Evan X. Merz
Evan Merz (b. 1981) is a composer, programmer and blogger based in San Jose. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science from the University of Rochester in 2004, and a Master’s Degree in computer music from NIU in 2010. His music has been performed at Currents Santa Fe 2012, basic.fm, University of South Dakota 60/60 2012, April in Santa Cruz 2011, Phono Photo No. 6, Silence, Beauty and Horror 2009, musicBYTES 2009, New Music Hartford 2009, and IMMArts TechArt 2008. Evan is the author of Sonifying Processing: The Beads Tutorial, which introduces sound art to Processing programmers. He also works heavily as a freelance composer, scoring for numerous videogames and television productions. He is the SEAMUS Webmaster and the blogger at computermusicblog.com. Currently, Evan is a DMA candidate in UCSC’s algorithmic composition program. – Full CV –
Sonifying Processing: The Beads Tutorial
Mailbox is an algorithmic piece generated by using the freesound.org API to search for and download sounds uploaded by freesound users. The piece is cyborg art because the materials were first downloaded and assembled by a computer program, then the composer edited and mixed the sounds into the final work. To begin the piece, the software downloaded the first sound as a result of searching for the word mailbox. Then the program continued the piece by recursively searching for sounds that are similar to the previous sounds and appending them to the output. In its final form, the piece can be heard as a many-layered collaboration. The freesound users contributed sounds to the public database, the freesound API gives access to those sounds, software searched for, downloaded and assembled the source material, and the final edits were made by a human being.
The Tides Remain
Swarm Score uses the same swarm intelligence concepts as Becoming (see below), but generates printed scores using fragments of music notation written in the notation programming language lilypond. This piece, composed for a french horn quartet, was assembled by Swarm Score.
To the Towers and the Satellites
Becoming (Swarm Intelligence Music Software)
Becoming is an algorithmic composition program written in java, that builds upon some of John Cage’s frequently employed compositional processes. Cage often used the idea of a “gamut” in his compositions. A gamut could be a collection of musical fragments, or a collection of sounds, or a collection of instruments. Often, he would arrange the gamut visually on a graph, then use that graph to piece together the final output of a piece. Early in his career, he often used a set of rules or equations to determine how the output would relate to the graph. Around 1949, during the composition of the piano concerto, he began using chance to decide how music would be assembled from the graph and gamut.
In Becoming, I directly borrow Cage’s gamut and graph concepts; however, the software assembles music using concepts from the AI subfield of swarm intelligence. I place a number of agents on the graph and, rather than dictating their motions from a top-down rule-based approach, the music grows in a bottom-up fashion based on local decisions made by each agent. Each agent has preferences that determine their movement around the graph. These values dictate how likely the agent is to move toward food, how likely the agent is to move toward the swarm, and how likely the performer is to avoid the predator.
Pittsburgh is one of the pieces generated with Becoming.
Letting It Go To Voicemail
Letting It Go To Voicemail is about communication anxiety. It’s about the stress that builds up when we think about our inbox or our voicemail. It’s about the overwhelming crush of communication that comes our way each week, and how it impacts us mentally.
Letting It Go To Voicemail is hyper-minimal in construction, consisting of only a single oscillator and an algorithm for generating a buffer. The algorithm was suggested to me by Larry Polansky. He calls it The Longest Melody in the World, and it generates noise that is something like a probabilistic drunkards walk. This piece simply sweeps the probability parameter from low to high, forwarding the resulting buffer to the oscillator, and drawing it on a polar coordinate system.
The live generative version of this piece can be viewed as an applet at http://www.computermusicblog.com/Letting_It_Go_To_Voicemail/
Fragmented Night for Piano and Live Electronics
Fragmented Night is a series of recollections from a night where the details have been forgotten. Just as memories run together, so too do the fragments of tonal and non-tonal material in this piece.
In the winter quarter of 2013 I am teaching MUSC80L: AI and Music at UC Santa Cruz.
At UCSC I received a Porter Teaching Fellowship to teach PRTR 28: Introduction to Sound Art. At NIU, I received a scholarship to teach MUSC 211: Introduction to Electronic and Computer Music. This is a lecture on Futurist Music that I gave at UCSC on October 4, 2011. Here are the slides from my lecture on Futurist Music.
The drum kit that I wrote for the wiimote made a splash when it was launched just a few weeks after the release of the Wii, although the source code for the project is no longer available.
Since 2006, I have written and recorded the scores for a number of videogames, including:
Sci-Fighters by The Super Flash Brothers
Exploit by Gregory Weir
Arrow of Time by the Super Flash Brothers
Creekwood Forest by the Super Flash Brothers
The Mold Fairy by Gregory Weir
James the Super Zebra by the Super Flash Brothers
I also composed the score for the animated web show Dad’s Got Ninjas.
In 2007, I wrote a suite of music for the million-selling game AudioSurf. Since AudioSurf generates race tracks based on music files, I was able to write five pieces of music that generate specific courses. The music was written up in PC Gamer magazine.