Current Flow - new works for electroacoustic duos

A dissertation concert in partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree in Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology

This concert presents a body of new works that manifest the research I have been conducting on what it means to “perform” with electronics. My interest in the duo format stems from my desire to work in close collaboration with performers in order to write pieces that can reveal meaningful and intimate musical conversations. These dialogues are intended to communicate with others how the performers are interacting with one another––as well as the electronic systems––in each piece, showcasing various approaches to performing with electronics.

for movement and performed electronics

we give name to those ideas which are is a work exploring the possibilities of using a dancer as an acoustic sound source for electronic processing. The dancer interacts with microphones, whose signal is spatially distributed and digitally processed by the electronicist in realtime. The dancer is also wearing a MUGIC™ gestural sensor––developed by Mari Kimura–– to track her movement data, which further controls electronic processing. Her interaction with the microphones tells a story: desire, entanglement, shedding, blossoming, returning.

Koryn Wicks – movement

Alex Lough - electronics

Choreography by Alex Lough in collaboration with Koryn Wicks

for voice, resonant bowls, wine glasses and performed electronics

of orange haze considers the loop as its central metaphor. The circular nature of the glasses and bowls, in both their form and performative gesture, is reflected by the electronics in the form of both analog and digital loops, ultimately reinforced by the narrative content present in the lyrics. The electronicist actively avoids using a laptop as a performance interface, instead opting for other devices that impose technical limitations as a way to discover new potential performative gestures and relationships with the acoustic performer.

Hanah Davenport – voice, glasses, bowls

Alex Lough - electronics

Lyrics by Hanah Davenport in collaboration with Alex Lough

for percussion, transducer array, and feedback mixer

between us the air encircles (once more) is the third and final installment in a series of pieces for percussion and transducers. Transducers are essentially the vibrating half of a speaker and when placed on a resonant object, such as a drum, the object functions like the speaker’s cone while imparting its own unique sonic characteristics. This piece makes use of a complex feedback network of contact microphones and transducers to reveal the resonant architecture of the drums, allowing the percussionist to play them with an unconventional approach, focusing more on gesture and pitch than rhythm. The electronicist is responsible for routing and controlling the feedback network, occasionally creating self-oscillating feedback within the mixer itself. All the sonic material in this work is generated by the feedback induced on the drums and within the electronic mixer; no external or synthesized signals are injected into the system.

Chris Hadley – percussion and transducers

Alex Lough – feedback mixer

for flute and performed electronics

Files from Project Blue Book is a musical transcription of secret files obtained through the dark web related to Air Force investigations into unidentified flying objects in the mid-20th century.

Nicole Mitchell – flute and electronics

Alex Lough – electronics and gadgetry

for piano and performed electronics

Cross Talk is a structured improvisation performed by the experimental piano+electronics duo Teeth and Metals. The title refers to the phenomenon in audio electronics whereby signals present in one circuit or channel create an effect or interference in another circuit or channel. Crosstalk is usually undesirable, but the instability and organic nature of the relationship(s) can produce unexpected and interesting results, many times generating new or irreproducible outcomes. The duo’s interactions mimic this kind of relationship, taking turns introducing musical ideas followed by borrowing and distorting those ideas (both literally and conceptually). Time, materials, and relationships are loosely prescribed, but the interactions are new in each realization of the work.

Mark Micchelli – piano

Alex Lough - electronics

for string quartet and fixed-media electronics

Beneath Vizcaya is inspired by audio experiments conducted by the composer in the moat underneath the entrance to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, FL. The composer ventured into the empty moat and explored the sonic architecture of the space by allowing feedback to emerge and evolve from microphones and speakers placed on either end of the moat. By slowly scanning microphones along the edges of the space the composer outlines the sonic architecture of the hidden and forgotten tunnel, allowing the space to reveal its resonant frequencies. This process was recorded and the audio was edited and analyzed to create a fixed-media playback file as well as a score for acoustic musicians to recreate that sonic environment.

Special thanks to Juraj Kojs in collaborating on the collection of the feedback samples.

Performed by Del Sol Quartet
Sam Weiser - violin
Benjamin Kreith - violin
Charlton Lee - viola
Kathryn Bates - cello

Recorded by Andrew Tarr
Mixed and Mastered by Alex Lough

Crystal Cove

for solo laptop performer

Crystal Cove is a generative piece for solo laptop performer coded in SuperCollider. The performer triggers events and samples that are algorithmically generated, making each performance of the piece unique. The sounds in the piece are a combination of samples created from natural found objects—sand, rocks, sticks, leaves—and field recordings collected at Crystal Cove state park in southern California as well as digital synthesis. During the sampling process, the composer explored different sound activation techniques with the natural found objects in combination with resonant bowls, focusing primarily on gravity and friction as performative forces. The field recordings are heavily filtered and act as different noise beds and textural layers as the piece evolves. The work is intended to be performed in order to inject a sense of liveness into what would otherwise be a static experience of prerecorded material.

Cattywampus - Teeth and Metals

An album of improvised music for piano+electronics feat. Mark Micchelli.

for tuning forks and performed electronics

The lily I gave you in April explores the boundaries of perception between functional (i.e. “sound making”) and symbolic (i.e. “expressive”) musical gestures. The performer uses the Mugic sensor (attached to the hand) to detect and track hand motion while s/he sonically activates the tuning forks in various ways. The data collected from the sensor both triggers and controls live electronic processing.

