical instrument for improvisation. The PhD student is 36 years old and is at the same time a composer, a musician and computer programmer. His 'computer instrument' can take any recorded sound as input and split it into a number of very short sound particles that can last for between 1 and 10 milliseconds. 'These fragments may be infinitely reshuffled, making it possible to vary the music with no change in the fundamental theme.' Read more...

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has some unusual teaching programs. One PhD student, Øyvind Brandtsegg, is a graduate of the jazz program and this article describes how has developed a computer program and a musical instrument for improvisation. The PhD student is 36 years old and is at the same time a composer, a musician and computer programmer. His 'computer instrument' can take any recorded sound as input and split it into a number of very short sound particles that can last for between 1 and 10 milliseconds. 'These fragments may be infinitely reshuffled, making it possible to vary the music with no change in the fundamental theme.' Read more...

Øyvind Brandtsegg's computer instrument

You can see above Øyvind Brandtsegg giving a public demonstration of his 'computer instrument' in February 2008. (Credit: Department of Music at NTNU) Brandtsegg who is a graduate of the Jazz at NTNU program, worked with scientists at the Department of Computer and Information Science for the software architecture and with the acoustics group at the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications for the development of the particle synthesizer.

This project has been described by Gemini, a quarterly magazine about research news from NTNU and SINTEF. Here is a link to Gemini. And here is a short excerpt from the article mentioned above. "'It's easy to change a bit of music into something that can't be recognized. It's the opposite that is the challenge: to create variations in which the musical theme remains clear,' says Brandtsegg. Brandtsegg has created a new link between composition and improvisation with his new instrument. In a way, he's rediscovered the energy of a piece in a new and much better form. What he's doing is something that jazz musicians have always done -- they have a composition as the foundation, and then they go up on the podium and play variations on the basic theme."

Of course, Brandtsegg's computer instrument is not capable of miracles. "There are limits to what even Louis Armstrong can coax out of a trumpet. 'This instrument allows me to expand the musical palette with new tonal variations and timbres. It is also the first time that the actual composition process can be controlled in real time,' Brandtsegg says."

The jazz graduate student has also developed ImproSculpt, an open source software that make it possible to sample surroundings during a presentation and to control the process using a body sensor. Here is a link to the SourceForge.net page about ImproSculpt. You can download the software and 'play' with it if you wish.

Sources: Tore Oksholen, Gemini, Research News from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and SINTEF, November 21, 2008; and various websites

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