Category Archives: theory

Elliott Sharp: CTM 2014-15 Artist Fellow lectures

E# by Andreas Sterzing

Elliott Sharp: CTM 2014-15 Artist Fellow lectures

• Natural Models As Compositional Inspiration and Strategy September 18th
• Algorithmic and Self-Organizing Systems: Lecture/Demonstration Sept. 29th 7- 10 pm
• New Approaches To Graphic Notation October 9th 7- 10 pm
• Socio-Acoustics – Soundmaking in the Real World by Real People December 8, 7PM

All events are Free and Open to the Public 


Socio-Acoustics – Soundmaking in the Real World by Real People
December 8, 7PM – 10PM
Kellen Auditorium, 66 Fifth Avenue
A complex of equations with many hidden variables make up human interaction when involved in the production and perception of music. Socio-acoustics functions as a feedback loop within a system defined by a dynamically shifting balance of spatiality and time-based actions.  Can the many elements that define this system be identified and quantized? The relationship between sound-producers and their audience is one factor. Another is the relationship of sound-producers with their materials. Finally, there exists the mutual relationship between multiple sound-producers working simultaneously (for example, a group of improvisers or a jazz ensemble) and how it affects the sonic output.  One can imagine any combination and permutation of the above factors – the unpredictable relationship between a musical performance and its perception. This lecture and discussion will present both questions and answers.


New Approaches To Graphic Notation
October 9th  7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Mannes Concert Hall
150 West 85th Street, NY NY

In this lecture, Sharp will describe his 1972 work with graphic notation and how, in his return to this approach in 2003, he found new pathways to the synesthetic. Sharp will present the scores Seize Seas Seeths Seen, Foliage, and Mare Undarum, and describe graphic techniques used to create them, mirroring processes he might have used to process in real-time the sounds produced by musicians. With Sylva Sylvarum from 2014, the score is now an animated movie whose derivation will be discussed. The event will include the presentation of projected scores and recorded examples from selected realizations.


Algorithmic and Self-Organizing Systems: Lecture/Demonstration
Sept 29th  7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Mannes Concert Hall
150 West 85th Street, NY NY

In the first half of this event, Sharp offers definitions and discusses the genesis and development of his composition “SyndaKit”, music as organism. Composed in 1998 for the composer’s ensemble Orchestra Carbon, “SyndaKit” utilizes a collection of biological metaphors to create an ever-shifting rhythmic and timbral matrix. Improvisatory and algorithmic but not improvisation, “SyndaKit”s essence is a transformative organism consisting of 144 composed cores on 12 pages divided among the 12 players with a set of simple rules for their use through processes of imitation, addition, recombination, transposition, and mutation. These actions are based on the activities of flocking birds, African drum choirs, cellular automata, hunting packs, and recombinant amino acids. Every performance of “SyndaKit” is unique though the identity of the piece remains constant with each manifestation. For the second part of this evening, Sharp will workshop “SyndaKit” with an ad hoc ensemble and present a number of iterations of the piece in performance.


Natural Models As Compositional Inspiration and Strategy
Elliott Sharp, lecture
September 18th, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Klein Conference room [510]  66 W 12th St New York, NY 10011
Beginning with his Hudson River Compositions of 1974, composer Elliott Sharp has drawn upon various aspects from natural forms and processes, using them to create conceptual and algorithmic approaches to composition and improvisation. In this lecture, Sharp describes inspirations from fireflies to genetics, and displays the results. Working with Fibonacci numbers in the 1980’s, Sharp built tuning systems as well as rhythms and entire sonic architectures. In his pursuit of ways to mirror seemingly chaotic processes, Sharp found resonance and further inspiration in the fractal geometry of Benoit Mandelbrot which led to a variety of compositions ranging from Tessalation Row for Soldier String Quartet to pieces for his proto-math-rock noise-band Carbon.

Later, composing for his ensemble Orchestra Carbon in the 1990’s, Sharp refined the work with self-organizing systems to include models from flocking birds, RNA replication, Fibonacci numbers, and cellular automata to develop the composition SyndaKit. As much a set of rules or a construction set as a piece of music, SyndaKit creates an every-shifting matrix of rhythms and textures – a composition that is never the same in its manifestation yet always identical in process. This construction set was put to good use to create the orchestral work Calling for the RadioSinfonie Frankfurt and premiered by them at the 2002 Darmstadt festival.
Sharp will present scores and audio examples.


