A Room with Chaconne (Bach)
Arizona State University
Dr. Seth Thorn is an American violinist whose research encompasses interaction design and philosophical approaches to computational media. He has published in premier journals and top-tier conferences spanning HCI, music, and critical theory, including Leonardo Music Journal, Qui Parle (UC Berkeley), ACM Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, ACM Creativity & Cognition, ACM Movement & Computing, NIME, and ICMC; presented technology at the Guthman Competition at Georgia Institute of Technology; and performed at the New York City Electroacoustic Musical Festival (NYCEMF), the New York City Electroacoustic Improvisation Summit (NYCEIS), and other events. Seth has worked with members of the East-West Divan Orchestra and world-renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim. He holds a patent for haptic technology for augmented violin and leads a startup company he runs with two other professors at Arizona State University. He earned a PhD at Brown University in 2018 in Computer Music and Multimedia, has additional graduate degrees in political theory and German studies, and held a Fulbright research fellowship in Germany to study philosophy and music/media. He currently teaches at the School of Arts, Media + Engineering at Arizona State University.
This work is a real-time, audio-driven system for augmented violin performance. Its paradigm is spatial (hence the title, “A Room with…”) rather than instrumental. State changes interpolate between unique parameter configurations of the space composed through trial-and-error experimentation using themes/variations from J. S. Bach’s Chaconne (Partita #2). Bespoke textural and ambient microsonic processing of the violin’s sound by the composer is driven primarily by pitch estimation and other spectral features. In the sound design, Tim Hecker, William Basinski, Vangelis, Gas, and Klaus Schulze are all points of reference, and the ethos of the work is informed by the references of the latter two to late German Romantic music. The intention with performing this system using a famous piece from the violin repertoire (rather than free improvisation, the typical modus operandi of the composer) is to demonstrate to classically-trained musicians how they might discover novelty with the use of elaborate spatial augmentation systems as demonstrated by this performance. This seems especially important at the present moment, when musicians are sidelined from ensembles and seeking new ways to extend, rediscover, or reinvent their solo playing.