Peter Gregson has a CV that any music or tech geek would be envious of. Having worked with companies including Microsoft, Google, MIT Media Labs, United Visual Artists, and musicians and composers including Peter Gabriel, Gabriel Prokofiev, and Scott Walker. He’s performed at Royal Festival Hall, SxSW, The Roundhouse and Latitude Festival, and next week will be delivering the keynote at Reasons to be Appy.
Why would a cellist be delivering a keynote at a design and development conference, I hear you ask? Well, Peter isn’t an everyday, commonplace cellist…
Take for example his two most recent works, goPlay and The Listening Machine. After spending years playing with his cello, sequencers and triggers, Peter wanted something that would play music in reaction to musical input, based on sets of musical rules and various input elements, instead of preprogrammed sequences. In essence, a free-thinking musical accompaniment app. The Listening Machine, on the other hand, is a dynamically shifting piece of music that reacts to the twitter data of 500 unknown tweeters, reflecting their mood, activity and subjects they’re discussing.
We caught up with Peter briefly when he got back from his most recent concert in Boston.
How did you first get into mixing tech with music?
It kept occurring to me that the cello had to come from somewhere – it didn’t seem possible that somehow innovation was over, so I set about using the things that were knocking around in my day to day life to create music that felt relevant: computers.
What will you be talking about at Reasons to be Appy?
I’m going to talk a little bit about technology and the arts, then rather than focus on The Future, I’m going to talk about The Present: what’s happening now, and why that’s exciting. Predicting the future is easy and pointless – I imagine it’s hard to be accountable if you’re a Futurist. I prefer to focus on work that is relevant today, so I’ll give a few examples of that and how/why they’re interesting to me
Can you tell us a little bit more about The Listening Machine
It’s a piece of music that runs for 6 months, directly controlled by the social dynamics of a group of UK tweeters. It plays continuously, so the issue of writing “potential music” for it was really exciting and a massive challenge – we map vowels, consonants, emotion, topic, place, theme and more to music – I’ll explain this properly in my talk!
We’re very excited about goPlay as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It’s music controlling music – bringing chamber music into the 21st century. Baking the control of performable music into the music itself is very exciting – it’s brought back my curiosity and inquisitiveness in electronic performance/composition, and given we’re talking about music (not raw technology), that’s quite important!
The worlds of tech and arts seem to be colliding more and more recently, especially with things like CultureHack and Music Hacks cropping up all around the place. What are your thoughts on technology and the arts?
It’s only relatively recently that we’ve separated the two; I don’t really see it as a remarkable thing, I see it as more of a “back to basics” thing, but it does legitimise my love of new and shiny toys!
Peter will be delivering the keynote at next week’s Reasons to be Appy. Let us know what you though of his talk if you’re heading down!