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Not-So-Heavy Metals

Transducers, sheet metal, electronics, and improvisation in a display of sonic and visual playfulness

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Thank you! [Event summary, April 14, 2019]

Posted on October 15, 2019 by Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble

Thanks to everyone for coming out and witnessing Not-So-Heavy Metals! We had a most invigorating and intriguing evening, as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. Matthew Schumaker’s Stream_l__i___n____e_____s (after Robert Lawrence) for clarinet and electronics deftly juxtaposed electronic sound with agile clarinet writing. Patricia Alessandrini’s collaboration with clarinetist Diane Heffner and violist Anne Black was particularly intriguing for audiences members, many of whom got out of their seats to examine how her actions on laptop controlled the sheet metal that was tethered to the loudspeakers on the floor. Throughout the evening short pieces by students in Evan Ziporyn’s composition seminar at MIT were performed – all were rather delightful and represented for many an adventure in structuring sound using extended techniques. The concert ended with David Coll’s Sonambule for clarinet, viola, soprano, electronics and video. The piece “juxtapose[d] three poems (“Initiation” and “Evening” by Rainer Maria Rilke and “Night-Song” by Stefan George) with projected excerpted texts from Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. With sleepwalking as a thematic backdrop, [the] staging create[d] ‘musical imagery’ by portraying solitude and consciousness with the reminder of ongoing environmental catastrophe.” Most certainly, the piece left the audience with much to consider, not only about science and art, but about the fragility of the world at large.


On Sunday April 14, 2019, Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble will present a program entitled “Not-So-Heavy Metals,” which features innovative technology and sheet metal in a display of sonic and visual playfulness. The performance melds electronic sound, live instruments, and light projection. This program is included as part of the 2019 Cambridge Science Festival, an event in which the ensemble has participated biennially since 2013.

The concert features three composers who are involved in cutting edge music technology. Composer/sound artists David Coll and Patricia Alessandrini both utilize transducer technology to invert the traditional process of electronically capturing and manipulating sounds from analog instruments. Devices such as loudspeakers and microphones normally transform electronic signals to and from acoustic signals, but these artists generate signals that activate the vibration of physical objects. This process results in the creation of a beautiful and haunting sonic world, unlike anything heard before from traditional instruments. Sculptural creations will also transform the physical space into a captivating visual panorama. Coll’s newly-commissioned work will feature guest soprano Aliana de la Guardia, a Boston-based new music specialist who pushes the boundaries of vocal and operatic singing. Alessandrini’s collaborative methods empower the ensemble musicians to act as co-creators of an organic product. This requires them to be nimble, flexible, improvisational, and engaged in all aspects of the performance. The performers delve beyond their roles as mere executants of a musical score as they relinquish control of their instruments to manipulation by computer processes.

After performances of several short works composed by MIT students inspired by the theme of this event, the evening will conclude with presentation of a new work for clarinet and live electronics, commissioned by Dinosaur Annex for the Festival from composer Matthew Schumaker. Matthew currently serves as MIT MLK Visiting Scholar. He develops new algorithms that modify an instrument’s acoustic signal to produce electronic sound that converses with the instrumental voice of the player.

This project will have significant impact on the larger community, our ensemble, and the composers involved. Audience members, many of whom are not acquainted with contemporary music or sound art, will be introduced to a novel concert experience. Transducer-based sound and live electronics continue to offer new approaches to composition, so audiences will also meet some of the most forward-thinking, versatile artists in this field. Dinosaur Annex performers will be challenged by hearing their normal instruments transformed by these composers via vibrating metal objects. The students, through their work with the ensemble, will have a unique opportunity to have new works performed by professional musicians while also being introduced to a very different sound world.

Our participation in the Festival allows us to reach a regional audience with interest in music and technology. Based on our previous experience as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, we can expect a full capacity crowd of 150 comprising both children and adults.

Project Media

Adagio sans quatuor – Installation – Patricia Alessandrini
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The sound of this installation emanates from instruments created by Paul Stapleton and metal plates, suspended and equipped with systems of excitation and movement, to produce and modify the sound respectively. The work ‘performed’ is the Adagio of the ‘Dissonances’ quartet of Mozart, recorded by Diotima Quartet. This version lasts approximately 10 times as long as the original. The first 3-4 minutes of the excerpt exemplifies the type of work that Alessandrini will be doing with Dinosaur Annex.

“Position, influence” for soprano and sound sculpture
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Features: David Coll

– A position of influence, giving a speech
– An absence of message, yet a desire to persuade
– Electronic toys: a laryngophone and metal transducers

This work shows Coll’s ability to utilize the soprano voice and electronics to their most expressive limits. Coll is an expert in utilizing transducer technologies activating sheet metal in inventive ways. This recording is from Melissa Hughes, MATA Festival, April 2012, at Roulette. Coll is writing a work for Dinosaur Annex musicians and guest soprano Aliana de la Guardia.

Start and End Dates



Cambridge, Massachusetts

1 update
Last update on October 15, 2019

Project Created By

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble is a leading presenter of chamber music of our time. Based in the culturally vibrant city of Boston, the ensemble is dedicated to bringing cutting-edge works from around the globe to the public through live performing, commissioning, and recording. Founded in 1975, the group has given hundreds of premieres. Their innovative…

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Oakland, California
Boston, Massachusetts


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