Playground, for computer-processed sound and computer-generated video, was commissioned for the dedication ceremony of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at The University of Montana. Elementary school students were interviewed and recorded, talking in their classrooms about favorite school activities, subjects they excel at, and what jobs they want when they grow up. Recordings of their voices were filtered to extract melodic fragments and granularized to produce rhythms from their speech. Field recordings of children playing on the playground, and walking to class in the hallway, were looped and crossfaded as the background for the piece. The visuals were inspired by the textured layers of the audio, along with the abstracted evolution of the words spoken by the children. The animation dynamically reacts to the sound design, creating an organic connection between the music and the video.
Composer, violinist, and computer music researcher, Charles Nichols (www.charlesnichols.com) is an Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Technology at the Department of Music and Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, at Virginia Tech University. While on faculty at the School of Music of the University of Montana, he taught acoustic and electroacoustic composition, directed the Mountain Electroacoustic Laptop Ensemble (MELEe) and Pierrot Ensemble, and organized the Mountain Computer Music Festival. He has earned degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Yale University, and Stanford University, where he studied composition with Samuel Adler, Martin Bresnick, Jacob Druckman, and Jonathan Harvey, and computer music with Jonathan Berger, Chris Chafe, Max Mathews, and Jean-Claude Risset. At Yale, he worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Studies in Music Technology and as a Research Assistant at Haskins Laboratories, and at Stanford, he served as the Interim and Associate Technical Director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. He has presented his compositions at conferences and festivals in the US, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, and South Korea, and his research, including telematic musical performance over Internet2, haptic musical human-computer interface design, and wavelet audio analysis and resynthesis, at conferences in the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Sweden. He has received support from the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, for commissions by the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Myrna Loy Center for the Performing and Media Arts, and the Headwaters Dance Company, commissions by the Association for American Medical Colleges, the Cybersounds Festival at Temple University, and the Montana State Music Teachers Association, and recognition from the National Academy of Music, La Fundación Destellos, the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges, New Music USA, ASCAP, and the Montana Arts Council. Recently he was a visiting scholar, researching haptic musical interface design, at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast, N. Ireland, a visiting composer, working with the Namaste Ensemble in Città di Castello and Rome, Italy, and a resident, at the Ucross and Brush Creek Foundations, in Wyoming.