EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Synthesis of Performer and Instrument, Analytical Issues in Interactive Multimedia and Christopher Burns’ “Sawtooth”

John Chittum

John Chittum, University of Missouri – Kansas City, 4949 Cherry Street – Kansas City, MO


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Interactive multimedia offers unique challenges to researchers and theorists. These works often defy standard practice analysis methods. Works are often improvisational or aleatoric, with an emphasis on the technology used. In this paper and presentation, different analytical problems unique to interactive multimedia are presented. A taxonomy of different styles of interaction are presented, followed by a methodology and approach to analyzing interactive pieces. Information regarding methods of analysis are synthesized from research of several writers, mainly John Croft, Barry Truax, and Dennis Smalley, as well as research into analysis of informational systems. Research into the analysis of jazz improvisation is also included as one avenue to approach a piece that lacks a fixed score. Gunther Schuller’s 1958 article “Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of Thematic Improvisation” is used as a model for approaching the analysis of improvisation. Using all these materials, a multi‐faceted approach is created and implemented into an analysis of Christopher Burns’ Sawtooth. The goal of this particular analysis was to show how the interactive system directly influences the improvisational choices creating a repeatable structure. This limits the improvisation of the piece without the use of notation. Using only four basic elements and their interactions, Burns was able to create a fixed gesture carried structure that influences the possible outcomes of the improvisation in the environment.

EMS12 Proceedings