Report from ContinuuCon 2018 - EMusician

ContinuuCon 2018

Notes from the Haken Continuum Conference
Author:
Publish date:

Paris, France, was the location for ContinuuCon 2018, the third International Haken Continuum Fingerboard Conference, held April 26–28. Current and aspiring Continuum players from Europe and North America converged on IRCAM, the French Ministry of Culture’s R&D facility for music and acoustics, adjacent to the Pompidou Center in Paris’s fashionable Le Marais district (see Figure 1).

Fig. 1. A peak inside IRCAM, the French Ministry of Culture’s R&D facility for music and acoustics.

Fig. 1. A peak inside IRCAM, the French Ministry of Culture’s R&D facility for music and acoustics.

This was Europe’s first ContinuuCon, following two that were held in Asheville, N.C., in 2016 and 2017. Although most of the event’s organizers live in Asheville, French musician and software developer Christophe Duquesne handled most of the arrangements this year.

ContinuuCon relies heavily on the participation of University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne professor Lippold Haken, who invented the multidimensional polyphonic Continuum; and Edmund Eagan, who developed its internal sound engine, EaganMatrix, in partnership with Lippold. Both men contribute whatever time they can to refining and improving the instrument, a joint effort they discuss in EM’s exclusive YouTube interview, “Inventors of the Haken Continuum Talk about EaganMatrix” (https://youtu.be/nQYubVTD82w).

The Main Event

About 30 attendees signed up for ContinuuCon 2018, more than half of them firsttime participants. Most, but not all, were Continuum owners. Among the non-owners were Brian Clevinger, who developed Native Instruments Absynth, and three blind musicians, including acclaimed French keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel, who wanted to determine the feasibility of tackling an instrument dependent on a graphical user interface. The conference began with a Thursday evening reception, giving us a chance to socialize, enjoy some refreshments, and get our first good look at IRCAM’s facility.

Fig. 2. Edmund Eagan revealed the inner workings of the Continuum’s SHARC-based virtual modular synthesizer, EaganMatrix.

Fig. 2. Edmund Eagan revealed the inner workings of the Continuum’s SHARC-based virtual modular synthesizer, EaganMatrix.

On Friday, Lippold presented an overview of the instrument while Ed played audio examples illustrating its capabilities. Next, Ed gave us a very useful lesson in navigating and programming EaganMatrix (see Figure 2). Among other presentations, Eric Mouquet of Deep Forest played examples of his compositions using the Continuum, University of North Carolina Asheville professor Wayne Kirby moderated a panel discussion on playing techniques, and IRCAM’s Frederick Rousseau explained the work being done there and answered questions (see Figure 3). The day culminated when Lippold and Ed unveiled the ContinuuMini, an affordable, entrylevel Continuum offering full access to EaganMatrix (see Figure 4), followed by a wonderful dinner at Le Procope, Paris’s only restaurant in continuous operation since 1686.

Fig. 3. Conference organizer Christophe Duquesne, IRCAM’s Frederick Rousseau, and Deep Forest’s Eric Mouquet enjoyed the camaraderie of the opening reception.

Fig. 3. Conference organizer Christophe Duquesne, IRCAM’s Frederick Rousseau, and Deep Forest’s Eric Mouquet enjoyed the camaraderie of the opening reception.

Fig. 4. The affordable ContinuuMini provides full access to EaganMatrix.

Fig. 4. The affordable ContinuuMini provides full access to EaganMatrix.

Saturday was filled with more presentations and tutorials, ranging from a discussion of notating music for Continuum to production techniques for musique concrète. University of Wisconsin professor Daniel Grabois spoke about his strategies for assembling a studio incorporating a Continuum, and Ed detailed the anatomy of an EaganMatrix preset. Musician Richard Kram gave one of the most inspiring talks, encouraging players to create templates as a means to dig in and really explore the instrument.

A Public Performance

On Saturday night, ContinuuCon hosted the 3rd Annual ContinuuConcert, a well-attended performance by eight players at Gaité Lyrique. One highlight was a Hindemith trio composed for Trautonium and performed by Ed, Wayne, and Sally Sparks. Among other performances, Finnish composers Benedict Slotte and Portuguese composer António Machado played their original works, and French musicians François Astier and Christophe Duquesne played a suite of nine improvisations.

The concert was a fitting end to another successful ContinuuCon. (You can watch selections from last year’s ContinuuConcert here: https://youtu.be/AsxKuSb5D5Q.)