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Giles Hall, Andy Cavatorta, and Christine Southworth with The BloBot
photo by Jodi Hilton

 

 

The Artists and Engineers

Christine Southworth (Co-founder, Artistic Director), through her work with robots and automated music systems as co-founder and Director of Ensemble Robot, is making groundbreaking music based on the interaction between technology and creativity. Compared to Thurston Moore (Boston Phoenix, 2/11/05) and Laurie Anderson (Boston Globe, 2/4/05), Southworth is introducing a brand new genre of music to Boston, born out of the area’s complex community of scientists and artists. Her February 2005 performance of Zap! overfilled the Boston Museum of Science’s Theater of Electricity with an energized crowd of 500 students, professors, artists, children, and adults. The Boston Phoenix called the show “truly electrifying,” describing that “Ever since Bob Dylan, ‘going electric’ has had many connotations, but this was something different: though Zap! utilized the talents of a flutist, two keyboardists, a cellist, a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a vocalist, a double-helix-shaped robotic xylophone, sound engineers, and computer programmers, the centerpiece of Southworth’s performance was electricity itself, as millions of volts buzzed, fizzled, and sparked in deafening cracks that punctuated her music.” (Will Spitz, Boston Phoenix)

Southworth received a B.S. from MIT in 2002 in mathematics and music and M.A. in Computer Music & Multimedia Composition from Brown University in 2006. She composes for Western ensembles, Balinese gamelan, and mixed ensembles of gamelan, western instruments, electronics, and robots. Her compositions draw from her interests in modern American and European music, jazz, Balinese music, and rock and roll, and have received awards and recognition from the LEF Foundation, American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), the MIT Eloranta Fellowship, and the Bang on a Can Summer Institute of Music. Her compositions have been played by Gamelan Galak Tika, Ethel, Bang on a Can, Arnold Dreyblatt’s Orchestra of Excited Strings, Alarm Will Sound, the NEC Wind Ensemble, and Ensemble Robot, at venues including the Boston Museum of Science, Mass MoCA, Jordan Hall, MIT, Wesleyan University, and in Bali, Indonesia.

Leila Hasan (Co-founder) is a robotic engineer and co-founder of Ensemble Robot. She graduated from MIT in 2001 with an MEng and BS in Electrical Engineering, where she had built many robots for a variety of applications. Her thesis, entitled “Visual Frets for a Hybrid Free Gesture Interface,” was a robotic music controller based on the theremin. She presented at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference (NIME) in 2002. She was also the captain of the first all female team on Junkyard Wars, an engineering contest television show, and recently starred on a BBC pilot engineering reality show shot in Namibia. Currently, she is living and working in San Francisco.
Andy Cavatorta (Designer/Engineer) has been involved with Ensemble Robot as a robot designer and engineer since 2005. He built the Blobot for our 2006 production of Music & The Invasion of Technology, and most recently developed the Whirlybot with Erik Nugent and Bill Tremblay. He is a Boston-based designer and inventor focusing largely on interactive design, robotics, and film.  He is a principle of Nervebox Studio and contributor to Boston Cyberarts.  His major collaborations include robot control systems for Amorphic Robot Works, aspects of Nearlife's Virtual Fishtank, and interactive design and programming for the Museum of Science exhibit Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination.

William Tremblay (Designer/Engineer) became involved with Ensemble Robot in 2006, in order to develop the Whirlybot. Bill is an artist and interactive media programmer. His work addresses issues of human interaction with the technological world: the choices we make and the prices we pay. He tends to create machines and large scale installations. His work has been shown in numerous venues, among them the Kitchen in New York, Boston's Computer Museum, the List Center for Visual Arts at MIT, the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston, The Boston Center for the Arts and First Night Boston. He is co-inventor of the Virtual Reality Chair, for which he holds a patent. He attended the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art, and is the proud owner of a Bridgeport milling machine, which he used to make custom parts for the bionic log which has been shown at Collision at Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA and at "ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show" in New York. He lives in Boston where he opportunistically employs robotics, video and other technologies in ways they were never intended to be used.

Erik Nugent (Designer/Engineer, Musician) has been involved with Ensemble Robot since 2004, first as a musician (Lyricon and Overtone Singing “Zap!” and “Heavy Metal”) and more recently as a designer and engineer. He helped develop the Whirliebot with Bill and Andy and has been working on various versions of the Bot(i)cello. Erik obtained a degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Music Education with his main instrument being the Saxophone. Shortly after college he felt the need to add new colors to his tonal palette by inventing instruments including Triangular-Bore Slide Saxophone, Slide Bagpipe, Three-note Didgeridoo, Flexididjs, Pyrophone, and the Aquarina. Nugent has been practicing the ancient form of Overtone Singing called Khoomei since the fall of 2002. He has played with John Zorn and the Experimental Musical Instruments Ensemble, Auddity, Otis Reem, Been Caught Steelin’, Automobile Revision, and Devil Music Ensemble. Nugent has performed Film soundtrack work for “Neovoxer” by Michael Pope and D. Franklin and composed and performed the soundtrack for “Eddie’s Question,” a film by Lee Sullivan. He makes his living building and repairing hand-made flutes.

