interview with: ixi (2005/08/30)
tags: soundtoys, online, artist, software, journal, interview, text
journal contents

Thor from ixi

How do you define "soundtoys" ?

I find it hard to answer that question, because in a way I find the concept "soundtoys" a bit vague and misleading for what you?ve got on your site. Of course, it is hard to categorize what these works are: interactive music, visual music, generative music/visuals or whatever, would describe some of the aspects, but not all. I am quite happy with the word "musaic" which I first encountered in a fine essay by Josephine Bosma, where she defines it broadly as music on the Net in all its possible forms. "Musaic" combines the visual and the sonic aspect of these works. And I would define musaic briefly as interactive music that has a necessary visual element to it. The interactive part is important. However, I?m not sure even about this word, so I guess the future will tell which word we?ll come use.

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

I guess it is the joy of experimentation that makes me go into areas that I don't know anything about and try to explore what can be done through as different media as possible. But mainly because it?s fun.

What is your project and your work about?

There is not a central aspect of what ixi is about. We've been developing the ixi software as applications or instruments for people to use for creating music. We are researching and experimenting with visual interfaces for triggering musical structures and we collaborate with musicians when we design and test our products. So one of the main aspects of our work is to create new ways of making music, as new interfaces can open up spaces where quite original ideas can pop up.

How long have you been working in this area?

In music since I remember, but it is only a few years ago that I went seriously into doing musical stuff on the computer, although I had been playing with the Atari and Cubase from the beginning.

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?

As I said, musician first and after a long period of discontent with electronic, virtual instruments, I started working with Enrike Hurtado to develop instruments that were trying to break up with the established design conventions of musical software on the computer.

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

Everything influences me. The patterns of raindrops on my window, the sounds they make, the noise from the traffic below, drinking beers, whatever. Of course there are loads of artists and writers that influence my work as well, such as John Cage, Stockhausen, Autechre, Deleuze, Virilio, just to namedrop a few geniuses.

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

Well, on there are loads of interesting artists doing nice stuff with interactive, visual music and all over the net in fact. But concerning making musical applications that are really experimenting with visual interfaces, I don?t know of many. If you do know any or are doing such stuff yourself, please drop me a mail as I would be very interested.

Do you see this work as art?

What is art? It has become such a complicated concept in the latter half of the 20th century that I?d rather not comment on it. But there are people out there trying to define what software art is, generative art, net art and all that. And o.k. if we use the old Greek definition of art as "techne", which many people are writing about today, then yes, this is art.

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

That?s obvious. If you want to create interactive musical piece, you have to provide some visual representation of the musical structures and how the user will be able to trigger them and interact with the piece. So there you are already concerned with interface design. You could have only knobs and sliders, but as we've got this brilliant medium to do interesting visual stuff as well, we are almost forced to try to come up with some interesting.

What defines the aesthetics of new interactive art?

I think networks, structures and open/fluid architecture of the piece is quite important and then how the visuals are relating to the material that is being worked with. Also, I find the term "interactive" being quite overused in many cases. If the user can only trigger an on/off process (like playing or stopping sound) or dragging loops into different sequential patterns, then the work is not really interactive, but rather participatory. However, if the user can set more parameters, control the piece extensively and put his or her own stuff into it, the situation changes.

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

As I said above, I?d think that if you are designing interface to interactive audio, it is obvious that interesting visuals would give different flavor to the piece. And the most interesting works tend to be those where the visual and sonic connection is so cleverly designed that it would be impossible to do it in any other medium.

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

Probably. Of course we can find very interesting sound installations where the user interacts with sensors or objects in real space and there we?ve got a user whose visual awareness is important. However, the computer screen and the way we interact with works on the net today are quite unique. Just to mention how limited the mouse is as a tool to interact with things. It is almost ridiculous that we don?t have more interesting interfaces than the mouse and keyboard.

How novel do you feel generative music and interactivity is?

Well, it is hard to put a scale on that, but people have been doing generative and interactive works long before the advent of the computer. The computer is just a very nice tool to do generative and interactive works, especially when we?ll get more interesting interfaces than the mouse and keyboard.

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

Of course, it is just a matter of how you?d like to define "audio visual work." We can think of operas, Indian or Javanese puppet plays with music, the light experiments of the composer Scriabin or the sound experiments of Kandinsky. If you?d like to define it in more narrower terms, there have been experiments with audio visuals for decades at the computer labs in the academies and surely those have a history.

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

All of them and none at the same time.

What software do you use most and why?

Director, Supercollider, Logic, Nuendo, Max/Msp, Flash, CodeWarrior, Photoshop, 3D Studio Max, whatever I need for the things I do.

Can you recommend three urls to soundtoys?

Yes, I just found this link again this morning:
very nice stuff from some Russian geniuses.
for the music.
And for the users that do not have the ixi software yet.
Download and enjoy.