Cube Fest 2022
August 19 - 21, 2022
Prepare for a sonic adventure that can only be experienced in one place in the entire world: the Cube!
Cube Fest 2022 celebrated the latest innovations in immersive sound and musical composition in a place that provides the ultimate sonic experience. The concerts at Cube Fest presented music that moves around, above, and through the listener. Impossible to re-create at home listening on a stereo system or with headphones, these works were created specifically for the Cube’s world-leading audio system, complete with over 140 loudspeakers.
The 2022 festival celebrated immersive Afrofuturist music. Afrofuturism is an ideology that examines the past and the future through a Black cultural lens, connecting African diaspora culture with science and technology. At Cube Fest, we featured works by Jupiter Blue, King Britt, Yvette Janine Jackson, and Sea Novaa, including an evening-long concert, The Other Wakanda, presented by Stephen James Taylor.
A special Cube event put the spotlight on Virginia Tech student musicians, showcasing new spatial hip-hop music created by members of Virginia Tech Digging in the Crates (#VTDITC), the university’s student-led hip-hop studies program.
The keynote talk, You Haven't Met the Captain of the Spaceship...Yet, delivered by Thomas Stanley of George Mason University, preceded a spatialized experience of the influential Afrofuturist album Space Is the Place by visionary composer Sun Ra.
Recent immersive music from around the world was presented, including the works of James Bagshaw, Chris Coleman, Philippe-Aubert Gauthier, Orestis Karamanlis, Christophe Lengelé, and Nikos Stavropoulis.
The pieces programmed for the Sounds in Focus and Sounds Cubed concerts were selected by a multidisciplinary jury at Virginia Tech from an international pool of music submitted for Cube Fest. All submitted pieces were designed for an immersive listening experience. Sounds Cubed concerts are created to be experienced in the vast sonic environment of the Cube, while the Sounds in Focus concerts benefit from a more intimate and concentrated immersive sound setting.
Cube Fest 2022 was sponsored by the Moss Arts Center; the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; the Center for Humanities; and Cycling ’74.
Friday, August 19
Digging in the Crates: The Sankofa Tape (live/fixed)
Cube • 5 PM
$10; free for current Virginia Tech students
Experience an unforgettable spatialized hip-hop music event created by Virginia Tech students, faculty, and community members. VTDITC: Hip-Hop Studies at Virginia Tech (#VTDITC), the university’s student-driven hip-hop arts community of practice, created The Sankofa Tape to represent generations of Black experiences of Virginia Tech community members—past, present, and future. Stories, soon-to-be folktales, are shared through recordings crafted specifically to be spatialized in the Cube. This sensational experience includes a spectrum of frequencies and movements, which engage with boom bap beats stored on hard drives and computer-programmed spatial orchestration. Rich with Afrofuturism themes and Black history testimonies, The Sankofa Tape provides a one-of-a-kind multi-dimensional representation of Black experiences as well as a blueprint for future realities.
Founded in 2016, VTDITC: Hip-Hop Studies at Virginia Tech or Virginia Tech Digging in the Crates exists to foster a sense of Ujima (community) among hip-hop artists, fans, and scholars. Through hip-hop culture, we equitably create engaged scholarship alongside numerous communities. We hope to model that students’ and community members’ interests are worthy of academic study and to further strengthen hip-hop studies’ presence at Virginia Tech. We celebrate creative, critical scholarship through Umoja (unity) and community-based experiential learning.
Please note, this performance contains adult language.
The Other Wakanda (fixed)
Stephen James Taylor
Cube • 7 PM
$10; free for current Virginia Tech students
In the Marvel universe, the fictional African country of Wakanda evolved into a high-tech nation all on its own…free from outside European or Arabic influences. While working on The Black Panther animated series in 2009, composer Stephen James Taylor wondered what Indigenous classical music in Wakanda would sound like. Would it involve complex harmony and melody like European music, or would it be built around the intricate drumming rhythms like those heard in its neighboring countries? Or both? Regardless, it would definitely have developed its own tuning systems and unique frequency relationships. In Music from the Other Wakanda the composer explores possible answers to these questions in a spellbinding surround sound evening of transcendent tonality from a parallel dimension.
