So we went to NIME: it was pretty good.

Some concert highlights:
– Mark Applebaum’s masterful APHASIA stole the show, concert wise, with razor-sharp gestures and an amazing tape part.
– We had not one but TWO naked men on stage with EEG monitors. A good conference.
– Our own vibraphone / robot drums / likembe jam by Shawn Trail with lights & code by Gabby Odowichuk wasn’t half bad, thanks for asking.
– Some crazy people from Tokyo made a Reactable with robots: a table with these autonomous things rolling around on it that made music when they came close to one another. They pretty much won the conference, overall.
– A man played a sponge. It was pretty good, actually.
– No one sampled a pinecone….but some pieces were TERRIBLE, for me.
– A man did play a Beach Boys medly on a restored Theremin ‘Cello. So that was good.

And conference highlights:
– Some guys from LSU are working on pinning instruments to locations: potentially cool stuff.
– A dude (from Cambridge!) presented a paper on why trackers are rad.
– I got to see BORDERLANDS, the granular synth app, in person, and I can say that it is almost TOO powerful: it’s great work, on every level.
– Favorite installation: MUTATIS MUTANDIS, by Tristan and Noel from U of Kansas, which was a full-room meditation on glaciers, complete with a 300 pound block of ice.
– POCO POCO is a really classy tweak on a traditional sequences: the node hop up when they play, and the user can rotate them to alter parameters during playback. That doesn’t do it justice, so here’s a video.
– A brave man from U of Saskatchewan is working on tools for classical musicians (conductor trackers, etc): I had to tell him that his tools are great, but that classical players hate technology.
– Alexander, from UDK Berlin, had a really nicely limited skin conductive system.
– Nick from MIT has amazing machine-learning code, as does Ben from Urbana.
– Diemo made a granular synth using….grains of sand. Ten thousand points!
– Jeff Synder’s JD-1 is a gorgeous, gorgeous controller: especially the sequence controll / looper. Non-linear sequencers are really on my mind.
– Jiffer from Stanford had a really clever sequencer that could do polyrhythms and isorhythms. Sign me up.
– People are actuating rhodes and vibraphones electronmagnetically. Welcome to the future?
– A guy from…..Virginia, maybe, made a generative sequencer for planetariums in python. I didn’t get to see it running, alas.
– There was a man playing on a drum set made out of rubber balls of various sizes.
– A guy named Palle can drive modular synths using electrodes on graphite drawings. This is cooler than it sounds.
– There was a neat paper by Luke Dahl about “Wicked Problems”, which are a class of problem that you should look up.

And general thoughts:
– Difficulty! Do new instruments need to be easy to learn? Or just hard to master?
– If your piece is a “structured improvisation”, you had better be able to SHRED on your instrument.
– If your instrument is totally disconnected from the engine that creates sound, it is probably not an instrument.
– What is conciously added to your interface, and what is emergent?
– If your instrument can’t play a line of Bach, it is probably not an instrument.
– If you’ve not tested your tool on end users, you are doing it wrong.
– But if you’re the only user, that’s OK! (Dangerous, but OK.)
– You should probably practice more. And write more solid code.
– Iterate, iterate, iterate.
– Stage presence! Both in terms of papers and performances!
– If your piece is a two-minute tech demo, that’s OK! Don’t make it longer!
– Understand that your opinion about art is an OPINION.