AVATAR Machine Learning Improvising Software

December 14th, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 4.02.19 AMAt IUPUI’s Tavel Lab, Jason Palamara and I have been collaborating on the production of self-driving musical software that listens to a vibraphone player and improvises along side. This performance shows a performance that was featured at the Summer Intensive in Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP), July 31, 2020. The Avatar program is a machine-learning-enabled “choice engine” which provides a dynamically sensitive duet while listening to live vibraphone performances. The initial version is geared for use with a vibraphone, with additional instruments soon to follow. Using this system, the musician performs improvisations on the vibraphone while the software listens, closely following the vibraphone performance. The package employs a Markov-chain model culled from Scott Deal’s improvisations. This mindfile database allows the software to generate novel content based on Scott Deal’s style. While the Markov transition database provides note-to-note transitions, the AvatarPlayer makes use of this data in several ways. Throughout a performance, the AvatarPlayer cycles through five playback behaviors (favor repetition, favor novelty, favor four notes, favor chords, and favor phrases), all of which make use of the database differently.
Music by Scott Deal, Software Design by Jason Palamara



Goldstream Variations Solo Version, vibraphone, machine learning, and electronics

December 12th, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 10.01.07 PMComposed and performed by Scott Deal, Goldstream Variations (2012) creates an interconnected system through live music, electronics, and machine learning algorithms. The variations are scored for one to seven musicians on undetermined acoustic instruments, together with electronic/computer artists. The selection of this grouping shapes the aural nature of performance space through the arrangement of performers and loudspeakers. Each page of the score constitutes one variation which is performed in heterophonic fashion as an ensemble. The acoustic musician’s performances are engaged by various computer artists. The variations are designed for performance in either a single physical space, or distributed telematically between multiple sites on high-bandwidth Internet. Machine learning is incorporated into the design of the work via the *ml application developed by Ben Smith. This software is “trained” with a library of motifs from the score. View this performance.

The Percussion Computer Media Collection

November 26th, 2017


“The Pillar”,  for solo percussionist and electroacoustics by John Nichols III.

The Percussion Computer Media Collection has just been released. Years in the making, the collection consists of six electroacoustic works for percussion soloist or chamber musicians.  An accompanying album will be released in 2018. All of the works come complete with scores and software. Several of the works include video material for creative use in accompaniment with the live music.  For more information please visit the Tavel Labs website.   

Big Robot 2017-18

November 26th, 2017

Big Robot has been hard at work in the studio for the past year, and is now beginning to release a collection of works via video and audio.  We did a series of video shoots with the fabulous guys at Four Ten Media earlier this year, and in the coming months will be releasing an audio album of the material.  Check out the new videos here!

Goldstream Variations at the New World Symphony

May 10th, 2014


In 2014, my work Goldstream Variations was performed by members of the New World Symphony, together over the Internet with IUPUI’s Telematic Collective.  The performance consisted of a quartet of NWS musicians performing at the New World Hall in Miami Beach, together with performers from IUPUI, coordinated by Telematic Collective graduate fellows Matt Vice, Mayowa Tomori, and Danny Hughes. Musicians in Indianapolis were percussionist Bonnie Whiting and harpist Erzsébet Gaál-Rinne. The 11-minute work was performed before a full house in Miami Beach and received an enthusiastic ovation. The concert was part of the 2014 Internet2-New World Symphony Performance and Masterclass Workshop.


2013 PASIC Technology Day at IUPUI

November 19th, 2013













I recently served as host and director for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention Technology Day, which was held at IUPUI.  The day was filled with clinics, computer lab sessions, and concerts with presenters and performers from the Americas, Europe and Asia. It was a real labor of love as it combined my two favorite subjects, percussion and technology in a wonderful display of innovation and great music.  To learn more about the event and the participants, please visit the Tavel Center website. Pictured above are from left, Erzsébet Gaál-Rinne, Greg Jukes, and on the screen the University of Michigan Electro-Acoustic Ensemble performing my telematic work Goldstream Variations.  

Big Robot Premieres New Album

October 2nd, 2013

BR Promo3Big Robot is having a great year, especially with the release of our first album, which came out in July 2013.  To celebrate, we held a concert in Indianapolis at the historical Irving Theater.  Performing with us was harpist Erzsébet Gaál-Rinne and cellist Shannon Lee Hayden.  For videos of the performance, check out the Big Robot Youtube site, and for more information on the group, visit our website 

Australian Ensemble Decibel performs Goldstream Variations at ICMC 2013

September 10th, 2013

DecibelI recently returned from Perth, Australia, where I was attending the International Computer Music Conference.  I was particularly thrilled by the performance of my work Goldstream Variations by fabulous Decibel Ensemble.  The work highlighted pianist Stuart James performing with a machine learning algorithm developed by my colleague Ben Smith.  I also presented a paper co-authored by one of our graduate students, Javier Omar Sanchez and myself on the use and application of the software patch.  The paper is available in the writings section of this website.

The Rush of the Brook Stills the Mind

July 1st, 2013













The Rush of the Brook Stills the Mind is an electro-acoustic percussion solo composed for me by Elainie Lillios. Elainie and I had been discussing a collaboration since 2011, and we began working on The Rush in earnest in early 2013.  In May, with Elainie’s new score in hand, from a studio in Fairbanks Alaska, I recorded a large sampling of percussion sounds from which she designed and built the interactive electronic part to the work. I performed the world premiere at the 2013 nief-norf Research Summit in June, and a subsequent performance at Sick Puppy (SiCPP) in Boston later that month. The composition is inspired by a poem by Wally Swiss of the same title. The program notes written by Elainie and the full text of the poem follow.

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Auksalaq World Premiere

November 15th, 2012

After 5 years of work, creation, and planning, we presented the world premiere of the telematic opera Auksalaq. I am so grateful to many people who contributed their time, talent, and energy to this artistic work about climate change in the Far North, especially to my creative partner and composer of the music and libretto, Matthew Burtner. » Read the rest of this entry «