Author Archives: Kevinernste

Edgard Varèse, Poème électronique

Varèse is considered, by many, a grandfather of electronic music, someone dedicated to the possibilities of music made with audio signals and loud speakers even before such means existed.

This piece–composed and connection with the 1958 Brussels World Fair for the experimental Philips Pavilion designed by fames architect Le Corbusier–is one fulfillment of those early ideas.

Here, too, is a link to the Virtual Electronic Poem (VEP) including the research done to reconstruct the original, lost work.

Video and audio below (original video loosely combined with music):

Music 1421 Final Performance, concert order

Our performance will be tomorrow evening, December 19th, at 5pm. Each of the three “sets” below should take around an hour each (roughly 5pm, 6pm, 7pm start times).

Please be prepared well in advance of your performance … I recommend arriving with everything set to go on your end, ready to stream to our Zoom meeting. I will ask each of you to verbally introduce your piece briefly.

A Zoom link will appear in the Canvas calendar along with this same concert order info.

Should you have any concerns during the concert or in advance of your performance, you can contact us privately in the Chat window. The TA’s may interact with the you in the Chat to alert when your performance is upcoming/next, but feel free to follow along in the order below.

If you did not yet respond to the Google form sent by Prof. Ernste or do not see your name listed below, please do complete the form and/or contact Prof. Ernste and your TA immediately to be slotted in.


Aman Gupta
Isaac Murphy
Janie Walter
Kaushik Ravikumar
Zachary Vero
Brian Shi
Melissa Gao
Brett O’Connor
Thomas Bastis
Lazarus Ziozis
Carter Gran & Jack Samett


Michael Xing
Chris O’Brian
Michael Zhang
Jacob Pelster
Eshaan Jain
Will Smith
Grace Wu
Luc Wetherbee
Irwin Chantre
Kyle Betts
Lucas Petrello


Jack Weber
Jack Pilon
Nathan Huang
Jocelyn Gilbert
Ben Goldberg
Sai Mallipedhi
Euna Park & Joshua Kaplan
Arsen Omurzakov
Isaac Singer
Brandon Feng
Jayansh Bhartiya

Class performance checklist

In preparation for our final performance, here is a checklist of technical issues to double-check.

1. You are using your Cornell login in Zoom. The easiest way to verify is to visit and login, joining the meeting after. You may also need to download the latest Cornell version from the same place.

2. Your Zoom preferences are set to enable stereo audio. See here for details.

3. Your Zoom preferences are set to Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone. This will disable Zoom’s noise and echo cancellation. See here for details. Once turned on in preferences, a button will appear in the Zoom window (upper left) to allow you to “Turn on original sound” for your audio device.

4. You are using a hard-wired ethernet connection wherever physically possible! Bandwidth will affect many aspects of your performance and so a hard-wired connection to your home router is ideal.

5. Use good lighting where available! Extra lamps, phone LEDs, and other sources will dramatically improve your camera fidelity.

6. You have reviewed your sound settings for your particular situation by reading this post.

New tutorials going online

In advance of our coming final performances, I will be uploading a series of tutorial videos for your review, illustrating several potential methods for streaming your end-of-semester performances, from the simplest (sharing the Desktop or audio only in Zoom) to more complex arrangements using tools like OBS (, mentioned previously.

See this page for more details.

For tomorrow’s lab on OBS, it might be useful to review this first tutorial below, illustrating recording of video, Desktop, and audio sources in OBS. This tutorial will be included in an upcoming FAQ page, including the other live streaming tutorials I mentioned.

Puredata and Max/MSP downloads

UPDATE: Here is the “pitch tracking” Pd patch I made in lecture using [fiddle~].

Puredata (PD) is free, open sources, and available in several flavors:

  1. Puredata (Pd) “vanilla”, untainted program from Miller S. Puckette
  2. Purr-data/PD-L2Ork, a Pd distribution for Virginia Tech’s Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork)

There are dozens of tutorials and help systems available. I suggest this video series by Dr. Rafael Hernandez, for starters, as well as Pd’s own built-in help system. A useful forum on Pd, including examples provided by users can be found here.