* * *

Elliott Sharp 2014-15 CTM Artist/Fellow
A central figure in the avant-garde music scene in New York City for over thirty years, Elliott Sharp leads the projects Orchestra Carbon, SysOrk, Tectonics and Terraplane, and has pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction. Winner of the 2015 Berlin Prize in Music Composition and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, Sharp has composed for Hilary Hahn, Ensemble Modern, RadioSinfonie Frankfurt, and JACK Quartet. His work has been featured in the Darmstadt (2002) and Donaueschingen (2007) festivals, at the Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale (2007), and the Venice Biennale (2003, 2007, 2012). His wide range of collaborators have included Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Kronos Quartet; Debbie Harry; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; jazz greats Jack Dejohnette, and Sonny Sharrock; turntable innovator Christian Marclay; and Bachir Attar of the Master Musicians Of Jahjouka, Morocco. His work is the subject of the documentary “Doing The Don’t” and he has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.

* * *

In 2013-15, CTM presents a series of lectures, workshops, & performances focusing on the cutting edge present and future of guitar and instrument design. Co-sponsored by Mannes College of Music, functioning as a platform to build cross divisional collaboration at The New School, and opening exclusive external collaborations, this series has brought internationally renowned luthiers, designers, builders, materials innovators, composers, performers, theorists, and sound designers together to explore points of connection between the traditions of musical instrument design and sound production, and new forms of design thinking facilitated by materials science, emergent materials, parametric design, the internet of things, physical computing, networked sound, and the politics of ‘noise’.

Guests have included Michi Matsuda, Gyan Riley, Florian Vorreiter, Elliott Sharp, Perry Hall, Ken Parker, Charlie Hunter, Ned Steinberger, Charles Yang, Ola Strandberg, Allan Marcus, Perry Hall, Joe Ravo, Gary Lee, Fred Hand, and Ezio Blasetti.

SIGNAL PATH: The Present and Future of SOUND and NOISE [or, Fury]


‘Focusing and defocusing of a signal passed through a random turbulent atmospheric medium.’

SIGNAL PATH: The Present and Future of SOUND and NOISE [or, Fury]
Friday, May 30, 9 AM- 5PM
T. Lang Conference room, 55 West 13th Street, second floor, New York City
Free and open to the public

Elliott Sharp, Perry Hall, Joe Ravo, Eldritch Priest, Marc Couroux, Quinn Dougherty,
Brendan Byrne, Joe Saavedra; Danil Nagy, Lisa Ekle, Yuval Borochov;
Punctum Records Artists: Roger Sellers, Topher Sipes, Andrew Stevens
Organized and introduced by  Ed Keller, Director, CTM.

[speaker bios: ]

Excerpts from the event at UStream:

More symposium footage at UStream event channel:

‘What is the signal path- the ‘information flow’ through ‘instruments’? What models and disciplines might be useful to invoke when asking this question?  Looking to computation, the way that memory is articulated is illustrative of the specific challenges faced when we contrast a more static form of storage, such as a flipped bit [or a printed page]- against a more dynamic form, such as delay line memory, a 1950s technology that used sound waves propagating through tubes of mercury. These examples underscore what might be at stake when we translate theories of noise to the sonic disciplines, and musical and sonic concepts to disciplines as diverse as geology, economics, material science, architectural design, and geo-politics.

This symposium offers an invitation to explore the space of research and practice in sound that is keenly attuned to the value of ‘noise’.  The intention is to reveal approaches both pragmatic as well as platforms theoretic,  across the political/arts/sciences spectrum. We ask: what kinds of exchange exist between these domains, and what evidence can be offered to ‘prove’ the existence of those exchanges? How can we re-imagine our concepts and definitions of ‘noise’ to suit the unique geo-bio-political situation we find ourselves in today?’ – Ed Keller

SUGGESTED THEMES [a partial list]
Pragmatics: evidence from designers, builders, software makers, players, composers working with      noise.
Noise and various forms of cryptomorphology situated against the potentially monotonic nature of various forms of temporality/capital [see Pasquinelli’s work on entropy]
• Models of different kinds of noise/time to re-situate sound practice, performance, composition
• Role of noise in cybernetic models of emergent and complex systems
Theoretical component- study of examples [both inside and outside music] who are thinking this through.
Parallels [apophenias] between concepts found in the discipline of cryptography, and sounds and patterns in the resonant world.
How does sound and noise manifest through geologies and geographies- thinking the post human;  large time scales in relation to sound; deep time recording and industrial landscapes [Andy Weir].