Taylor has a unique musical identity. His Afrofuturist style represents a blend of classical, rock, blues, gospel, world music, homemade instruments, and avant-garde. Music From the Other Wakanda premiered in 2019 at the Glendale College Planetarium. His past projects include providing music for Richard Tanne’s 2020 Amazon film, Chemical Hearts, and the Star Wars Cantina at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge (2019), the first microtonal music ever in rotation at Disneyland). He has composed scores for many of Robert Townsend’s films, such as The Making of the Five Heartbeats (2017), Of Boys and Men (2008), and Holiday Heart (2000). Taylor’s various chamber works have been performed throughout the country and he has composed in surround sound.
Saturday, August 20
Sounds in Focus I
Fixed works by Dexter van der Schyff, Roxanne Turcotte, Ryne Siesky, João Pedro Oliveira, and Simon Le Boggit
Perform Studio • 3 PM
The music in Sounds in Focus I addresses the environment, the divine, and pure abstraction. Dexter van der Schyff’s Waterfall is built from hydrophonic recordings taken from bodies of water on Mount Royal, Montreal. Roxanne Turcotte’s Bestiaire is a tribute to living beings, working with the sounds of animals, transported to a sonic world of the imagination. Ryne Siesky’s …grind… focuses on a threat to environmental sustainability: the plastic cup. The work is created entirely from a one-second recording of a plastic coffee pod hitting the floor. João Pedro Oliveira’s N'vi'ah explores the divine and prophetic. N'vi'ah is an Old Testament word meaning "prophetess." The concert concludes with Simon Le Boggit’s 48 Steps, an abstract work generated from chaos, repetition, and mutation.
Sounds Cubed I
Jupiter Blue and Sea Novaa (fixed media) and fixed works by Yvette Janine Jackson and King Britt
Cube • 7 PM
$10; free for current Virginia Tech students
An evening of Afrofuturist music with a focus on live performance and the human voice, this concert features inspiring live performances by Jupiter Blue (David and Tara Middleton, who are also long-time members of the Sun Ra Arkestra) and Sea Novaa. Also included is Yvette Janine Jackson’s Aboard the Alliance, a fixed media work inspired by Samuel R. Delany’s science fiction novel, Babel-17, which explores the relationship between language, cognitive behavior, and agency over one’s own body, and As It Should Be, created by Moksha Black (a King Britt project featuring Roba El-Essawy). In El-Essawy’s words, “The song was written the moment I heard it. It felt like rays of light, streaming beams; wanting to bathe and bask in it. Moksha Black is transformative.”
Sunday, August 21
Keynote: You Haven't Met the Captain of the Spaceship...Yet
Perform Studio • 1 PM
Sun Ra was a wildly inventive jazz composer, foundational figure of Afrofuturism, electronic music experimenter, keyboardist, bandleader, founder of the Sun Ra Arkestra, orator, philosopher, mystic, gnostic, poet, prankster, and so much more. Sun Ra continues to provide inspiration to countless modern musicians and remains a culturally relevant figure who in recent years has been cited on Lovecraft Country, along with countless books and articles in popular and academic press.
Despite his large cultural presence, Sun Ra, the person, is not well known or understood. As Sun Ra once said, “History is ‘his’ story. My story is mystery.” In this Cube Fest 2022 keynote lecture, Thomas Stanley (writer, audio activist, professor at the George Mason School of Art, and Sun Ra scholar) leads us deep into the thought processes of Sun Ra in preparation for the Cube Fest immersive experience of Sun Ra’s album, Space Is the Place. Stanley is the author of the book The Execution of Sun Ra: The Mysterious Tale of a Dark Body Sent to Earth to Usher in an Unprecedented Era of Cosmic Regeneration and Happiness (Volume II).