Giles Hall (Programmer) joined Ensemble Robot in 2004, developing
control for the Heliphon in our performance of Zap! Since then, he has
been our primary software developer, programming control for each of
our robots and integrating them into a complete control system through
which we can run all robots from one MIDI sequence. Through his work
with Ensemble Robot, he has developed a new LINUX based MIDI
interpreter. Giles graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in
2002 with a degree in Computer Science and a concentration in Biology.
Currently, he is a computational biologist developing software for
genome assembly at the Broad Institute. In his spare time, he is a
devoted computer musician and drummer.

Evan Ziporyn (Composer, Artistic Advisor) is a composer and Artistic Director of Gamelan Galak Tika as well as a founding member of the Bang On A Can All-Stars, with whom he has toured the globe since 1992.  He was the 2004 recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Goddard Lieberson Award, and has received numerous commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Hall, the Silk Road Project, Meet the Composer, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the Kronos Quartet.  His music was also featured in the American Repertory Theater’s acclaimed 2004 production of Oedipus Rex. His works have been released on Cantaloupe, Sony Classical, New Albion, New World, Koch, Innova, and CRI; his 2001 solo clarinet CD, “This Is Not A Clarinet,” made numerous Top Ten lists and was featured on All Things Considered and PRI’s The World.  With Bang On A Can, a partial list of collaborators includes Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Brian Eno, Paul Simon, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Ornette Coleman, Don Byron, Louis Andriessen, Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, Iva Bittova, Matthew Shipp, Thurston Moore, Wu Man, Wayan Wija, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Pamela Z., Wu Tong, So Percussion, and Ethel.  He is Head of Music and Theater Arts & Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor at M.I.T.
 

 

Co-founders Christine & Leila controlling the
Van de Graaff Generator during dress rehearsal. Photos by Evan Ziporyn.

 

Collaborating Musicians

Gamelan Galak Tika was founded in Cambridge, MA, in September 1993 by Evan Ziporyn and Balinese musicians I Nyoman Catra and Desak Made Suarti Laksmi. A part of the MIT Music program, its personnell is comprised of both students and community members.  The group learns by memory, without notation, and functions in the Balinese tradition, with decisions made communally and responsibilities shared. The name Galak Tika is Old Javanese for Intense Togetherness. Since its inception, GGT has performed both traditional Balinese music and dance and new works by Balinese and American composers. It has given dozens of performances at venues including Alice Tully Hall, BAM Next Wave, Bang On A Can, First Night, Jordan Hall, Kripalu Yoga Institute,, DeCordova Sculpture Park, and Somerville Arts Festival. It recently completed its first tour of Bali with stellar performances at the Bali International Arts Festival, Kuta Carnival, a festival for world peace, and in villages around the island. Collaborators include Wu Man, Lamine Toure and Rambax, Nicola Hawkins Dance Company, the New England Conservatory Orchestra, and the Providence Mandolin Collective.

 

Ramón Castillo (conductor, composer) For the past few years, Ramón Castillo has associated himself with the photographer, Travis Hartman. From this association has emerged three multimedia works: Travis Hartman Experiment (1999), A Man Named Issac… (2002), and Beads Under the Arch [Mardi Gras in St. Louis] (2003). In June 2002, Ramón's composition, Travis Hartman Experiment was performed as part of the Music02 festival in Cincinnati. In September 2001, it was selected as one of six finalists in the young composers' competition of The Ensemble Eleven (Manchester, UK). The ensemble performed the piece during their 2001 fall season. Travis Hartman Experiment was also selected as a finalist in the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. A Man Named Issac… was performed in 2002 as part of the Bloch Music Festival. Most recently, Ramón's Beads Under the Arch was performed by Time's Arrow at Boston University. It was also chosen as a finalist in last year's Morton Gould A wards. All three of these pieces included Travis's especially diverse photography which has provoked very different approaches to the music. Ramón is currently a DMA candidate at Boston University School of Music where he has studied with Theodore Antoniou, Lukas Foss, and Sam Headrick. He received his BM in composition in 2001 from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he studied with W. Thomas McKenney and John Cheetham.

