Andrea Valle Interview

Andrea Valle

Andrea Valle is an electric bass player who has studied composition with Azio Corghi. Since 2009 he has developed projects involving the computational control of physical objects, with a particular preference for common, discarded materials. His work includes also improvisation (with AMP2/IVVN collective and others), sound installations (Milano Design Week, Infart festival) and music for multimedia performances (he has collaborated extensively with Marcelli Antúnez Roca). His music has published by Die Schachtel, Nephogram, Ripples. He received a PhD in Semiotics from the University of Bologna, and he is a researcher at the University of Torino, where he teaches in the Performing Art programme (DAMS).

Carl Testa: When did you first become aware of SuperCollider? How long have you been using the software?

Andrea Valle: I’ve known about SC since -I think- 2002. My friend Hairi Vogel, a SC2 super user, showed it to me and I got hooked immediately (I bought a mac just because of SC…). But I was too inexpert about programming so I needed a couple of years to really be able to dive into it. Then, in 2005, I started using SC (3) extensively, initially (curiously enough) to generate in non real-time musical scores. Since 2006, I’m using only SC for all my sw audio projects.

CT: Are you primarily a developer or a user? Or both?

AV: I’m primarily a user. I’ve contributed to documentation and I wrote the Italian manual (actually, I’m finishing the new version)

CT: What do you feel is the greatest strength of the software?

AV: Freedom of merging sound synthesis and algorithmic composition in a seamless process. No GUI stuff to deal with when thinking.

CT: What is the most frustrating thing about the software?

AV: When you are a newbie, it’s not easy to dive into SC: too many possibilities. It took me a while to understand clearly the big picture. Now, I have no frustrations. Of course, fast synthesis prototyping maybe be a bit faster if you draw lines with a mouse but now I’m used at it. There’s a thing that sometimes make your life a bit complicated: communication between lang and server. Syncing maybe an issue, in particular when
writing classes. Also, the compilation cycle when writing classes can be time wasting. Because of this, I started using a lot the prototype technique described by Alberto De Campo, Julian Rohrhuber and Till Bovermann in the SC book.

CT: How do you use SuperCollider in your music?

AV: Well, at the moment I’m doing substantially all in SC. From synthesis to sequencing, from sonification to score generation. I don’t use anything else. Audacity for some editing and recording.

Regnum animale © Carlo Ciceri

CT: Could you explain a bit about your "Rumentarium" instrument and your pieces "Regnum animale" and Regnum vegetabile”?

AV: The Rumentarium project is my first attempt at physical computing (2009). It’s an ensemble made up of 24 small objects built from various discarded materials, excited by small motors. I used it extensively for improvisation, composition and installations. It featured four Arduinos interfaced to SC.

It’s intended as a continuous work in progress, a “softened” hardware. it is also my first attempt to make a step away from the purity of digital/electronic sound.
Regnum animale and vegetabile are the result of a collaboration with my friend composer Mauro Lanza. We had two commissions respectively from Repertorio Zero and ensemble mosaik, and we decided to couple acoustic instruments with electromechanical objects. So, they are “traditionally” written pieces, totally organised, that exploits new techniques on acoustic instruments and the sounds of various object. Regnum animale features a variety of things (25 including slicers, electric knives, razors, turntables etc) while vegetabile uses 30 hair dryers for a wind-like setup (flutes, harmonicas, pipes). All the control logic is built in SC, but also all my composition part. It’s very funny to compose interactively in SC and have things moving…In general I share with Mauro a common preference for “purely” algorithmic composition, so we continuously exchange data and processes. Both the pieces are written as sort of catalogs, with many short pieces.

Regnum animale (2013) - Electromechanical experiments from Andrea Valle on Vimeo.

Score follower for Rumentarium

CT: Has using SuperCollider changed your approach to music?

AV: Well, rather I have been looking for something like SC for some years. Of course, there’s a continuous feedback between you and the environment of your tools. Surely, the experience with SC has consolidated my taste for interactive programming, that I started with Python. I really enjoy developing processes and algorithms interactively. Once I started doing some experiments with C, I got bored to death immediately!

CT: Do you have any projects/releases coming up that you want to highlight?

AV: I’ll be performing many times in 2015 the two pieces I co-wrote with Mauro Lanza, Regnum animale and Regnum vegetabile, mostly with the Berlin-based Ensemble Mosaik.
Also, I’m going to work again on a new performance by Marcelli Antúnez Roca, Ultraorbism, that will happen in telepresence among various locations.