“To give the statement life and colour, let me anticipate what will be explained in much more detail later, namely, that the most essential part of a living cell- the chromosome fibre may suitably be called an aperiodic crystal. ” Schrodinger, ‘What is Life?’, 1944

“The principal internal storage in the Univac I system is the 1000-word acoustic delay-line memory, consisting of 100 10-word mercury registers. Twelve additional 10-word registers function as intermediate storage for input and output; six more are spares. With modified circuitry, seven more channels control the temperature of seven mercury tanks, and one more channel is used for the 10-word Y- register. The total of 126 mercury channels is contained in the seven mercury tanks mounted on the backs of sections MT, MV, MX, NT, NV, NX, and GV. Each tank is divided into 18 channels. Physically, each of the 10-word register circuits is made up of three sections:

_ The acoustic delay, consisting of a channel in a column of mercury, with receiving and transmitting crystals mounted at opposite ends.
_ An intermediate-frequency (i-f) chassis, electrically connected to the receiving crystal, and containing amplifiers, a detector, and a compensating delay. The i-f chassies are mounted on the shell of the mercury tank which they serve.
_ A recirculation chassis, containing a cathode follower, a pulse former and retimer, a modulator, which drives the transmitting crystal, and input, clear, and memory-switch gates. These chassies are mounted in the sections adjacent to the mercury tanks.”

On May 30 2014, CTM presents two events engaging sound in both the performative and theoretical dimensions.

_ ‘SIGNAL PATH- The Present and Future of Sound and Noise [or, Fury]’, a one day symposium
_ ‘The Lost Weekend’, an evening of performances with Punctum Records

The SIGNAL PATH symposium is part of a year long CTM series, ’The Future of Guitar and Instrument Design’, that has brought internationally renowned luthiers, designers, builders, materials innovators, composers, performers, theorists, and sound designers together to explore points of connection between the traditions of musical instrument design and sound production. A full day symposium will include scholarly presentations, research papers, and instrument demonstrations; informed by materials science, emergent materials, parametric design, the internet of things, physical computing, networked sound, and ultimately considering the politics of ‘noise’.

‘The Lost Weekend’, an evening event with Punctum Records. will provide an opportunity for performance by symposium participants, and showcase some of Punctum Records’ artists:
Marmalakes, Taft, Battle Bend, Bridges, Roger Sellers, and David Moss; for the full ‘Lost Weekend’ lineup and program/venues:
CTM and Punctum Books/Punctum Records formed an imprint/event partnership in 2013.
For more information on the books and recordings published and forthcoming, and the CTM
Future of Instrument Design lecture/performance series, please visit:


SIGNAL PATH: The New School T. Lang Center, 13th Street: all day event

LOST WEEKEND: Wollman Auditorium, 11th Street, Punctum Records evening event
Lost Weekend is organized by Punctum Records/Books [Eileen Joy, Dan Rudmann]; with
Ed Keller, CTM.

Evan Calder Williams: The Sabotage of Life

fantomas humanity beautiful puppet show


4 Lectures by Evan Calder Williams

MAY 14th, the ‘GLASS CORNER’, room E206, 25 East 13th Street, 7.00 PM – 10PM

The last in the series, this lecture tackles the last aspect of sabotage responsible for the century’s worth of attacks on it: its negation of the centrality of “life” as an ideal to organize around and in defense of. Contrary to many of its most recent advocates, sabotage does not suggest the surge of an irrepressible human vital urge against “deathly” mechanisms of capital and state. Instead, it produces a crack in the assumed bond of human-life-work, insists on dangerous collaborations with mechanisms both inhuman and “against life,” and reminds us that only those who insist on the primacy of life itself could support one so unlivable.

Topics include: the birth strike, Neo-Malthusian and otherwise; hostile objects; material feminist urban design; slapstick; unwaged time.

Williams will be in conversation by theorist and artist Hannah Black.

Free and open to the public. Seating is limited, please register on Eventbrite.

