My Cubical

2016 SoundSpace – The Blanton Museum of Art
Matthew Steinke: Robotics, Harmonic Guitar, eGuitar, Percussion

This piece was written for the SoundSpace series representing the musical parallels to the “Come As You Are” exhibit of 90s artist featuring works about identity, the internet, and globalization. The show includes artists such as Felix Gonzalez Torres, Matthew Barney, and Kara Walker among others.

“My Cubical” draws from my personal experience growing up in the 90s when I learned about hacking electronics from artist like Reed Ghazala, modifying electric guitars from Sonic Youth and Glen Branca, and developing new instruments from the pages of Bart Hopkin’s “Experimental Musical Instruments” magazine.

The title references the “cockpit” of the internet browser within the office cubical where digitally compressed history and culture interface with physical space. In this instance, the interface is inverted and data, a programmed composition, is performed by robotic acoustic instruments and myself within a live space in front of a real audience.

steinke blanton museum of art

Live on KUTX

2016

Improvisations and Variation of “In C” by Terri Riley and “Workers Union” by Louis Andriessen
Steve Parker Trombone and Conch Shell
Matthew Steinke: Robotics and Electric Lamellophone

Video of in “In C” variation below.

Gesualdo Madrigal Variation

2015 Church of the Friendly Ghost – Vanguard Theater
Steve Parker: Trombone
Matthew Steinke: Robotics


Prince Carlo Gesualdo (1566 – 1613) was an insane murderer by all accounts even his own. As a composer, he wrote breathtakingly (no pun intended) well-crafted heartfelt madrigals unlike any from or before his time. As a noble, he had several musicians on hand to perform his difficult compositions. As his music was made by and for himself only, he did not have a patron who would have dictated his musical style. This freed him to explore the depths of the now modern practice of expressionism within his own vacuum years before anyone had an audience to articulate it to. His work incorporated chromatic harmonies combined with traditional choral phrasing, a unique blend of the avant-garde and the renaissance. After his death in 1613, this chromaticism was not heard again until the likes of modern composers like Wagner or Schoenberg.

This performance revisits one of his challenging four part madrigals re-voiced for robotic harmonium, robotic melodica, membrane cello, and trombone. We also incorporated glockenspiel, toy piano, and percussion.

The Stuttering Clock

2015, Excerpt, Northern Southern, Austin, TX
Felicia Rains: Piano
Mars Wright: Vocals and Loop Sampler
Matthew Steinke: Percussion and Robotics

The Stuttering Clock explores the enigmatic and otherworldly components of the Christmas story in a thirty minute performance of new music with references to Bach, Handel, and traditional themes. Played by an ensemble of hand-built robotic musical instruments, this “re-arrangement” follows the Christmas mystery from the point of view of the virgin mother Mary visited by angels while awaiting the unknown outcome of her immaculately conceived super-human child.

Mechanical Memories

2014 Avante Gardens, Houston, TX

This performance with eGuitar and robotic ensemble incorporates mechanical memory devices such as a disc playing music box, percussion, toy piano, and harmonium controlled by a laptop. My role involves mediating the mechanical melodies and percussion cycles by improvising harmonies on the guitar and mixing the instruments in the ensemble in and out. The guitar has built in drivers to make the strings drone automatically. It is also triggering sounds wirelessly in the software.

The Stringboard

2003, Chicago, IL SAIC

Performance with prepared string instrument, modified toy box, and algorithmic sampler device

Mockaoke

2003 Chicago, IL, Pack Edge Sound Festival

For the Pack Edge Festival, I improvised with this hybrid percussion robot which has an integrated sampler and an embedded microprocessor. Audio is sampled at the input, cut up, and then mapped to programed algorithmic rhythms in the firmware. These generated rhythms are then augmented by synched acoustic percussion. I am playing a cassette tape player with its lid removed and its output feed into the input of Mockaoke. I am pushing the play button in and out and manipulating the speed and pitch of the recording by pushing on the tape player’s capstan while it plays back.