‘Stem Cells’ at the International Conference on Music and Emotion (ICME) 2009 in Durham, UK.
Stem Cells by Eric Lyon
Interaction Design and Performance by Ben Knapp
Stem Cells was composed in 2004 by Eric Lyon as a solo laptop piece and premiered by the composer at Ars Electronica. It is performed here in an arrangement for the Biomuse, an instrument that uses on-body measurement of movement and physiological signals for human-computer interaction. The arrangement was created in 2009 as part of a series of collaborations between the composer and Ben Knapp, the Biomuse designer. The original version of the piece defines a large scale form, divided into individual sections that are articulated as Max/MSP patches. Within each section, many options are available to the performer who chooses among the possibilities and performs them with a considerable degree of interpretive freedom. The central compositional idea is to start with simple sonic materials and gradually enrich them through iterative processes.
The arrangement of Stem Cells for Biomuse follows up on a previous project. During 2008, a collaboration between Ben Knapp, violinist Gascia Ouzounian, and the composer established the viability of the Biomuse as a highly responsive chamber music instrument, resulting in the composition of The Biomuse Trio. The Trio’s use of the Biomuse was focused on direct gestural control. Following the success of this project, work began on exploring the possibility of controlling the instrument with a higher level of pattern recognition: transmuting not just movement, but also emotional states into musical control. Thus the interaction design and ultimately performance of the piece would involve the precise control of both external movement and internal state. After considering the possibility of composing a new piece for Biomuse, the decision was taken to arrange an existing piece. It was felt that whereas a new piece would exclusively play to the strengths of the Biomuse, an arrangement of an existing piece would more critically test the limits of the Biomuse by forcing a consideration of musical situations that might be difficult, but not impossible to realize on the instrument.