Todd Reynolds (violin) is violinist and assistant conductor for Steve Reich and Musicians and The Walter Thompson Orchestra. He was a student of the late Jascha Heifetz, a student at the Eastman School of Music, former Principal Second Violin of the Rochester Philharmonic, and holds a Master's degree from SUNY at Stony Brook. As an improviser and solo interpreter of new musics from classical to jazz and pop, Reynolds has appeared and/or recorded with such artists as Anthony Braxton, Uri Caine and Cassandra Wilson. In addition to his solo appearances Reynolds appears as guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and is often featured with Bang On A Can. Reynolds has premiered compositions by composers including Michael Gordon and Randall Wolff, and appeared as a soloist with Yo-Yo Ma in Tan Dun's Water Passion at the Barbican Center in London. He is a co-founder of Ethel, a New York-based string quartet. Reynolds is currently developing Still Life With Mic, a theater piece which incorporates with his own composed and improvised music and elements of video and theater arts. He has recorded for Nonesuch, CRI, and Atlantic Records and can also be heard on Tan Dun's soundtrack for the film Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. On Broadway, he originated the role of "The Fiddler," playing and dancing on stage in the Tony Award-winning revival of Irving Berlin's Annie, Get Your Gun, starring Bernadette Peters and Reba McEntire.

Akili Jamal Haynes (percussion, voice) was born in Brooklyn in 1972. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and dancer, he has studied various musical cultures of the world, especially that of the African Diaspora and Continent. Akili’s journey took a very important turn when he met Ghanaian Master Drummer Nana Kimati Dinizulu in the early 90’s.   Following Mr. Dinizulu’s mentoring, Akili received a full scholarship to the newly formed Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.   Soon after moving to Boston, Akili independently began an intense study of the music and culture of several countries, including: Haiti, through the teachings of Haitian Master Dancers Patric LaCroix, St. Cyr, and Drummers “Juju” Fritz Joseph, Smith Nazaire, and Ethnomusicologist Kera Washington; Brazil, through the teachings of Brazilian Master Dancer, Choreographer, Actress Isaura Oliveira, and Drummer Sula da Silva; Uganda, through the teachings of Ugandan Master Musicians Dr. James Makubuya, Andrew Mangeni, Moses Sekajja, and Moses Buyondu; Senegal, through the teachings of Senegalese Master Griot Lamine Toure, and MIT Professor Patricia Tang.

 

Jeff Lieberman (guitar, keyboard) is the founding member of the fully improvisational quintet Gigawatt and the MIT ensemble Listen/Silence. He currently composes and performs with electronic duo gloob(ic) as well as performs with MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble. He has performed and recorded with Arnold Dreyblatt and the Orchestra of Excited Strings, as well as with the Gamelan Galak Tika. He has been awarded the Philip Lowe award for creative accomplishments in music. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. He has also completed a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics and his master’s in robotics and mechanical engineering at MIT. Mr. Liebermann also publishes photography and builds robotic art installations.

Blake Newman (bass), a New York native and graduate of Berklee College of Music, began playing double bass at age 12 and electric bass three years later. He spent six years performing and recording with West African Mbalax band, Ibrahima Camara and Safal, culminating in a tour of Senegal in 1997. In 1999, Blake joined the Bruce Katz Band, recording Three Feet Off the Ground (2000, Audioquest), which garnered much international acclaim, and performing on multiple US and European tours as well as at many blues and jazz festivals in Canada, the United States, the U.K., and Scandinavia. Blake has been performing with the Jeff Robinson Trio, a music and spoken word group, since its inception in 1995. The band has been hosting a “poetry jam” at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the past seven years and has performed with poets Amiri Baraka, Patricia Smith, Regie Gibson, Askia Toure, and Quincy Troupe to name a few. As a freelance bassist, Blake has performed and recorded with David Murray, Ran Blake, Big Jack Johnson, Duke Robillard, Michelle Wilson, John Sinclair, David Maxwell, Mamadou Diop, Toni Lynn Washington, and Jon Faddis.

 

 

For over two decades, C.E. Whalen (guitarist/composer) has been creating new music. He has performed and recorded with Gamelan Galak Tika and Yasuharu Tsuda, as well as given world premiere performances in North America, Europe, and Asia. His alternative pop music group, Twittering Machine, has released several recordings and a soundtrack to critical acclaim, with a new CD scheduled for release this coming spring. Mr. Whalen holds a bachelor of arts in music from Georgia State University and a master of arts in composition from the New England Conservatory of Music. He lives in New York City, supporting himself as a performer and freelance writer. He recently composed a suite of music for Ensemble Robot, which was

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