Category Archives: Media Lab

Sonic Paint Brush

This piece evolved out of the work of three School of Music students. “Sonic Paint Brush” explores both the auditory and visual applications of synthesized sound. In a new take on incidental music, the work creates itself through the improvisation and collaboration of all 3 musicians who each have their own “instrument” to augment and utilize.

Alex Panos – Performer, “Waveform” painter
Tyler Harper – Live video, programming
Chung Wan Choi – Performer, percussion

The whole idea of what we were doing was composing visually, not sonically, thus the manipulation of the waveforms was a big aspect of this piece. Using a customizable XY Oscilloscope VST called “Wavecandy”, we were able to display audio signals in a very unique way. Alexander built various sounds in FL Studio using plugins such as NI Massive and IL Harmor that would respond visually more than sonically. Starting with a single sine wave and gradually introducing different frequencies and harmonics, he was able to start creating very beautiful shapes. What’s so interesting is that the images that were being displayed were not just random, they all respond accordingly to different laws of signal processing as well as how sound acts in nature. Using an assortment of effects such as phasers, filters of different types, bitcrushers and downsamplers, unison detune, frequency modulation, and frequency shifting, he was able to morph the sounds into different shapes to continue the progression of the piece.

Screenshot 2015-05-11 13.30.13
Using the environment of Max 8, Tyler created a piece of art that uses sound waves as a paint brush. This software allows a performer to play with the size, shape, and color of preordained objects. As the piece progresses, you can see the transforming shapes reflect the mood of the sound being created by the other two performers. While the piece is created with sound waves, it does not add to the sound of the piece. This allows the objects to become as wild as possible without deterring from the beauty of the rest of the piece.

Screenshot 2015-05-11 13.28.51

Screenshot 2015-05-11 13.29.51

Chung wanted to use her DIY drum. To incorporate it with Ableton Live, she added a piezo element under the drumhead. Signal is transformed into melodic chordal sounds through resonator plug-in which amplifies specific frequencies that will serve as root of a chord. Two audio tracks were setup, with one armed with gate, only sounding when being hit loudly. Hence, these setting provides two different chords selection, while the fundamental were being manipulated through Midi keyboard.


Continue reading Sonic Paint Brush

Amour, suppôts et supplications

Amour, suppôts et supplications is a representation of the different phases in a social and/or amorous relationship that we enter into all throughout our lives. Articulated around different movements connected by combinations of recurring timbres, this piece brings about numerous contrasts and emotions.

The inspiration of the piece comes from Chelsea. It is a universal subject everybody is confronted with at one moment. In order to bring this idea to life, we decided to work in two groups: electronic and acoustic. We agreed on a scale to build all our material: an acoustic mode on B. The separation of acoustic/electronic is a representation of the duality in a couple.

Draft of the introduction
Draft of the introduction


Harmonic material
Harmonic material

The first part, only acoustic, represents the time of the meeting, and the birth of emotions. Indecision and mystery are the main elements transcribed in the music by imitation between the instruments, melted in a deep reverberation. The following movements represent the battle for power, the sharing of power, the engagement, and (in our case) the distance between the couple with the presence of a perturbing element.

The formal structure of the piece is fixed. During our last working session, we finally put the different elements together: the electronic part (loops composed by Yury and Kristian using Logic Pro, Abelton and Max), and the acoustic part (Chelsea at the electric harp and Jean-Patrick at the prepared electric guitar). We took into consideration at this time the importance of staging the piece and the inclusion of a theatrical aspect to illustrate our inspiration.

Hairy trio
Hairy trio


Harp jail
Harp jail


Working hard!
Working hard!

The lightning is focused on the instrument in order to depersonalize the musicians, who are the actors of the performance. This depersonalization is a way to universalize the subject. The last movement of the performance is the illustration of the distance and the moment of doubt in the couple. The presence of Yury and Kristian at the end of the piece symbolizes the external factor which can create tension, doubts, and distance in a couple. The simultaneous presence of the two characters involved in the relationship and the two perturbing elements makes us question ourselves. Where are we going? What is part of the external factor in our happiness? What is really important?


