Moving the Sun and the Traffic

PRESS RELEASE – College of St Mark & St John, Plymouth

Sights and Sound of Music

The first public airing of a new prototype performance environment takes place at Plymouth’s Barbican Theatre on Sunday 19 November 2006 at 7.00pm. The piece, called “Moving the sun and the traffic”, uses intelligent software developed by Dr Tim Sayer to help musicians with their improvisation skills. Dr Sayer is a senior lecturer in ICT at Plymouth’s College of St Mark & St John (Marjon).

A love of music and computing led Dr Tim Sayer to develop Milieu which stops musicians becoming mechanical and formulaic when they’re improvising. Milieu provides a distraction, an environment where the musician doesn’t know what’s coming next. Traditionally musicians know what works and how audiences will respond, so their music can become habitual rather than truly improvised.

Dr Sayer explains: “We improvise all the time but no-one has really looked at what makes this behaviour instinctive and spontaneous rather than consciously controlled. The Milieu software makes its own decisions and the musician has to build a relationship with it to get the graphics to respond. The graphics can have different response rates and if some are set very low, the performer has to work hard to get them to change.”

Sounds are picked up by a microphone, interpreted by the software and then animated shapes are projected on to a screen – but rather than just being an interpretation of the sound, the graphics have a range of responses and so the musician has to work to discover what affects their behaviour.

The eminent and internationally renowned Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) player Mike McInerney has agreed to offer up his conscious mind for the first public airing of Milieu – but he will of course be given it back at the end!

Dr Sayer is planning to develop the software further using computer gaming theory, where the musician is set goals to create certain visual effects in order to progress to another section.

Milieu isn’t yet ready for commercial marketing but it has already attracted international interest with Dr Sayer invited to present his work at the Science Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and University of California, Santa Barbara.

For further information please contact:
Mrs Terry West 01752 255930 or 079770 98983


In The Flesh – Festival of live art
Sunday 19th November 2006, 7pm: Barbican Theatre, Plymouth

Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts 2007
Tuesday 11th September 2007, 11.30am: Dartington College of Arts, Devon
Wednesday 30th April 2008, 8pm: Jill Craigie Cinema, University of Plymouth

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