to a Different Beat: Faculty Musician Blends Art and Technology
While most people use
a keyboard and mouse to interact with their computers,
Thomas Ciufo, the Sherman-Fairchild visiting artist-in-residence
at Smith, uses other devices—musical instruments.
Ciufo, who is leading
Smith’s new Arts and Technology
Program, began writing and performing music early in his
life. But for him, the range of sounds available from acoustic
instruments was not broad enough.
So Ciufo began performing
on “composed” instruments – those
that couple computer technology with musical instruments
in a way that allows the computer to “listen” and
respond to the musician.
“Performing with technology extends the range of possibilities,” said
Ciufo. “Composed instruments are often interactive
so the computer knows something about what I want to do – I
refer to this as computer-mediated improvisation.”
After he arrived at Smith in July 2006, Ciufo established
the Arts and Technology Working Group, an interdisciplinary
collection of faculty, staff and students, who are interested
in research and practice at the intersection of art and technology.
In April, the committee
proposed the idea of a minor in this emerging field and
the college’s Committee on
Academic Priorities (CAP) approved the further development
of that idea.
Smith is an especially exciting place to pursue this study,
says Ciufo, because of the current gender imbalance in the
field, in which males are more heavily represented. Additionally,
the hire of several new faculty members with related interests
within the Five-College consortium makes the discussion particularly
This year, Ciufo plans
to cultivate new collaborations between faculty in the
arts and the sciences through a project titled “Open
Labs, Open Studios.” The project will allow artists
to tour the laboratories of scientists and scientists to
visit art studios, a schedule that will culminate with a
colloquium about ideas for new courses.
Throughout academe, noted Ciufo, there is a growing interest
in this study. At the graduate level, more and more schools
are offering masters and doctoral degrees in the field. Before
accepting the post at Smith, Ciufo completed his doctorate
in computer music and new media at Brown University through
the Special Graduate Studies Program and spent a year at
Arizona State University as a postdoctoral researcher in
the Arts, Media, and Engineering Program.
Ciufo also self-produced
a CD, titled “Sun at Midnight,” which
was featured on the National Public Radio program “Music
from the Hearts of Space.” In the near future, he plans
to perform at the New West Electronic Arts and Music festival
in Boulder, Colo., and to both perform and present research
at the Enaction in Arts festival in France.
According to Ciufo, students
who are interested in this field “engage new opportunities
by working across the artificial boundaries that attempt
to divide the arts, sciences, and humanities.”
for more information
about the Arts and Technology Program.