Michael Palumbo

Sound Artist // Scholar // Designer

Michael Palumbo (MA, BFA) is an artist and researcher interested in distributed creativity, human/nonhuman agency, collaborative design, and tinkering.

He is a PhD student in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University, and a member of the Distributed Performance and Sensorial Immersion Laboratory.

Selected Compositions (Listen Below)

Data Issues: Please See Attachment (2017)

Data Issues: Please See Attachment (2017) Is a digital performance art piece that embraces tinkering, failure, and deleting unfinished work. The performance begins with custom software that searches my laptop for instruments that I haven't modified in some time. It selects and loads an instrument, and arbitrarily maps its synthesis parameters to buttons of a hardware MIDI controller. Unaware of the new parameter mapping, I learn to play the instrument for the first time in an improvisation. I've come to liken this to a feeling that is familiar to many musicians, that of walking into a music store and trying out a new piece of gear for the first time -- we don't read the instruction manual. We tinker, explore, and listen.

Though it is appealing to hold on to past works as potentials of creativity, more often than not they occupy cognitive load and cause stress. So, at a randomized point in the performance timeline, my software will permanently delete the instrument from the hard disk, usually just as I am getting to know it. This releases that hold that the unfinished work has on my cognitive load and makes the improvisation urgent and present.

I’ve workshopped and performed this piece a few times now -- at Buddies in Bad Times, The Transmedia Lab @ York University, Louis P. Ciminelli Recital Hall @ Buffalo State, to name a few. I've so far found audiences to be quite receptive, if at times incredulous that I would place my own work in such peril.

The soundcloud track below is an old recording from a workshop session, titled 'abandonware'. I've since opted not to record any Data Issues sets as part of letting go!


Iron Harvest (2013)

Field recordings were taken in Toronto and Montreal, and processed and arranged using a program I developed. Around the time that the piece was being finalized, I was reading about the annual unearthing of unexploded ordnance and other weaponry by farmers along the former Western Front in Europe. This is known as the "Iron Harvest", and the juxtaposition of Spring's renewal and the reminder of the horrors of the first World War complements the way my composition plays out in my mind.

This composition was originally presented in 5 channels, and has been mixed down to two channels for the web. It was presented at The Conservatoire de musique du Quebec on December 19, 2013.

Soup Phase (2014)

I recorded myself cooking a stew in my studio in Montreal, then used the resulting stems as source material for a live performance. It premiered on March 24, 2013 at the international ToBe Continued 24-hour concert, hosted by Stazione di Topolo, in Topolo, Italy.

Laundromatic Writing (2014) This piece was made by loading a recording of a very noisy shared washer-dryer in my apartment building into an algorithmic sampler built in puredata-extended (pd). The original was an etude for class, composed in 5.2 channels, and has been remixed to two channels for the web.