Carl Testa’s Sway gives the computer a say | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Carl Testa’s Sway gives the computer a say

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People often talk about machines taking over society like it’s a bad thing, but Connecticut multi-instrumentalist Carl Testa envisions a relationship in which musicians and computers coexist just fine. Testa plays double bass and electronics with bandleaders such as Anthony Braxton and Tyshawn Sorey, but in his own groups he likes to focus on playing his strings while computer processing adds dynamics to the sound. Testa has developed a series of computer systems that analyze the playing of  his collaborators and respond to it by imposing changes in amplitude, reverberation, and decay on each musician's output. In Sway, the system he’ll use tonight, the musicians have control over the notes they play, but though they improvise, they’re not completely free. Instead, thy have their instruments plugged into the computer and must accommodate what the program does to their sound. Sway gives the computer the combined role of  live-dub remixer and composer: using prearranged criteria it can evaluate what a musician is playing, and nudge them to move on by changing their sound. Provided the computer running it has enough speed, memory, and microphone inputs, Sway can be used by any number of players; tonight Testa and vocalist Anne Rhodes (who is married to him) will be joined by violinist Hanna Brock, tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Aaron Getsug, guitarist Christopher Riggs, and contrabass clarinetist Alejandro Acierto. The day before the concert, Testa will join Dan Derks and Meredith Johnston to discuss and demonstrate hybrid acoustic/digital systems.   v

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