Video edited by Chelsea Lane

Nature Sounds Interacted

Team Members: Yury, Zhiwan, Brittany, Gwen

Our performance was based off of using field recordings of nature (animals, trees, etc.) combined with interactive visuals and a live performance of poetry. The goal was to create a free-flowing, avant-garde performance that was never the same any two times performed.


Yury Merman: I found a myriad of high-quality nature sounds online (mainly soundcloud), and chopped up the samples. I processed many sounds as well, either with electronic/synthetic sounding effects, or with mixing effects such as EQ and filtering.

I used Logic Pro for the sound design and editing, and then used Ableton to perform and trigger the sounds.

I had various nature sounds on differing tracks and they would play at random on their own. I could also control the triggering of the sounds, switching up parts sort of like a DJ/producer would do so with a standard electronic track.

I had an outline of the audio structure where it would start slow, build up, have many differing sounds, and then vary throughout until the end of the performance, during which the sounds became more minimal.

Ableton was also connected to MaxforLive, which allowed the audio to trigger effects on the visuals we displayed during the performance. Based off things such as frequencies and intensity, the visuals would change in ways such as frame-rate and color/filters.


Zhiwan: Created a Max patch that would allow the audio to trigger the visuals. He also had control all the visuals manually, changing them in real-time during the performance as well.


Brittany: Provided video that we used for the visuals, and also performed poetry, samples of which I’ve provided below:

a blindmans eyebrows
condensing the autumn fog
into beads of light
squeezing his eyes shut,
the cat yawns as if about
to eat the spring world.
black winter hills
nibbling the sinking sun
with stark stumpy teeth.
All the haikus are by Richard Wright, an american poet, who wrote these during his last months of life.
Gwen: Also provided visuals and performed the last poem as well. She also lit matches, which gave our performance a more primal aesthetic (Fire = nature).








Deux regards perdus vers l’horizon

Deux regards perdus vers l’horizon is a live performance for amplified cello, amplified sitar, and electronics performed by Jake Bernsten, Jean-Patrick Besingrand, Caitlin Quinlan, and Kristian Tchetechko.

After a quick brainstorming session, the idea for a piece mixing instruments from different traditions (classical, indian, electronic) came naturally. The poetic idea of the piece was the start of its composition. After few sketches, we set up a fixed formal structure which allowed us to improvise inside of it. Proceeding this way made the performance more coherent. The formal structure is close to a perfect arch form. The material is derived from the night-time raga Yaman Kalyan, with the note C sharp as a polar reference. After a first section based on this raga, a noisy element is introduced little by little, leading to the middle section based on noisy sounds. After this section, the raga reappears progressively.


First beautifully handwritten sketch by Caitlin
First beautifully handwritten sketch by Caitlin


Final score


The sitar and the cello are both amplified and proceed into a Max patch. This patch, conceived by Kristian, includes a sample recorder and shuffler for the cello and a randomized pitch delay for the sitar. Both instruments benefit from an strong reverberation.

Jake, the central element of the piece, controls some samples in Ableton through a Midi keyboard allowing him to interact with multiple parameters of sound.

An important element of the performance resides in the visual element coming from the Max patch. The acoustic instruments as well as the samples controlled by Jake are connected into an x-y matrix that visually represents the changing stereo field. This visual element is a concrete representation of the poetic idea of the piece.

Program note:

Deux regards perdus vers l’horizon represents the perturbations lived by two people who little by little take their distance from each other and find themselves back together. This piece depicts different moments of this process. The acoustic instruments are the representation of these two people. The electronic part symbolizes the main interest in common of these two people, which is the basis of the relationship and the basis of the piece.

Video of the performance edited by Kristian:



The Internet Aesthetic

Team Members: Amanda Marano, Chelsea Lane, Mutian Fu, Jaime Dickerson

Our performance was based on the performance that Jesse showed us in class using the MIDI controller, as well as other electronic pop artists we listened to online, such as Madeon. Our goal was to create a fun upbeat dance piece that was unique every time it was played.


