Electric LaTex Student Music Conference 2024


Over the weekend of January 26-27, 2024, students from the School of Performance, Visualization, and Fine Arts at Texas A&M University attended Electric LaTex, a student electronic and experimental music conference in Baton Rouge, LA, on the Louisiana State University campus. The event focuses on university students from Texas and Louisiana, and is hosted by those same universities on a rotating basis. The event gives the students in music and/or music technology schools or departments the opportunity to exhibit their new works and installations, perform improvised pieces, and present discussions on their compositional and creative processes.

This year, the new music technology program at TAMU was represented by Grace Burton, Ethan Cheney, Nat Cortez, Evan de Anda, Oluwanifemi Haastrup, Breanna Loredo-Rayas, David Neuhalfen, Colton Neuville, Robert Rutherford, and Rolf Rydahl. The trip was organized by Dr. Jeff Morris, the head of the TAMU PVFA music technology program, and the students were accompanied to LSU by Dr.s Matthew Campbell and Will Connor.

The event was an impressive success, both in terms of the overall event and the participation of the TAMU students. Burton, Cheney, de Anda, Haastrup, and Neuhalfen all presented videos created for coursework in music technology classes in the Fall 2023 term at A&M. Cortez displayed her interactive installation, and Loredo-Rayas, Rutherford, and Rydahl also presented new compositions performed by themselves along with Cortez and Neuville. Approximately 100 people interacted with the TAMU students over the course of the weekend, all of whom were from other universities, and the TAMU students were exposed to a multitude of impressive and innovative student works. Perhaps most importantly, the A&M students were able to network and generate new friendships with like-minded students from other universities in the bi-state area.

Video Presentations

The video presentations were mixed in with live performances and were displayed on a large screen at the back of the stage. Oluwanifemi’s video was a still image as a backdrop to her new music piece, A Beautiful Alien Abduction. Grace’s video, Synthia, Cythnia? featured her digital music and a depiction of a day in the life of a digital student (see below). David’s work was concise and pinpointed. Ethan combined footage of driving through the forest with his latest electronic composition. Evan merged a work for string quartet and digital video manipulation in his presentation.

David’s work was concise and pinpointed. Unfortunately, there is no footage of this short, but powerful work. David had this to say about the piece, “This piece is not one of particular note on its own, though with its story, it becomes a living piece of art. When my hard drive was corrupted, this was the only piece lost to time. I was able to recover everything else. The only version I had saved was one I had uploaded to the cloud. This was a piece that took very little time to write, mix, and complete. I like to think of it as a description of a memory or a moment in time. For this reason, I think the piece takes on being something greater than just its sound.”

Ethan Cheney’s piece At Night drifts and swirls with rolling interactive samples, reflected by the drive through the woods as seen in the video. Ethan says, “I recorded the upright piano, which happens to be tuned up a whole step, providing a “middle D”, with a single sm57 in my kitchen. After adding drums via midi in Ableton, I added synth textures to add space. The mix was bare, only really adding panning modulation to offer movement to the melodic moments.”

Installation Piece

Nat Cortez exhibited an interactive installation entitled Musical Threads. Cortez crocheted granny squares using conductive yarn and turned those into triggers to sound samples she created playing a tongue drum. Each granny square was linked to an Arduino pin and was set up to trigger one of four samples, taken from a pool of sixteen such that to play all the sounds available, all of the granny squares would have to be triggered at least once. The triggered sounds were accompanied by an ambient rain sounds so that someone interacting with the installation has a meditative audio pad underpinning the playing of the sounds.

Live Performances

Rolf Rydahl gave a performance on his laptop of a new work. Of his new piece, he says, “I created the piece using a combination of sounds from around my house that I sampled paired with a couple of digital synths. During the performance, I mapped filters and effects to a midi controller in order to control the piece live. Overall, I really enjoyed the finished product, and it seemed to resonate well with the audience.”

Robert Rutherford presented his piece Submarines and Squids as a trio performance, playing a Soma Labs Enner along with Colton Neuville on haunted box and Rolf Rydahl on pedals manipulating the sounds Neuville created. The work was harsh and ambient at the same time, and smoothly navigated the intertwining dynamic ranges the instrumentation provided.

Breanna Laredo-Rayas performed an iteration of her 2023 work Ghosts. This time, presented as a duo with Nat Cortez, the piece converted the piece from a trio work to feature only a haunted box played by Breanna and Theremin played by Nat. The duet version was ambient and exploratory, creating an ethereal soundscape with interplay of drone pads, textural injects from the haunted box, and eerie combinations of “other-worldly” musical statements.

Overall the trip was more than successful. The impact on the students involved was clear – the networking opportunities, the performance opportunities, and representation of TAMU and the PVFA Music Technology by the student creators off campus and outside the state was confident-building, inspirational, and enriching on an educational and professional level simultaneously.

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About Will Connor

Will is an ethnomusicologist, percussionist, composer, musical instrument builder and researcher, a fan of kaiju pop culture, Gothic aesthetics, loves his amazing wife, and is all about noise music and Lovecraftian spookiness!

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