Sounds in Focus II
Fixed works by Barry Truax, John Young, and Lidia Zielinska
Perform Studio • 3 PM
This concert of international immersive music leads with computer music pioneer Barry Truax’s The Shaman Ascending, which, according to the composer, “evokes the imagery of a traditional shaman figure chanting in the quest for spiritual ecstasy. However, in this case, the listener is placed inside of a circle of loudspeakers with the vocal utterances swirling around at high rates of speed and timbral development. The work proceeds in increasing stages of complexity as the shaman ascends towards a higher spiritual state.”
The remaining two works, Abwesenheit by John Young and Backstage Pass by Lidia Zielinska, engage with the music of the past. In Abwesenheit, Young works with audio material recorded in the garden of the Beethoven Wohnung Heiligenstadt where, in 1802, Beethoven spent the latter half of the year seeking respite for his failing hearing. The composer states, “the historical resonance of the Beethoven Wohnung with its sounds and artefacts — distant chimes, a death mask, creaky floors, the resonance around hushed conversation — imparts a profound sense of absence.” Zielinska engages with the piano as a historical object. The composer states, “In the piece, piano keyboard becomes the interface between the inside of the instrument and accumulated experience of the listener’s life.”
Sounds Cubed II
Fixed works by James Bagshaw, Christophe Lengelé, Nikos Stavropoulos, Orestis Karamanlis, Chris Coleman, and Philippe-Aubert Gauthier
Cube • 7 PM
$10; free for current Virginia Tech students
Long-time Cube Fest contributor Chris Coleman returns with śūnyatā, scored for a mixture of Chinese and Western instruments. śūnyatā is the concept of "not self," of awareness in which perception and feeling cease, of meditating to the loss of self-awareness. James Bagshaw’s Helicopter Synths explores the sensation of overhead flight, making good use of the 20 ceiling-mounted loudspeakers in the Cube, while Christophe Lengelé’s Parmegiani meets SuperCollider 1 transports biological life processes to music with a focus on the effects of a multi-channel audio environment. Nikos Stavropoulos’s Karst Grotto explores analogies between geological spatial structures (karst is a particular topography created by the dissolution of soluble rock types) and processes and spatial audio experiences. In Orestis Karamanlis’s playful Toys, most of the sounds originate from recordings of toys, organized into spatial/rhythmic configurations. Recorded for specifically this Cube performance, Philippe-Aubert Gauthier’s Exploded views: sound machines, a cubic perspective features 134 recordings from a modular synthesizer. Gauthier asked the question, “If we still often rely on mixing and signal processing for sound space composition, why not explore the spatial inner architecture of modular synthesis, which offers a plethora of signal variations?”
Spatialization of Sun Ra's Space Is the Place
Cube • 9 PM
$10; free for current Virginia Tech students
The album Space Is the Place holds a central position in Sun Ra’s vast body of work, aligning with Sun Ra’s personal mythology as a visitor from Saturn and with the central role of outer space in Afrofuturistic thinking. The 21-minute-long title track Space Is the Place is anthemic, celebratory, and absolutely demands more than the two loudspeakers of a stereo system. At Cube Fest 2022, Space Is the Place will be experienced in a newly created spatial interpretation that makes full use of the 140 loudspeakers of the Cube.
About the artists:
James Bagshaw is a third-year Ph.D. researcher at the University of Hull, investigating the composition of popular music for Higher-Order Ambisonics. Bagshaw is also a full-time lecturer in music at Hull College Group.
Yvette Janine Jackson is a composer focused on narrative soundscape composition and radio opera. Jackson creates episodic electroacoustic experiences that immerse the audience in narratives based on social issues and historical events. Her work has been featured at Fylkingen, Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier Tonspur Passage, International Festival of Computer Art in Maribor, the Fridman Gallery in New York, Tonband Fixed Media Festival at Audiorama, Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park, the San Diego Art Institute, San Francisco International Arts Festival, Borealis Festival, and in residency at Stockholm Elektronmusikstudion. Recent commissions include Lot’s Wife for ensemble and electronics by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Remembering 1619 for violin and tape, Atlantic Crossing read by the Naples Philharmonic with support from the American Composers Orchestra, and Cannot Be (Unrung) for carillon and electronics, which was co-commissioned in 2018 by the University of Chicago and University of Michigan for Tiffany Ng.
