Dancers wave long pieces of fabric in the air on a stone staircase.
Christopher Janney, "Soundstair On Tour, Rehearsal." 1979. Photograph: Anne Bray.

Music/Tech: Christopher Janney

In 1976, Christopher Janney was one of only four graduate students to enroll in MIT’s new masters program in Environmental Art, where he first began his formal experiments combining architecture and jazz under Otto Piene, Director of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, founded in 1967. His thesis, “SOUNDSTAIR: The Nature of Environmental/Participatory Art,” was performed on many iconic stairways — from the Spanish Steps in Rome to MIT’s own Building 7 — in which the dancer’s footsteps would trigger sounds, altered in real-time by Janney. In essence, the entire building became a musical instrument.

A student and a visiting artist talk in a music class.
Eric Singer and student Otto Briner in the "Music and Technology" class, Spring 2013.

Music/Tech: Eric Singer

The Sonic Banana, both playful and ingenious, is emblematic of Singer’s work. Singer is the founder of LEMUR, the “League of League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots,” a collective of artists and technologists who create robotic musical instruments. A self-described “engineer of very strange things,” Singers works as a musician, artist, and computer scientist to create interactive installations from unusual materials. Created with a DIY ethos, his instruments are playful, interactive, and intuitive. His philosophy: “How do I take things that aren’t musical instruments and turn them into musical instruments?”

A man sits behind a laptop and a music stand.
David Sheppard

Music/Tech: David Sheppard

“The room is the most important instrument I play,” Sheppard said. In 2011, he transformed the entire concrete hulk of a former Nazi submarine station into a musical piece, drawing attention to the acoustic properties of the airport-sized docking point while at the same time creating an environment for other musicians to inhabit. Alone and with others, he calibrates the structural relationship between acoustics and physical space to create the conditions of new possibility.

A woman performs on a stage surrounded by colored pointe shoes on poles.
Suzanne Bocanegra, Little Dot performance at the Tang Museum, 2010. Credit: Peter Serling.

Music/Tech: Suzanne Bocanegra

Suzanne Bocanegra’s performance piece-cum-film, “When a Priest Married a Witch,” is a kind of creative origin story, the portrait of the artist as a young woman. She writes on her website it is “part artist’s talk, part performance, part cultural history, part sound installation.” Showing a rough cut of the film, Bocanegra kicked off CAST’s Spring Sound series as the first in a series of lecture/demonstrations by prominent sound and multimedia artists. Part of the MIT course, Music and Technology, the lecture/demonstrations are open to both students and the general public alike.