I just attended the inaugural year of the SPLICE Institute at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI on July 5-11, 2015. It was an incredibly intense and busy week of classes, lessons, presentations, concerts, and nights out with deeply knowledgeable faculty and students. The faculty composers at SPLICE are Christopher Biggs, Keith Kirchoff, Adam Vidiksis, Elainie Lillios, Sam Wells, Per Bloland, Richard Johnson. David Wetzel was on the faculty as well, as a performer. The food was awful cafeteria food, the dorm rooms were terrible and hot, with no a/c, but the environment was friendly, intimate, and productive.
Each day of the festival was structured the same way: breakfast, 2 classes for 1-hour-15-mins, lunch, more classes and rehearsals between composers and performers, dinner, pre-concert presentation from one of the faculty members, and a concert. Monday through Thursday were solo recitals by Keith Kirchoff, David Wetzel, Sam Wells, and Adam Vidiksis, and Friday was a chamber concert. They performed works written by themselves, each other, the faculty composers, and other repertoire that they had ready. All of these concerts were well-prepared and amazingly performed. Some of these pieces and performances changed the way that I think about the presentation of electronic music, especially works that combine music with video and other multimedia.
The concerts featuring student works were all on Saturday, June 11. Three concerts of about 8 pieces each. I collaborated with David Wetzel for SPLICE and wrote a work for clarinet and electronics called “Staying Ahead of the Game,” which David performed beautifully on the final concerts. Every other piece on the festival was captivating. Works were performed by both student and faculty performers from the festival. My colleagues are ridiculously creative and I am honored to be part of such a bright and innovative generation.
As part of participating in SPLICE, I received a scholarship that involved being a part of the sound tech crew, and my responsibilities included running live sound for the performances. But more often then not, we would meet briefly in the afternoon, see that the performer was largely self-contained or that the setup was prepared before lunch, and we were dismissed shortly. But sometimes, there were lessons on how to use the digital mixing board, how to place speakers, differences between speakers, and other discussions about live sound.
I learned more in this week than I can process, but there’s still time (isn’t there?). I took classes in MAX/MSP, effects processing with Logic, private and group lessons with Elainie Lillios, Per Bloland, and Christopher Biggs, and participated in 8 concerts. There were other classes that I could not participate in because of schedule conflicts. For an inaugural year, this festival did a lot of things right and can keep improving for future participants. It was a ridiculous amount of work, but we made it happen because of our dedication and passion for our craft. I highly recommend the SPLICE Institute to any performers or composers with an interest in electronics or technology.