Christophe Lengelé is currently working towards a doctorate in music (composition and sound design) at Université de Montréal. Lengelé’s research gathers spatial sound design, electronic and electroacoustic composition, and performance with a special focus on the development of live experimental audio tools and interfaces built from open source software. After studying law and economics and working as a marketing and market analyst in international companies for a few years, Lengelé decided to quit the business field in 2006 and returned to school for electroacoustic composition, receiving a master of arts degree in computer music.
Nikos Stavropoulos (Athens, Greece; 1975) is a composer of predominantly acousmatic and mixed music. Stavropoulos read music at the University of Wales (Bangor, Wales), where he studied composition with Andrew Lewis and completed a doctorate at the University of Sheffield (England) under the supervision of Adrian Moore. His music is performed and broadcast regularly around the world and has been awarded internationally on several occasions. His practice is concerned with notions of tangibility and immersivity in acousmatic experiences and the articulation of acoustic space, in the pursuit of probable aural impossibilities. Since 2006, he has been a member of the Music, Sound, and Performance Group at Leeds Beckett University (Leeds, England), where he is a reader in composition and lectures on electroacoustic music. Stavropoulos is a founding member of the Echochroma New Music Research Group and a member of both the British ElectroAcoustic Network (BEAN) and the Hellenic Electroacoustic Music Composers Association (HELMCA).
Dexter van der Schyff is a composer, record producer, and DJ based in Montreal. Van der Schyff’s work specializes in multichannel works, dance music, and pop production. He is currently finishing his undergraduate at Concordia's electroacoustics program. Van der Schyff has recently specialized his studies in water-based sound and takes interest in creating forward-thinking pieces centered on hydrophone recordings.
King Britt writes, “I have been a creative working artist, focusing on music for the past 30 years. My work has taken me all over the world, performing, producing, and curating in choice venues such as Berghain (Berlin), MoMaPS1 (New York), and Liquid Room (Tokyo). As a producer, I am always exploring new sonic worlds as a means of personal expression of my powerful lineage as an artist of color. I have broken boundaries, pushed envelopes, and enlightened many on my quest to manifest my aural visions. One of the most fruitful of collaborations has been with legendary singer Roba El-Essawy (MidnightRoba), who laid the groundwork for the early ‘90s trip-hop movement as the powerful voice of London outfit Attica Blues. Channeling ancestral energy from her Egyptian heritage and unparalleled love of jazz, Roba brings a sonic viewpoint that is unique only to her.”
“I have produced and remixed many from Meredeth Monk to Solange to Emily King, always bringing my sound to enhance their already magical artistry,” Britt continues. Recently I have been diving into spatial audio for closer experiences to the divine. I am also a professor at University of California San Diego in computer music and researching sonic worlds.”
Jupiter Blue consists of husband and wife musicians David M. Hotep and Tara “Jupiter Girl Blue” Middleton. Both are current members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of Marshall Allen. Hotep has spent 20 years as the Arkestra's guitarist, while Middleton has honed her performance skills as vocalist, violinist, and lyricist under Marshall Allen's guidance since 2012. While Hotep has had three decades of experience in jazz, avant garde, and experimental music, Middleton has been a musician since early childhood, playing classical violin until college, where she switched her discipline to jazz studies. Together as Jupiter Blue, they bring the unexpected from electronics, electric guitar, and celestially processed vocals and violin; calling forth jazz-sourced vocals, rhythms, harmonic soundscapes, and shadows of unseen worlds.
Sea Novaa is a Bahamian-American composer, sound artist, and sonic activist based in Berlin and New York. Novaa’s classical compositions are deeply influenced by the avant-garde aesthetic, electronic music, Taoism, and their Afro-Caribbean roots. Their works explore themes of nature, spirituality, Afrofuturism, and self-exploration. Novaa seeks to create sound worlds that fuse together acoustic and electronic means of expression.
Stephen James Taylor has composed music for most of the films of Academy Award-winning director Charles Burnett, as well as the musicals, comedies, and dramatic films of Robert Townsend. In 2009 Academy Award-nominated producer Reginald Hudlin tapped Taylor to write all the music for the limited animated series The Black Panther, for which he invented a Wakandan musical dialect for the main title song. His body of work encompasses shows and films from all the major studios. The score to Richard Tanne's feature film, Southside with You, received rave reviews from multiple publications, and his classical orchestral works have been performed by the Atlanta Symphony (1996 Olympics Opening Ceremonies), the Detroit Symphony, and the Cleveland Symphony. After receiving his music composition degree from Stanford, Taylor went on to study privately for several years with Henri Lazarof (composition professor at UCLA), Dr. Albert Harris (conducting), and microtonal scale pioneer Ervin Wilson. For more information, please visit stephenjamestaylor.com.
John Young is a composer whose output includes multichannel acousmatic pieces, large-scale radiophonic work, and music combining instruments and electroacoustic sounds. Young’s music uses computer technology to transform and reassemble sounds in new ways to create sonic drama and musical development. Some of his recent work has used oral history and archival recordings in a narrative-based approach to electroacoustic music. He is professor of composition in the Institute for Sonic Creativity at De Montfort University, Leicester, having previously been director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Commissions include works for the GRM (Paris), the IMEB (Bourges), Distractfold Ensemble (Manchester), and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (New Zealand). In 2015 he was the recipient of a KEAR fellowship at BGSU (Ohio). Two solo discs of Young’s work are available on the Empreintes Digitales label at electrocd.com/en/bio/young_jo/discog/.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Chris Coleman is a transgender composer and conductor and comedian who taught music for 30 years at Hong Kong Baptist University. Coleman’s music ranges from large-scale multimedia/improvisation pieces to works for orchestra, symphonic band, chamber ensemble, instrumental solo, fixed media, and voice; their CD Multiple Worlds is published by Ablaze Records. Coleman is a founding member of People’s Liberation Improv, Hong Kong’s longest-running comedy improv troupe, and has performed with them in Beijing, Seoul, and Manila. A trans-media artist, Coleman also works in painting, sculpture, and computer graphics and performs stand-up comedy under the name Rose Rage.
Born in Athens, Greece, Orestis Karamanlis has, upon completing a Ph.D. in electroacoustic composition, been active in composing new music and lecturing in academia. Currently a scholar at the University of Athens, Karamanlis has produced a diverse body of sound art and new media work, which is frequently performed in concert venues and urban spaces. For more information, please visit orestiskaramanlis.net.
Composer João Pedro Oliveira holds the Corwin Endowed Chair in Composition for the University of California at Santa Barbara. Oliveira studied organ performance, composition, and architecture in Lisbon. He completed a Ph.D. in music at the University of New York at Stony Brook. His music includes opera, orchestral compositions, chamber music, electroacoustic music, and experimental video. He has received over 50 international prizes and awards for his works, including three prizes at Bourges Electroacoustic Music Competition, the prestigious Magisterium Prize and Giga-Hertz Special Award, first prize in the Metamorphoses competition, first prize in the Yamaha-Visiones Sonoras Competition, and first prize in the Musica Nova competition. He taught at Aveiro University (Portugal) and Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil). Oliveira’s publications include several articles in journals and a book on 20th-century music theory. For more information, please visit jpoliveira.com.