We used three different controllers during our performance. Jaime used a MIDI keyboard of her own connected directly to the mixing board and was outputted to the speakers. The effects were generated by different settings on her keyboard, as well as a voice modifier and a microphone attached to the keyboard. Jaime played this keyboard during the final performance.

Matty was in charge of a MIDI controller with knobs that was connected to a MAX patch that directly controlled the video that she edited of My Keepon dancing from YouTube videos. There were three knobs that controlled the different RGB color levels in the video. If the levels were all set to 1, the video would be restored to its original color levels. She used this board during the final presentation.




This is the original version of the video Matty edited that was used in the Max patch:

Chelsea and Matty created an Ableton Live file that included sound bytes the group got from SoundCloud, including dubstep drum beats and latin rhythms. Matty mapped each different group of sounds onto a different page of a third midi controller, along with different sound effects. One sound can be played from each group, or page, and to that sound any or all effects on that page can be activated or deactivated for that sound.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 11.49.46 PM

Chelsea wrote a rough composition for using this Ableton Live file during performance. Amanda performed using this board in the final presentation, and she used the starting sounds from the composition but deviated from there until the end of the piece.

The composition was of the format of page-clipNumber and initially looked like this:



9-3 (Add soon after 10-1)

8-1 (Add only once music builds in intensity)

We rehearsed with Chelsea using the Ableton MIDI controller before we added the audio effects, and with Amanda using the controller afterwards for the final presentation. Each run through was ultimately completely improvised, with both Jaime and Matty reacting and playing in response to what either Chelsea or Amanda was playing using the Ableton sound clips and effects.

Here’s the final presentation:



Technical Problems

Are you experiencing technical issues in the Media Lab?  Please follow these steps:

1.  Google it.  Chances are you are not the only person who has ever encountered this issue.  Do a google search using the keywords that describe what you are attempting to do.  For example, if you can’t figure out how to reverse a sound using Ableton Live, do a google search for “Ableton live reverse audio.”  Chances are high that you will find a clear explanation of how to do it – maybe even a demonstration video on Youtube.

2.  Read the forums.  Many of the technologies we will be using have highly active online forums where community members solve problems together.  Searching the forums can sometimes produce more useful results than a general google search of the entire interweb.  If a search of the forum doesn’t get the answers you want, try creating a new post in the forum to ask your question.  Don’t forget to observe proper forum etiquette.  There are many highly experienced professionals on the forums who would be happy to help and you can sometimes get a response within minutes.

3.  Read the manual.  There are downloadable manuals for all of the technologies we will use in the course.  Download the latest manual and read through it.  Much of the software we are using also includes “lessons” or “tutorials” that demonstrate basic techniques.  If is essential to explore these resources before diving in the deep end.  Once you build up basic skills solving more complex problems will be much easier.

4.  If you are still stuck fill out the form below.  Your instructor and/or TA will respond as soon as they can.

Your E-mail address
Please describe your technical problem. Be as specific as possible.
Word Verification:

Media Lab Policies

• To use the Media Lab outside of class time you must make a reservation using the online reservation system.  To use the online reservation system you must set up an account as per these instructions.

• If you are the last person leaving the Media Lab you must perform the following shut-down procedure, to protect our equipment:

  1. Shut down the X32 digital mixing console.  The power switch is on the back of the unit, on the right.  (The loudspeakers in the room may be left on as long as the mixing console is turned off).
  2. Make sure both video projectors are turned off.  When the projectors are off you will see a red light on the front of them.  When they are on you will see a green light on the front of them.
  3. Put the Mac Pro computer to sleep.
  4. Make sure the doors to the Media Lab are fully closed and locked when you exit the room.

• When you are using the Media Lab outside of class time you are responsible for the equipment in the room.  Damage resulting from careless behavior will result in your Student Account being charged for the cost of repairs.  If you allow visitors in to the Media Lab you will be responsible for their behavior as well.