Version 2 (Fall 2011)


Program note for the premiere at Loushy Art and Projects in Tel Aviv:

Any interval, no matter how small, contains within its limits an infinite number of frequencies. While frequencies are unlimited, however, musical experience is constrained by performance time, the limits of perception, and even the resolution of digital technology. In Schismatics, a vast composition for video projection and synthesized impulse waves, I try to exhaust the inexhaustible harmonic resources between 4800 Hz and 4848 Hz---an interval about 1.4% the size of an octave.

Special thanks to Yoni Niv for making this performance possible.


Schismatics Version 2 consists of 43 five-minute videos. To hear the audio without compression artifacts, please download the uncompressed videos here:

Alternatively, you can watch the videos on Vimeo:

Version 1 (Spring 2011)


RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r"5j5&?OWTY Z0d

—The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator

I wrote the first version of Schismatics for the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) spring 2011 concert. My original program note:

Writing in the fourth century BC, Aristoxenus proposes that there is a limit of musical production and perception: a smallest interval that the voice can sing, and that the ear can hear. His argument is not simply an appeal to musical practicality, but also an assault on the numerical representation of sounds. Numbers, which are digital and therefore arbitrarily precise, are too subtle to represent meaningful musical information. Better to listen to the voice, which has a limit to its fine-tuning.

Aristoxenus is music theory's first schismatic, the first to devise a voice-oriented, "common sense" alternative to the Pythagoreans' monochord-based, mathematical philosophy of music. More than two millennia later, the tables have turned in Aristoxenus' favor. The conservatory compels its students to sing, not to calculate; music scholarship promotes the embodied intuitions of the vocalist, rather than the instrumentalist's reflection at a distance. The general celebration of musical liveness, closeness, or expressivity is, fundamentally, a celebration of the human voice, and an attempt to keep the power of instruments in check; for instruments, whether musical or mathematical, are in essence dead, distant, and indifferent.

But there are those among us---modern schismatics, no doubt---who love both the warm vagueness of humanity's "inner voice" and the cold precision of musical-mathematical instruments, whether monochord, piano, or computer, and are savvy enough not to expect from one what we expect from the other. My PLOrk piece, for silent typers and sounding digital artifacts, is an exploration of the gap between musicians and their instruments. The typists play their instruments without having to become them. They make music in spite of Aristoxenus' vocal-aural schizophrenia, and the limits it imposes.


PLOrk has posted a video of the premiere on Vimeo. You can see the whole program here. Special thanks to Jeff Snyder for running rehearsals and conducting the performances.


Click here to download a copy of the Schismatics software library, which I programmed in SuperCollider. The library includes detailed documentation.