A new performance duo comprised of Rensselaer Arts Department Professors Michael Century and Shawn Lawson—Liveware—will make its debut on Monday, November 20, in EMPAC Studio 1. The name Liveware plays off a slang term that denotes the “human operator” in computer systems. Lawson is an expert practitioner of “live-coding” using graphics languages he developed himself. Century performs on piano and accordion, and uses software he developed allowing live manipulations.

Live-coding takes on-the-fly programming and adds a performance aspect. The code editing itself is often displayed live, projected for the audience to see. Lawson’s live-coding integrated development environment automatically compiles and executes the code as it’s being written (imagine fixing and building a car while driving it on the highway). Igor Carvalho, a dual major in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and Computer Science, assisted with the creation of this software. Liveware will premiere a new machine-learning algorithm to Lawson’s software. The AI will respond to Century’s software and performance with live-coded visuals. Arts Ph.D. student Jeremy Stewart was a key developer for integrating the machine learning. Musically, for the software-augmented parts of the program, Century is taking advantage of EMPAC’s Yamaha Disklavier, a player piano with computer interface.

The music for this performance features several composers who make use of rigorous formal structures and repetitive patterns with subtle variations: Johann Sebastian Bach, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Century himself. Using the accordion for the sound element, Century and Lawson will premiere a new composition dedicated to the memory of late Rensselaer Professor of Practice Pauline Oliveros. Music by Morton Feldman will offer a contrasting time-feel to the typically pulse-based music of Bach, and the U.S. minimalists.

Shawn Lawson and Michael Century are Liveware.

Century, pianist and composer, is a professor of new media and music in the Arts Department, which he joined in 2002. Musically at home in classical, contemporary, and improvisational settings, Century has enjoyed a varied career as university teacher, new media researcher, inter-arts producer, and arts policy maker. He studied piano with Reginald Godden in Toronto, and theory/composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. For this show he is trying out a new idea to engage with the audience: he will capture, process, transform parts of the piano performances throughout at the show. At the end, audience members will be invited to try their hand at”remixing” the concert using Century’s software driving the player piano.

Lawson is a computational artist and researcher “creating the computational sublime.” Performing under the pseudonym Obi-Wan Codenobi, he live-codes real-time computer graphics with his open source software, The Force. Lawson’s other work explores with a range of technology: stereoscopy, camera vision, touch screens, game controllers, hand-held devices, random number generators; and output formats: print, sculpture, mobile apps, instruction sets, animation, and interactive.

This performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in EMPAC Studio 1, is supported in part by a grant from the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.