Solitude (Micchelli after Ellington)

Composed by Mark Micchelli
Performed by Teeth and Metals
Mark Micchelli - piano
Alex Lough - electronics

for baritone, trombone, and electronics
performed by Jeff Gavett (voice) and William Lang (trombone) of loadbang

The wind’s hour off… is an abstract text painting of Interim by Lola Ridge (b. 1873). In the first half of the poem, Ridge reflects on the Earth’s placement in the cosmos, while the second half paints a picture of an intimate environmental setting. Though the two scenes are set on massively different scales, she reveals the beauty and elegance of both. The
composer attempts to paint a similar picture, reflecting on the relative stillness of the cosmos and the lively natural activity on the Earth from our perspective. The focus on the wind motif represents the use of wind as a means of sound production in both the voice and trombone. The piece includes both fixed media and live electronic processing. There are no field recordings in the piece, but rather the environmental sounds are all completely digitally synthesized using chaotic oscillators, feedback, and meticulous filtering.

Teeth and Metals

An album of improvised music for piano+electronics.
Mark Micchelli - piano
Alex Lough - electronics

Featuring composer Jacob Sudol

Shell Piece

performance collaboration with Terri Hron at the Atlantic Center for the Arts

and both wash the face investigates the notion of input/output systems in human-computer relationships. On the performer’s right arm are EMG sensors that detect electrical activity – produced by muscle tension – and send the data into the computer. Software analyzes this data and sends the signal out to a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit that sends electrical impulses into the performer’s other arm forcing involuntary movement. The raw audio signal from the performer’s sensors is amplified as well as the electrical signals being sent to his arm. Both signals are processed in the computer, also controlled by the performer’s movements. What you hear then is the flow of electricity emanating from the performer’s body—both as the output signal from the EMG sensor as well as the input signal from the TENS unit.

for piano and transducer array

performed by Teeth and Metals at Winifred Smith Hall - UC Irvine

Mark Micchelli - piano

Alex Lough - transducers and electronics

Teeth and Metals play Thelonious Monk's Epistrophy

The Trailer - UC Irvine

Mark Micchelli - piano

Alex Lough - electronics, Wacom tablet with Max/MSP patch

Performed by FLEA.

Laura Arevalo, piano
Alex Lough and Paul Steinsland, live electronics
Carlos Dominguez, light mixer

GameTrak Gestural controller with Max/MSP

Performed by FLEA.

Composed by Alex Lough (2016)

Laura Arevalo, piano
Alex Lough and Asami Takeyama, microphones

Two performers traverse the stage holding microphones. They explore the space and locate positions creating feedback tones. A computer is programmed to control the gain of the microphones over time, adding to the dynamic nature of the feedback patterns encountered by the players.

slowly in blossoms

for laptop ensemble

Performed by FLEA at Miami Beach Urban Studios

Laura Arevalo, Asami Takeyama, Alex Lough

Video by Felipe Carvajal

slowly in blossoms is a work for laptop ensemble that uses controlled feedback loops, room resonance, and performer vocalizations to create a gradually expanding and contracting drone. Each performer runs a Max/MSP patch on their laptop that uses the internal microphone and built-in tilt sensor to create and control the sound in the piece.

sonic activation

Performed by Alex Lough, Juraj Kojs, Catalina von Wrangell, Laura Arevalo, and Carlos Dominguez at The Center for Visual Communication in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami.

sonic activation is a multimedia performance-installation featuring sound sculptures, video projections, and performance with live electronics for solo and mixed ensembles. The work aims to unpack the nature in which we hear and interact with sound, space, and gesture. It is a project that recontextualizes the typical practice of “performance” and “installation” modes of music and art. The event uses 12 loudspeakers spaced around a gallery to create a densely layered sonic atmosphere that gently fluctuates and slowly evolves. Throughout the event, the audience is encouraged to freely navigate the gallery and experience the subtle changes in sound as they manifest in the space.

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master’s of Music degree in Music Technology at Florida International University.


Alex Lough & Carlos Dominguez - improv set at Swamspace Miami (2016)

Alex Lough - guitar and feedback mixer

Carlos Dominguez - custom light module, cajon and feedback mixer


For two performers with metal spatulas

Performed by The Living Earth Show at Miami Beach Urban Studios

The composer paints two unique scores using metal spatulas with paint on canvas. The performers are given instructions for how to interpret the scores. The result is a transformation of gestural material to sonic material.

Bang on the Cage

Performance art installation

In collaboration with Juraj Kojs

III Points Music Festival in MANA Wynwood Convention Center, Miami FL

Bang on the Cage is a performance art collaboration between Alex Lough and Juraj Kojs. The performers are locked in an amplified metal cage during the three nights of the III Points Music and Art Festival. As the performers navigate a wasteland of old audio equipment inside the cage, audience members are free to bang on the cage and interact with the living installation.

the surface of awareness 

Performance art installation

performed by Alex Lough and Lucia Marin

excerpt of 4 hour performance at Miami Beach Urban Studios


Reshaping Traditions

For solo performer, electronics, and live video projections

Performed at Wesleyan CFA Hall, Middletown CT

Reshaping Traditions is an electroacoustic work composed and performed by Alex Lough in partial fulfillment of his senior honors thesis. The work is inspired and informed by The Sacred Harp, an American folk compendium printed in four-shape notation. The book was originally published in 1844 and has been in print continuously since then. It represents a living tradition that attracts singers from all over the world today. This project aims to explore the Sacred Harp singing tradition and its sonic properties through the use of sampled field recordings, digital and analogue electronics, electroacoustic improvisation, and live manipulated digital projections. The performance features five songs found in The Sacred Harp and improvisations on these melodies realized through the Hindustani singing tradition.