On Thursday, May 2 at 7 p.m., undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty will perform works of art that combine music and technology.
The event is hosted by the Yale Open Music Initiative, or OMI, a student and faculty organization that encourages and provides space for the exploration of creative computation and digitally enabled music production.
OMI was founded in 2014 by Scott Petersen, a computer science and music professor. Petersen, who is also involved with the computing in the arts major, started OMI by leading his own casual workshops.
Petersen said that the word “open” in the program’s title refers to both the fact that the “workshops were open to all” and the club’s “commitment to using only open source software, and later hardware so that the knowledge learned and the projects produced on that software were completely portable.” He noted that open software prevents students from “being tied to using licensed software only in the lab, or being forced to buy the software to continue working.”
The program remains relatively small but has grown in participation and scope over recent years. According to OMI student director Casey Celestin ’19, the group now comprises six undergraduate students, one graduate student and Petersen. Still, Celestin noted that many additional students do not participate in “core” activities — such as planning events or organizing workshops — but partake in OMI workshops or perform in the club’s concerts.
“Our interest group is small but passionate,” Celestin said.
Celestin said that many of the students involved in OMI are computing and the arts majors and that OMI gives these students the opportunity to explore their passions without the pressures of grades or assignments. OMI holds five or six workshops per semester, led by either Petersen or by students who have expertise in a certain area. Past workshop topics include Linux OS basics, “micro-controller midi-devices” and hardware hacking.
OMI has recently begun to offer students the chance to perform their work, which is rare in an academic setting. The upcoming concert will be the second-ever OMI performance, as the group coordinated their first concert last semester. Brandon Canfield ’21 said that attendees can expect a similar format to that of last semester’s show, which showcased several synthesizer pieces and even a “hybrid-drum tech piece” in which striking a drum triggered various audio clips of speeches and music by Kanye West.
Petersen said that the upcoming performance will feature an “8-channel surround sound system” as well as “some chip-tune pieces being performed on original Nintendo Gameboys and some live-coding which is always fun given the high degree of possibility that the live-coding session will go completely off the rails because of some errant keystroke.”
Canfield, who will perform a “improvised synth piece” with Thomas Hagen ’20 that will feature “surreal percussion sounds,” said that he hopes the event will “attract interest for next year.”
Petersen echoed this sentiment, explaining that members of OMI “actively seek involvement from the community regarding programming and participation and are currently strategizing about ways to increase the diversity of organizational membership.”
“It’s not a string quartet or classical music, it’s not a rock concert,” Celestin said, noting that the event will appeal to “people who are there because they like the nitty gritty of it all — how that sound happened, or how we made that noise.”
“It’s really fun, and we’re open to all,” Celestin added.
The concert will be held in the Yale Center for Collaborative Arts and Media.
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