1.Apr.14 Evening Demo with Mara Helmuth: Interactive Music System Design for Irresistible Flux

By | March 24, 2014

Interactive Music System Design for Irresistible Flux

– by Mara Helmuth –

WHEN: Tuesday, April 1st, 6:00PM (composition seminar activity)
WHERE: NYU Music Department
24 Waverly Place, Room 220, NY 10003


An interactive performance system has been created for a composition for instrumentalist and live electronics. The computer part is performed with MaxMSP and RTcmix, and largely consists of processing the sound of the instrument. Live control allows fluid improvisational access to complex algorithms, and granular synthesis, spectral delays and other types of delays and processing are programmed in RTcmix. Preprocessed sub-layers allow for maximum freedom in sound, while surface layers under gestural control keep the sound spontaneous. The two performers interact and improvise within an agreed upon structure.

Irresistible Flux is a new composition composed and performed by Mara Helmuth, computer, and Esther Lamneck, tarogato. The piece begins with a transformed Hungarian folk melody. The digital transformations of sound which are all based on the tarogato, caress, entice, persuade, vex and oppose the tarogato part to create an expanded 8-channel environment.

The discussion will include an in-depth look at the RTcmix and MaxMSP programming, Mara Helmuth’s granular synthesis techniques, spatial and timbral aspects, control strategies and parameter mapping. We will also consider the use of folk materials. More general topics will include the design of interactive systems, and freedom versus precision in scores and performance directions in interactive situations.


Mara Helmuth (Margaret Mathilda Helmuth) composes music often involving the computer, and creates multimedia and software for composition and improvisation. Her recordings include Sounding Out! (Everglade), Sound Collaborations, (CDCM v.36, Centaur CRC 2903), Implements of Actuation (Electronic Music Foundation EMF 023), and works included on Open Space CD 16 and the 50th Anniversary University of Illinois Experimental Music Studios commemorative collection. Her music has been performed internationally at conferences, festivals and arts spaces. She is Professor in composition at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati and Director of the Center for Computer Music. She holds a D.M.A. from Columbia University, and earlier degrees (M.M., B.A.) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her software for composition and improvisation has involved granular synthesis, user interfaces, Internet2, and contributions to the RTcmix music programming language. Her writings have appeared in the monographs Audible Traces and Analytical Methods of Electroacoustic Music, and in the Journal of New Music Research and Perspectives of New Music. Recent installation works include Hidden Mountain (2007) and Staircase of Light (2003), created originally for the Sino-Nordic Arts Space in Beijing. She is a recent president of the International Computer Music Association. She also plays the piano and performs interactive works on computer. She participated in Pauline Oliveros’s Deep Listening Retreats in 2000 and 2010. Her interest in Zen, Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese culture has taken her to remote monasteries and mountains.