North Texas Daily

Experimental music center celebrates 50th anniversary

Experimental music center celebrates 50th anniversary

October 04
16:27 2013

Brittany Villegas / Contributing Writer

The Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend by showcasing computer-generated music and visual media performed by past and present UNT students, professors and researchers at the CEMI Circles festival.

The mostly free festival will be split into various events taking place in both Denton at the College of Music and Dallas at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science today through Sunday.

The festival includes seven concerts, an exhibition of historic CEMI equipment such as tape decks and analog systems, an interactive instrumental “petting zoo” that will allow people to touch instruments and also manipulate their sound with computers. It also will include a banquet, several listening galleries and a discussion panel of all living CEMI directors.

“It’s going to be different from anything you’d expect unless you were in the world of new and computer music,” CEMI Director Andrew May said. “Let go of the expectation that you have to know what music is supposed to sound like and you will have a great time.”

Like most modern day music, the music showcased by CEMI includes a fusion of traditional and computer-generated instrumentals. The difference with CEMI’s music is that the performers push their electronic tools, such as computer programs and hand-built synthesizers, harder by distorting and creating new sound, May said.

The festival also uses intermedia such as dance, video, visuals, vocals and music-manipulated robotics in its performances, said Rachel Yoder, director of communications for UNT’s College of Music, who will also perform a computer-processed clarinet piece at CEMI’s Perot Museum performance.

The Merrill Ellis tribute, for example, will consist of a brass quintet, audio tape and a video archive of Ellis projected by an old-fashioned slide projector, May said. Other pieces will have singers, saxophones, piccolos and laptops distorting, adding to, or processing the sounds of instruments and playing along with them in real time.

Each performance contains recent, original pieces from alumni, former CEMI researchers, current students and faculty. Some are also world premieres, May said.

“It’s neat to see people from all different generations of CEMI and what they’ve all got on their minds now,” he said.

CEMI staff graduate assistant Tim Harenda, who will be running the projector during Merrill Ellis’ tribute, thinks that the event will serve as a learning experience for those who know nothing about electronic music or who “misconceive” it as void of artistic value.

“I think there are a lot of things that people don’t even realize have these electronic techniques,” he said. “This concert opens a door for people to see a lot of what’s out there — and what might make its way into mainstream classical music within the next 20 years. As people become more aware, I think that they’ll find something they enjoy.”

CEMI Circles honors the creation of the College of Music’s Electronic Music Center, an old tape studio established in a house on Mulberry Street by UNT faculty composer Merril Ellis in 1963. For the past 50 years, the center, now known as CEMI, has served as a place for students and faculty to freely experiment with and create art through modern technologies.

All performances are free for UNT students, except for the Perot Museum interactive sound exhibit and performance. The performances will take place at various times Friday through Sunday on campus in Voertman Hall, Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater, UNT Sky Theater and CEMI studios. A full schedule can be found at

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