Exchanging Ideas at College’s Audio Visual Synthesis Workshop


Computer scientists, programmers, musicians, and visual artists from far and wide met to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects at Dartmouth’s Audio Visual Synthesis Workshop, a gathering made possible by the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, the Department of Music, the Department of Film and Media Studies, and the Department of Studio Art.

Chicago-based artist Jon Satrom is broadcast through an interface designed by Dartmouth Artists-in-Residence Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli. All three were part of the AV Synthesis Workshop. (Photo by Neil Young Cloaca)

Three such workshops have been held at the Pierce Inn in Etna, N.H., the most recent over the weekend of Oct. 16-18. More than three dozen participants arrived from Dartmouth, MIT, McGill, the University of Montreal, CUNY, Concordia, NYU, Columbia, Brown, and other institutions to pursue the theme of audiovisual synthesis—the conjoining of sound and sight.

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The workshop was a “truly unique Dartmouth experience,” says Andrew Sarroff, a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science who organized the event. “It featured live performances, outdoor exhibits, and audiovisual improvisatory sessions. I am unaware of any similar national or international workshop that promotes an exchange between sound, image, and video artists, engineers, and researchers.”

The objective of the workshop was to get sonic and visual artists together with researchers in a place both remote and serene. “It ends up being part artistic, part technical,” says Sarroff. “We are hoping that we are beginning a tradition here.”

He says sharing information and making connections are the most important results of these gatherings. All attendees are required to participate. “There are no passive people there,” Sarroff says. “Every single person either gives a lecture about their work, their science, their technology, or they put together an outdoor installation. The whole point is to get a lot of face time, for everyone to talk to each other, meet each other, and exchange ideas.”

A sampling of the workshop activities is presented in a video produced by Dartmouth’s Media Production Group.

“The A-V Synthesis Workshop provides a singular opportunity for artists, technicians, historians, scientists, performers, and those whose practices fall in between, to intimately collaborate in a rural lodge,” says Jodie Mack, an associate professor of film and media studies and one of the organizers of the workshop. “A series of talks, performances, and technical demonstrations build upon one another, resulting in a fascinating perspective on the contemporary landscape of audiovisual arts and the tools that govern them.”

Another co-organizer is Michael Casey, the James Wright Professor of Music, a professor of computer science, and director of the Graduate Program in Digital Musics.

“Bringing together artists and scientists to tackle a common theme, such as audiovisual synthesis, allows everyone to be out of their comfort zone for a little while, thus challenging their assumptions, whether as scientists or artists, about the uniquely human experiences of audio and visual art and thinking more broadly about the connections between art, environment, brain, and human well-being,” says Casey.

“After three years of hosting these workshops, the Bregman Lab was recently awarded an NSF grant, entitled ‘The Confluence of Music, Art, and Science at Long-Term Ecological Research Sites,’ to explore how bringing artists into scientific research affects both the intellectual merit and the broader impacts of that research.”

audio visual
A sampling of the workshop activities is presented in a video produced by Dartmouth’s Media Production Group.
Joseph Blumberg