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Alexander Refsum Jensenius: Etude #2 for piano and live electronics from Alexander Refsum Jensenius on Vimeo.

This performance was part of the workshop “Hyperimprovisation” at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Norway, 15-17 September 2009. The inspiration for the piece was to explore simplicity in performance of live electronics together with acoustic instruments.

Many performances of live electronics is based on large amounts of electronic equipment, cables, sound cards, large PA-speakers, etc. One problem with this is that the visual appearance of the setup looks chaotic. Another is that the potential for things that can go wrong seems to increase exponentially with the amount of equipment being used. The largest problem, though, at least based on my own experience of performing with live electronics, is that much effort is spent on making sure that everything is working properly at the same time. This leaves less mental capacity to focus on the performance itself, and sonic output.

I am currently exploring simplicity in performance, i.e. simplicity in both setup and musical scope. Starting with the idea of the classical etudes, simple pieces that explore a few ideas, I have started developing a series of etudes for piano and live electronics. Eventually, I hope that the constraints I put on myself can lead to some creative processes.

1 laptop
1 speaker
1 cable from the laptop to the speaker
1 program (Max/MSP/Jitter)
1 sound processing effect (munger~)
1 note for each finger

As can be seen from the video, the speaker is placed inside of the piano, so that the sound of the electronics merges with the sound of the piano. The computer is based on the piano in front of me. I use the built-in microphone to capture sound, and the built-in webcam to capture video. From there I extract perceptually relevant features of both sound and video that is used for further processing. In this example I use the munger~ granulator, and control the various parameters based on the frequency content of what I am playing. The playback volume of the effect is controlled by the quantity of motion, as seen by the webcam.

The sound quality is quite poor in the video recording, so most of the subtle nuances of the piano combined with the electronics are gone, but hopefully it still is able to showcase what I am trying to get at.

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