For more information on Calder Williams’ 2013/14 lectures:



Evan Calder Williams: The Sabotage of Space

gun crazy train smoke lens flare2

4 Lectures by Evan Calder Williams

APRIL 28, the ‘GLASS CORNER’, room E206, 25 East 13th Street, 7.00 PM – 10PM


The qualities that made sabotage one of the twentieth century’s bad words – its cunning, conspiracy with complex apparatuses, invisibility, and “time-release” effect – are not qualities it invented. Rather, they are found in the basic coordinates of that century’s spatial system. If, as the previous talk explored, the history of sabotage is one of drift and diffusion, moving from a specific practice in wage-centered struggles through legal and military codification to a general concept of subterfuge and hostility, it is so only as an index of real changes happening to and through the material networks of capital. This talk considers those networks and changes through the lens of sabotage, focusing in particular on two histories: the Metropolis, both as the large city and as the process of expansion that dissolves the coherence of the city/country divide, and pollution, as an idea giving the West nightmares for a good two millennia and now showing itself inseparable from daily life. Topics include: Kiev’s ice barricades; Doreen Massey’s feminist geography; miasma, blocked signals, and the birds of Antigone; recent digital animation; Deepwater Horizon and the burning ocean; floods of work and water; Piranesi’s serpents; Günther Anders and Massimo Cacciari; the earth’s crust.

The talk will be followed by a response by, and conversation with, Sabu Kohso, a theorist and translator currently researching and writing on the aftermath of Fukushima.

Free and open to the public. Seating is limited, please register on Eventbrite.

For more information on Calder Williams’ 2013/14 lectures:


Post Planetary Capital Symposium

Sunshine, Boyle

Post Planetary Capital Symposium
Monday, March 24, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 9:30 PM (EDT)
Co-organized by Ed Keller and Ben Woodard
Wollman Hall 66 West 12th Street 5th floor   New York, NY
Free and open to the public.


Introduction and opening of symposium

More symposium footage:


As the dull glow of nationalism and cold war politics has faded from governmental space programs it is little surprise that space exploration has undergone widespread privatization.
Yet it is only recently that potentially massive profitability has accelerated off-planet projects, replacing narrower and perhaps unrealistic dreams of space tourism with asteroid mining (purportedly a multi-trillion dollar industry) and long term Mars colonization. Such projects present an odd combination of new technologies (especially advanced robotics) and lower cost older technologies (rocket propulsion) deployed in unfamiliar and lawless territory.

While much has been said regarding the internal limits of capital, much yet remains to be said about how capitalist imperatives can be taken off-world, questioning whether capital[ism] has external limits as it begins to spread across the solar system and out into space. Is the fact that asteroid mining extends an old logic of environmental degradation rendered moot by its non-terrestrial location? Does off-world colonization by non-governmental entities lay troubling ground work for the advent of mega-corporations and unregulatable capitalism?

Furthermore, the complicity between capitalist expansion and space exploration which centers upon large-scale collective action potentially questions stock oppositions between capital and ecological betterment, technological progression and radical politics, as well as space travel and non-national collectivity. This one day symposium aims to address the potential strategies and claims surrounding these issues.

– Ed Keller, Ben Woodard

Julieta Aranda [artist / editor of eflux journal]
Amanda Beech [CalArts]
Kai Bosworth  [UMN]
Benjamin H. Bratton [DGP/UCSD]
Ed Keller [CTM/Parsons]
Deneb Kozikoski [Columbia]
Carla Leitao [RPI/Pratt]
Geoff Manaugh [Gizmodo/BLDGBLOG]
Rory Rowan [Wageningen University, The Netherlands ]
Keith Tilford [New School]
Ken Wark [New School]
Ben Woodard [University of Western Ontario]
Kazys Varnelis [Columbia Univ. GSAPP]

Additional speakers TBA

Cyber-Nietzsche | 04.13.2013


On April 13,  2013, The Center for Transformative Media (CTM) at Parsons The New School for Design presented ‘Cyber-Nietzsche: Tunnels, Tightropes, Net-&-Meshworks’: a day-long symposium on the relation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy to Media Studies, Cybernetics, and the so-called ‘Digital Humanities’ (Human, All too Human?).

The Nietzsche Workshop@Western is an annual international conference that provides an academic forum for scholars and students to discuss the most salient issues of contemporary society in light of the critical perspectives and politico-philosophical insights of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Speakers included:

Jen Boyle, Coastal Carolina University;  Sarah Choukah, Universite de Montreal;  Pawel Krol, Universite Laval;  Nicola Masciandaro, City University of New York;  Jimmy Raskin, Miguel Abreu Gallery; Dylan Wittkower, Old Dominion University; Joseph Nechvatal, School of Visual Arts;  Eugene Thacker, The New School;  Babette Babich, Fordham University;  Gary Shapiro, University of Richmond, Emeritus;  Shannon Bell, York University;  Dominic Pettmann, The New School; and Nandita Biswas Mellamphy & Dan Mellamphy, Western University.

Full conference at UStream:

Selected NWWiv presentations at Vimeo: