Artificial Improvisers – M.F.A. I.C.I.T.

I studied an M.F.A. in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology at the University of California, Irvine, from September 2013 to June 2015. My capstone project and research focused on creating computer improvisers, developing interactivity, algorithmic composition and engaging with methods of human-computer interaction. The results of that research – including my final paper and musical projects – are below.


Composition Playlist 

download for much higher quality recordings

More information on:


Duffing Map

Entire capstone performance below (with program notes)



Research Paper

Thesis Committee:
Chris Dobrian (Chair)
Simon Penny
Ko Umezaki

In this essay I explore the creation of interactive, improvising computer partners. I consider different forms of interaction with computer musical collaborators, be it through traditional musical instruments or alternative controllers. I discuss the work of David Cope, particularly his musical analysis and composition program ​Experiments in Musical Intelligence​, George E. Lewis and his musical improviser ​Voyager​, and finally Eduardo Reck Miranda’s work in algorithmic composition and alternative controllers. The ideas of each of these artists have significant implications for the design of interactive music systems and form the basis of my model of computer improvisation. My approach to improvisation is informed by various styles of the Western tradition—primarily jazz—from very open improvisation (free jazz) to highly structured improvisation.

I begin by analysing key ideas behind interactive music systems, such as creating dialogue and reactivity compared to compliance. I then discuss how Cope’s EMI can be utilised as a framework for analysis and improvisation, and discuss other ways of listening and understanding incoming music. This is followed by a comparison of some forms of interaction and algorithmic composition, which comprises the main component of musical generation used by these computer systems. I conclude by discussing my own implementations of these concepts in the piece ​Henonistic​.

Read the full paper here


Musical Creations – Capstone Concert

Artificial Improvisers features computer programs acting as interactive collaborators, improvising and composing music in real time with human performers. These computers aim to be truly interactive, through active listening and engagement with a human musician. Each program aims to remain autonomous and capable of producing its own music without a human performer. The computer moves through a variety of roles in each piece, at times acting as an equal improviser, other times as a composer/conductor, and other times taking a leading role.

Details on each piece can be found below, including links to further explanations and alternate recordings.


8:00 pm, April 12, 2015
Winifred Smith Hall
University of California, Irvine

Computer: Improvisation/Composition/Conducting/Bass/Guitar/Drums/Keyboard/Synthesis
Richard Savery: Reeds/Xbox Controller/iPad
Anna Okunev: Violin, 5 String Electric Violin
Molly Jones: Soprano Saxophone
Jordan Watson: Electric Guitar
Anthony Caulkins: Electric Guitar
Juan David Rubio: Drums


Euclidean Tango

Computer: Disklavier improvisations
Anna Okunev: Violin
Richard Savery: Bass Clarinet
Anthony Caulkins: Electric Guitar
Juan David Rubio: Drums

Euclidean Tango moves between precomposed material and improvised sections and attempts to place the computer improviser within an established genre. All improvised material played by the computer is based on Euclidean rhythms, while interacting with the ideas played by the human performers. The precomposed material was recorded by Adrian Foy on piano.

Interlude 1


Computer: Improvised guitar, bass, and drums, composition
Richard Savery: Tenor Saxophone

This piece is completely improvised by the computer and human performer, with a short computer composed melody the only set material. The computer part is represented through the sounds of an electric guitar, bass and drum set, each of which carry their own musical identity that interacts with the human performer. These musical sounds are based on the mathematical formula of the Henon Attractor which creates chaotic unpredictable results. At two stages melodies are composed by the the computer and given to the human performer via the iPad.
More information and recordings here

Computer Conductor

Computer: Composition
Richard Savery: Composition
Anna Okunev: Violin
Jordan Watson: Electric Guitar
Anthony Caulkins: Electric Guitar
Juan David Rubio: Percussion

Partly inspired by conduction and new ways to create scores for performers in realtime, this piece features a human and computer composer collaborating. Each composer creates musical ideas which are presented via iPads to the four improvisers on stage. It is never clear to the players whether an idea originates from a human or computer composer. The computer’s decisions are directed by a knowledge of the current musical ideas and the visual movements displayed in the short film Impermanence Directory: The Limbic Nest by Stefan Larsson (AUJIK).

The Funnels

Computer: Baritone Sax
Richard Savery: Baritone Sax
Juan David Rubio: Drums

In The Funnels the computer controls a collection of over 400 very short samples of a baritone sax. These samples are combined to act as a second bari sax reacting to the human bari sax and drum kit.

Xbox Controller

Computer: Human Assistance
Anna Okunev: 5 String Electric Violin
Richard Savery: Xbox 360 Controller/iPad

In addition to computers acting as independent improvisers, they also have the ability to assist humans in live musical creation. In this primarily improvised piece, the computer part translates the gestures made on the Xbox 360 Controller, allowing access to a range of synthesis techniques.

Duffing Map

Computer: Improvised keyboard, composition
Richard Savery: Flute

This piece is an extension of the ideas created in Henonistic, but uses a different set of parameters to create the musical material. Additionally, most of the material played by the human performer is composed in real time by the computer and changes in each performance. The human performer views this material on the iPad and gradually embellishes the ideas, improvising on the musical information.
More info here

Interlude 2


Computer: Disklavier, Composition
Richard Savery: Alto Sax
Anna Okunev: Violin
Molly Jones: Soprano Saxophone
Jordan Watson: Electric Guitar
Anthony Caulkins: Electric Guitar
Juan David Rubio: Drums

Lo-Lee-Ta features the Disklavier, controlled by the computer. Almost all composed musical material played by the human performers was written offline prior to the performance by the computer. The composition and was primarily generated from the opening paragraph of Nabokov’s novel Lolita, by translating words to pitch and rhythmic material.