Barry Truax is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Communication (and formerly the School for the Contemporary Arts) at Simon Fraser University, where he taught courses in acoustic communication and electroacoustic music. Truax worked with the World Soundscape Project, editing its Handbook for Acoustic Ecology, and has published a book, Acoustic Communication, dealing with sound and technology. As a composer, he is best known for his work with the PODX computer music system, which he has used for tape solo works, music theatre pieces, and those with live performers or computer graphics. In 1991 his work, Riverrun, was awarded the Magisterium at the International Competition of Electroacoustic Music in Bourges, France. Truax’s multi-channel soundscape compositions are frequently featured in concerts and festivals around the world. In 2015-2016 he was the Edgard Varèse Guest Professor at the Technical University in Berlin. For more information, please visit sfu.ca/~truax.
Lidia Zielinska studied composition with Andrzej Koszewski at the Music Academy in Poznan (Poland). Zielinska has worked at the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio in Warsaw, IPEM/BRT in Ghent, EMS in Stockholm, ZKM in Karlsruhe and Experimentalstudio des SWR Freiburg. She currently holds the post of professor of composition and head of the SMEAMuz Studio of Electroacoustic Music at Poznan’s Music Academy. She has conducted summer courses, workshops, and seminars and published and lectured extensively on contemporary Polish music, the history of experimental music, sound ecology, and traditional Japanese music at the invitation of universities in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Zielinska is the vice president of the Polish Association for Electroacoustic Music, former vice president of the board of the Polish Composers’ Union, and member of the program committee of the Warsaw Autumn Festival.
Philippe-Aubert Gauthier is a professor at École des arts visuels et médiatiques, Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada). Originally trained in engineering and acoustics, Gauthier has been active in spatial audio research since 2003. As an artist, he is interested in the intricacies and exploratory combinations of arts, sciences, and technologies. Working mostly within the field of sound and digital arts, he explores the social and cultural meanings of technology while using art and creation as critical methods. Within the field’s sound and music, Gauthier explores perception and technologies with pieces inspired by his background in acoustics, signal processing, virtual acoustics, and sound technology. Gauthier published more than 60 scientific communications and created more than 40 art pieces. His research is supported by Fonds Recherche Québec, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council–Canada, MITACS, and industrial partners.
Simon Le Boggit is a multimedia artist living and working in Lincolnshire, U.K. Focusing on the distillation of meaning from chaos, Le Boggit’s works include evocative textured walls of sound and the generation of chaotic algorithmic musical compositions capable of creating moments of “apparent intentionality” where any melody, harmony, and syncopation is a product of chance and the human compulsion to identify patterns. His works have been performed and exhibited worldwide, including Birmingham, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Stockholm, Athens, Barcelona, Moscow, Seoul, Vancouver, New York, and Blacksburg.
Ryne Siesky’s work as a composer explores the intersections of art and music, bringing focus to the idiosyncrasies of music creation and sonic processes. Environmentalism, aestheticism, psychology, and social justice are at the forefront of Siesky’s influences. His music has been performed by Hypercube, Switch~ Ensemble, Invicta Sax Quartet, Robert Black, Lindsay Garritson, and Laura Silva, among others. His music has also been featured at several festivals such as the Diffrazioni Firenze Multimedia Festival, Festival DME, Ecos Urbanos, Atemporanea Festival, Charlotte New Music Festival, N_SEME, and the Society of Composers, Inc. Recently, his work for 8.1 channel fixed media, ...grind…, was selected for presentation at the 2020 SEAMUS National Conference and the 2020 International New Music Festival at USF. Siesky is currently working on a doctor of musical arts in composition at the University of Miami, Frost School of Music.
Active as a composer and sound designer, Roxanne Turcotte has built her aesthetics around a cinema-like art of integration. Turcotte also creates and performs music for television, cinema, radio, the stage, the internet, and circus arts, in addition to creating sound, music, and visual installations. She sits on composition juries and regularly performs composition training sessions and workshops. Turcotte has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ). She has 10 recordings, a few publications, numerous concerts with various music ensembles, and multiple tours and concerts in Canada, U.S., and Europe under her belt.
Learn more about the Cube:
General ItemThe Cube
The Cube is a highly adaptable space for research and experimentation in big data exploration, immersive environments, intimate performances, audio and visual installations, and experiential investigations of all types.