Next month will begin with what will probably be one of the most unique concerts of the season, hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano di Cultura, IIC) in San Francisco. Cellist Nicola Baroni will perform Zadig, a cycle of 21 caprices inspired by Voltaire’s philosophical novel of the same title on the subject of destiny beyond human control. Composed by Massimiliano Messieri, the score explores possibilities for interaction between human and computer. Thus, while the initial caprices are performed on a conventional cello, the score demands a change of instruments to a “hypercello” (which Baroni designed with Vangelis Lympouridis) for the later pieces. Through a system of sensors and electronics, the soloist performing on this augmented instrument is now interacting in real-time with software; and, in the final two caprices, that software is analyzing the soloist’s performance and “responding” by synthesizing its own tonal counterpoint.
The term “hyperinstrument” seems to have been coined by Tod Machover in 1986, while he was working at IRCAM. However, much of his work on these instruments came about after he moved to the MIT Media Lab, where, between 1991 and 1993 he composed his Hyperstring Trilogy, three pieces for augmented cello, viola, and violin, respectively, each performed with a chamber orchestra. (The cello movement, “Begin Again Again …,” was composed for Yo-Yo Ma.) Lympouridis pursued his own research in the translation of data sources into sound (sometimes called “sonification”) at the University of Edinburgh, where he received both his Masters and Doctoral degrees.
IIC is located at 814 Montgomery Street in North Beach. This concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1. The performance is scheduled to last about 90 minutes. There is no admission charge. However, space is limited; so those interested in attending are encouraged to register in advance. This may be done through a registration Web page created by Constant Contact. The IIC Web site also has an event page with further information.