Visiting Artist: Joel Chadabe

Joel Chadabe
photograph by Amy Pierce Photography, 2011
story written by Carol Ayoob


Joel Chadabe, President of Intelligent Music, a research and development company; and founder and President of Electronic Music Foundation, arrived on the University of Maine Campus on the morning of April 12, with a full day of student visits planned, a talk, and a concert, all generously funded by the Office of Culture Affairs and the The Distinguished Lecture Series.

Intermedia Graduate Students met one-by-one with the internationally recognized pioneer in the development  of interactive music systems and one of the original creators and members of the Web-based site “Ear to Earth”, where audio clips and imagery is posted to highlight the environment in a variety of ways.  Throughout the day, students shared their works with Mr. Chadabe, and received feedback from wise ears and eyes, as well as an invitation to post recorded audio clips on “Ear To Earth”; there were many exchanges in which Joel invited students to write proposals for the upcoming October “Ear To Earth Festival in New York City.

Later in the day, Joel gave a talk on his work with John Cage, and other artists engaged in work with Cage. The creative relationship they formed was that of a conceptual and technological marriage that lasted for years, as they defined a new territory for “achieving complexity and asking “What underlies randomness?”  He spoke of the juxtaposition of sounds and the ‘intuitive process’ as an act of discovery.  With Ranger-tone tape recorders, and a modulating oscillator, Mr. Chadabe built systems that  did the job of capturing and processing these early works by Cage.

Mr. Chadabe’s ‘way of working’, in general, is to use a computer-music system as an intelligent instrument, intelligent in the sense that it functions by itself, making decisions automatically and responding to a performer in a complex, not entirely predictable way. The system responds to him, and he responds to it, and the music takes its form through that conversational, interactive relationship. The approach is what he calls ‘Interactive Composing’.

Mr. Chadabe concertized with fellow musicians Gene Nichols, Director of Music at the University of Maine at Machias, and D.M.Ingalls, and U-Maine Professor Nate Aldrich, to an appreciative audience, on the evening of April 12, 2011 in the Cafe of the Collins Art Center on the Campus of the University of Maine.  A variety of sound interactions were created in the moment, between equipment and guitar, voice, and the bass recorder.  What an inspiring evening, and what a wise master!