A deeper history of Pd from Miller Puckette himself, including its origins in the earliest computer music languages can be read here.

Max/MSP is commercial software, similar to Pd having the same original source code. Max is available as a 30-day trial download on the Cycling74 website. Cycling74 was purchased by Abelton in 2017.

As with Pd, there are a multitude of tutorials available, including a help system built into the software itself. Some example projects using Max can be perused here.

OBS Download and basic information

OBS Project and download:

More information and (non-crashing!) demonstrations to follow. I recommend perusing YouTube and the recent blossoming of live streaming techniques on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch (most directly used for gaming but also music).

Loops for our discussion

Following on to our conversations about samplers, beats, and beat slicing, we’ll be exploring loops more fully this week. Here are some loops to play with in class.


Ernste music

Here is some further listening from today’s class.

My band from college was called “Milk of Amnesia”. We performed primarily in the MidWest (Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee) where all three of the band members went to college together (UW-Madison). The song excerpt I shared in class today from “Kamikaze Airplane” can be heard again here: Kamikaze Airplane.

My piece for solo guitar and electronics, Roses Don’t Need Perfume, uses sounds of the guitar as an electronic backdrop for a live solo guitar part. All electronic sounds are “acoustic”, i.e. they are derived from guitar. You can hear the recording from the commercial CD, Draw the Strings Tight–which I engineered myself here in Barnes Hall–on my website. A score is there also, or linked here.

The piece is long (15 minutes), so I encourage you to listen to the first 3 minutes (Movement #1, first page of the score) only.

Here, too, since I mentioned this method in class previously, is an image from that recording showing the microphone placement…two near mics (12th fret, behind the sound hole) and a third large diaphragm condenser mic further away).

The second piece I played, called The Awful Grace, is based on a commemorative sculpture in Indianapolis, IN, where on the night of MLK’s assassination, Robert Kennedy announced the terrible news to a large crow, speaking from the back of a pickup truck. 

With that speech, Kennedy calmed his audience from rioting, channeling his own experience losing his brother, JFK, who was assassinated 5 years earlier in 1963. Partway through, he quotes Aeschylus … lines that would late appear on his own gravestone after his own sad assassination just months later.

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” – Aeschylus

My central ideal with this piece was to channel that mutual empathy, which seemed to me important to our current moment.

My piece is for viola, percussion, and unmanned piano. The piano is used as a resonator (speakers placed inside and under) as well as being played *inside* by the percussions (fingers, sticks, mallets, his ringed finger, eBows).

In the excerpt you will hear, the first part is made up of these “inside the piano” sounds. Then you’ll hear Robert Kennedy’s voice, from his April 4th 1968 recitation of the Aeschylus, resonated into the piano. The voice is circulated back to the piano repeatedly (feedback) to enhance the frequencies of the voice (those “partials” we’ve been talking about) as they make the piano strings ring sympathetically. To hear this effect yourself, find a piano, put down the pedal, and shout into it! Finally, in the last section, the percussionist uses the eBows to play the strings directly, creating a singing melody. The drone sound in the background is derived from MLK’s voice, from his last speech (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”), given the day before his death. It’s specifically derived from the word, “see” in the line:

“…only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars”.

Project recorded in lecture

Several of you have asked about having access to the recording made in lecture in order to play around with the results yourself, exploring basic panning and mixing.

Click here to download the Ableton Live project.

(The raw materials are from Cindi Lauper’s True Colors.)

Note: see here for an FAQ about saving Ableton Live projects with all project audio files included.

Some links to listening from this morning’s lecture

Edgard Varere’s Poeme Electroninique … the precursor for our conversation on “What is music?”

Pierre Henry’s “Symphony for a Man Alone”


“I believe that the [tape] recorder is currently the best instrument for the composer who really wants to create by ear for the ear.”

“It is necessary to destroy music”.

Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “elektronische musik”, Studie II (1954):

Pauline Oliveros, we listened to several tracks in lecture, but I wanted you to hear music made in the underground cistern, with 60+ seconds of reverb!

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