Composing Music For the Next Generation

Jason Freeman creates a unique interface for audiences to shape the music they'll hear in performance

Georgia Tech professor and composer Jason Freeman is bringing his musical passion to the Internet and letting his audiences shape the music they'll hear in performance. The Graph Theory Project is an online interface that enables users to choose their own path through a solo violin piece composed by Freeman.

"Basically, what people are doing is choosing their own adventure; they are finding their own path through this piece of music," said Freeman. "There are a lot of different fragments of music and different ways you can connect them together. I composed the piece intuitively. I decided what all the fragments were going to be and all the different ways they could connect together."

The online user is then able to choose among two or three options in between each fragment of music. Their choice directly impacts the direction of the composition. At the end of each night, the software produces a new version of the musical score that reflects the audience's choices made online.

Freeman says the solo violin piece will then be played in live concerts to give the audiences a more interactive experience.

"The Graph Theory Project forces the audience to make choices and engage in the process of making music," said Freeman. "Some of the greatest musical experiences that I've had were creating music, not just listening to it. I can't write a piece that expresses that joy unless it shares it."

Freeman says that he was inspired to create a piece that would allow people to engage in music even if they didn't have a traditional music background.

"It is hard for people to talk about music in abstract terms using layman's language," Freeman said. "I had an idea of a virtual composer residency. Instead of sitting everyone down in a room and saying that I want a piece that is loud, fast, slow, soft. There is a visual interface on the Web that structures people's input. It gives them choices that are defined. They are not defined in language, they are defined through things they can click on and move around."

Freeman suggests that technology and a good graphic design make this a successful project.

"Technology is an interface through which we can connect people," said Freeman. "It allows people to be musically creative without needing to know how to play a traditional instrument."

The Graph Theory Project, which was commissioned by the Turbulence Internet art group and supported with a grant from the Greenwall Foundation, is available via the Web at http://turbulence.org/Works/graphtheory/ . Freeman is already planning several concert performances, including two in Atlanta this winter. For an updated list of concerts, please visit www.jasonfreeman.net