- From Radios to Biocomputers: An Interview with Eduardo Reck Miranda
Eduardo Reck Miranda (see Figure 1) is a classically trained composer and artificial intelligence (AI) scientist with an early involvement in electroacoustic and avant-garde pop music. He studied computer science and music in his native Brazil and subsequently took post-graduate degrees at the University of York and the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. He held academic positions at universities in Glasgow, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, and Bordeaux, and worked for several years at the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris as a research scientist in the fields of AI, speech, and evolution of language. Currently he is Professor of Computer Music at Plymouth University in the UK, where he founded the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) and is the artistic director of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival.
Miranda is a composer working at the crossroads of music and science. His music includes pieces for symphonic orchestras, chamber groups, and solo instruments, with and without live electronics. His works have been performed by orchestras such as the BBC Concert Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfônica de Porto Alegre, the Chamber Group of Scotland, Ten Tors Orchestra, and the Heritage Orchestra. His compositions have been featured at contemporary music festivals, including Synthèse (Bourges), Ultraschall (Berlin), Nuova Consonanza (Rome), Música Viva (Lisbon), Encuentros de Música Contemporánea (Santiago), EarZoom (Ljubljana), Mainly Mozart (San Diego, California), and the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival (Plymouth, UK).
This interview took place at Plymouth University on 26 February and 3 July 2017, and we communicated a number of times via e-mail in between. Web links to access the recordings of all compositions cited in the interview are available in Table 1, with the exception of Konserto de Múzika Eletroplástika, for which no recording exists.
Coming to Composition and Improvisation
Please tell me about your history in composing. Where did it all begin?
Music was prominent in my upbringing. My grandfather played the sousaphone, and his brother ran a luthier’s workshop only a few blocks from home. I started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old, but I must confess that I did not enjoy practicing. I often found it more exciting to improvise and create my own tunes.
I had not considered music as a career option when I finished high school. I ended up going to university to study computing, and soon after I graduated I got a job as a systems analyst. However, I was not entirely satisfied with the way in which my life was shaping up. I resigned after a year or so and went back to college. I studied philosophy for a couple years and enrolled in a music degree program, which is when I began my love affair with contemporary music and composition.
Does improvisation speak to you differently than nonimprovised conventional composition? Do you think that improvisation can reflect more of an individual’s personality than conventional composition? Can you give us an example from your own practice?
These certainly are two different languages. But in the context of your question, doing “my own thing” was a way to rebel against tedious Czerny piano exercises. It is difficult for a child to understand that to master a musical instrument one needs to study theory, practice scales, observe fingering and hand positioning, and so on. Improvisation here has more to do with impatience, childlike playfulness, and curiosity rather than having anything against conventional composition. [End Page 10]
I personally find nonimprovised composition expressively more powerful than improvisation. However, I do use improvisation when I am composing. For instance, the electroacoustic piece Gestures is an unedited recording of an improvisation session in the electronic music studio. And I occasionally leave a margin for improvised elements in my compositions. For instance, there are no written scores for the solo violin of The Turning of the Tide or for the beatboxing part of Butterscotch Concerto. The thing that I am not so interested in is music that is entirely composed on the fly, during a performance. I prefer nonimprovised music because composing...