StringTrees (2010-2014)

This research is set against a theoretical/philosophical background regarding the nature of human-instrument relationships, from which I defined a conceptual space to explore through design, and then engage in reflective accounting of putting the design into practice. The first prototype, created at SARC, was extremely robust, but heavy, difficult to regulate, and a bit scary!

The final version was created at Michigan, working with MA student Simon Alexander-Adams.

Innovative performance techniques emerged in response to the system, bringing aesthetic priorities and biases with them, as well as whatever implements at hand. A feature of not having a priori musical goal.

  • Muting
  • Tuning with “slides”
  • Manual plucking

Emergent behaviors and musical surprises

  • A consequence of distributed control
  • Tendency to “go with” surprises
  • Improvisatory character

Different Modes at High Speeds

  • Primary interaction is tuning/timbre
  • Sense that “the system is in control,” akin to an ornamental mode


  • Facilitated collaborative improvisation
  • Performances are episodic: Stable state -> transition -> stable state
  • Temporal nature / speed of automated behavior enforced different modes of interaction