Peter Traub

Peter Traub

How do you define "soundtoys" ?

any device, be it hardware or software, that can be used by a third party to create sound purely for the purpose of play or art. a sound toy shouldn't really require much musical expertise on the part of the user. that is what makes it a 'toy' as opposed to an 'instrument.' i think a sound toy is a 'thing' that allows the user to interact directly with the creation of an artist/composer.

On a personal level, why do you make this work?

i've been composing various types of electronic music for the past 6 years or so, and sound based net art for the past 3. besides trying my best to be creative, i am also a scientifically minded person. i'm continuously fascinated by the intersection of art and science, creativity and technology. the internet, and computer networks in general, while an increasingly popular medium to work in, are still relatively unexplored artistically compared to other more traditional mediums.

What is you project and your work about?

i'm not quite sure i can really explain my work in an academic, aesthetospeak kind of way, or that i really want to. simply put, i try to find new ways to use and transform sound in the online domain. one thing you will notice about my works is that they are not particularly interesting in a visual sense (except perhaps 'sibling revelry,' in which my brother, Greg Traub, was responsible for the flash/graphic component). This is because: a) i am not really a visually talented person b) so much net art puts its emphasis on the visual domain (as does the internet in general), that i think it is important to explore the sonic possibilities of the net without the interference of the visual domain. this is not to say i'm against doing visually based works myself, but that i do shy away from them as i am not graphically inclined.

How long have you been working in this area?

about 3 years in, and 6 in computer music composition.

Were you an artist/ musician first who got into using computers/the net, or did you respond to the net as a medium in an artistic way?

i started out as a computer musician (sophomore year of college, with no prior musical experience) and spent two years as a grad student studying computer music at Dartmouth. my first net piece, 'bits & pieces,' was my Master's thesis project. the rest followed from there.

What/ who has influenced you in your work? (themes, other artists etc)

As a composer, I was particularly influenced by Cage and Reich, which is somewhat funny as there is something almost oppositional about their styles. I'm fascinated by the rhythms, pulses, and processes of Steve Reich's music, but I am also equally fascinated by Cage's indeterminacy. 'bits' and 'sibling revelry' are Cagian in the sense that they provide these loosely defined structures (more so in 'sibling revelry' than 'bits') in which the music/sound can develop itself.

Are there any other artists covering the same field as you?

I'm not sure. it seems that artists trying to work primarily with sound on the net are few and far between, but perhaps i haven't looked hard enough :-) .

Do you see this work as art?

yes. i'm not sure if others do. the aesthetics of 'sibling revelry' are fairly subtle, as we have not inserted ourselves too deeply into the work (leaving most of the composition up to the listener/user). a few artistic decisions here and there form the loose framework of the piece. non-net artists may only see it as a toy. i'm hoping those with a little more knowledge of the field will see it as more.

With regard to 'soundtoys' especially, why do you think the audio visual form is so key to the net?

well, i guess that goes back to my statement earlier. i think the audio visual form seems to be key to most media these days. consequently, most people don't know or have forgotten how to really listen. i think it is so predominant on the net right now because the net is such a multimedia experience. artists feel compelled to create works that use the full range of the medium. i think it is ok to choose a particular aspect of the medium to concentrate on, as i have done with sound. it is especially ok if you're not graphically inclined :-).

What defines the aesthetics of new interactive art.?

i'm not sure. that is something that differs for every artist i would think. to me, it is a means to bring a user/listener into the musical process to a deeper level than they have been before. to actually give them control of a piece is a pretty cool thing i think. it is also interesting, as an artist, to explore the various dynamics between the composer and the listener, and to play with the shifting lines of control and influence between the two. rather than performing for hundreds of people in an audience, this allows you to somehow get one-on-one with the listener and to make the work more personal to them.

How important is the visual aspect in the 'new' relationship of the audio visual.?

that really depends on the artist. in my current work, i try to minimize its importance (although that may change in future works). i want users/listeners to come to my works with the expectation that they will be using their ears, not their eyes.

Does the net promote visual awareness that is unique to it?

i think it has definitely produced it own unique visual style, but i don't really feel qualified enough to comment more as i'm not a visual artist.

How novel do you feel generative music and interactivity is?

well, i don't think they are particularly novel, if what you mean is that they're new, and consequently exciting because of their newness. both generative music and interactivity in art have been around for a while now. perhaps bringing those aesthetics to the web and making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection is novel right now. i think, however, that those aesthetics will become more commonplace as the net develops. i think the pure excitement of interactivity will diminish, and artists will be forced to create deeper works in which the interactivity is present, but is no longer the attraction in and of itself.

Do you think there is a history to audio visual work?

yes, there is a history to all works. i don't think there has ever been an artist who could claim that they created something free from history.

Would you describe yourself as a multimedia artist, a net.artist, programmer, or none of the above?


What software do you use most and why?

i use perl and csound a lot, and some javascript. perl is great for creating doing anything web related (besides, it was all we used at my previous job, so i'm pretty well versed in it). i would like to work with java and possibly php in my future online works. i have tried to avoid flash to date since it seems so overused, but i may not be able to if i want to do some of the projects i currently have in mind.

Can you recommend three urls to soundtoys?

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