All Articles
All Articles
CULTURE

Tristan Perich

A musician-programmer translates data into melodies

by Adrienne So
on 17 May 2011
audi-tristan2.jpg

Equal parts programmer and musician, Tristan Perich graduated from Columbia University in 2004 and went on to earn a masters at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' Interactive Telecommunications program in 2007. While the interdisciplinary nature of ITP encourages a student body full of artists, programmers, theorists and less easily classifiable types, there's nothing confusing about Perich's work today. Designing code to create music or art, his aesthetic is about putting logic on the surface for a visceral effect, where people can see and understand it.

"Technology is abstracting these processes more and more these days," Perich said in a recent interview with Cool Hunting. "Take my iPhone. You brush a finger across a piece of glass. We're so detached from what's actually happening that the computation itself seems almost magical. These are the sorts of things that make their way into my work—the transparency of a circuit. It's all laid out there in front of you."

audi-tristan1.jpg

Perhaps the best example of this is Perich's elegant and attractive 1-Bit Symphony. Perich composed five movements, programmed a microchip, and installed it into a CD jewel case complete with headphone jack. The result is beautifully simple—rather playing back a recording, the circuit plays the entire score live when you turn it on. You can hold a symphony in the palm of your hand.

audi-tristan3.jpg

Of course, the one-bit buzzing doesn't sound anything like a violin, and for some, the score might recall the Super Mario Brothers more than Bach or Beethoven. For Perich, who was a classically trained musician, that's exactly the point. "I grew up playing the piano, and I hated other peoples' classical music,"; he said. He started improvising and then composing his own, for himself and later for ensembles, but he was most inspired by the work of minimalist musicians like Philip Glass. "[Glass's] work is very mathematical and sensitive; it almost lines up on a grid," Perich said. "It's a very digital way of thinking about music and harmony."

Perich composes music for both microchips and traditional instruments, like piano and violin. He also builds visual representations for the sound as well. In an installation called "Interval Studies," Perich built a board that consists of dozens of small speakers, each emitting a single one-bit tone from between a musical interval. "I took that frequency range and broke it up into 49 or 99 different slivers," said Perich. "As you move across the piece, you can hear each individual frequency, but when you step back, all the different frequencies resolve themselves into one pitch."

audi-tristan6.jpg audi-tristan7.jpg

In his side project, Loud Objects, Perich combines the visual, musical and performance aspects of electronics and music. He and bandmates Kunal Gupta and Katie Shima begin with the blank glass of an overhead projector, soldering together chips in silence. At the end, a cacophony of sound signals that the circuit is complete. Adding chips can change the sound in different ways. "At the end, you've seen these components connected and understand how power is routed through microchips," Perich said.

audi-tristan4.jpg audi-tristan5.jpg

Perich is also currently working on a much larger installation of "Interval Studies" for a Rhizome commission. He received the Prix Ars Electronica in 2009, and was a featured artist in 2010 at Sonar, the International Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art. For him, though, the best part of being an artist might not be sourcing speakers or performing in front of a rapt audience, but in actually doing the math.

"It's unfortunate that so many people get turned off math by bad teachers," he said. "I just find the foundations of mathematics to be really inspiring. Like how Turing was working with the limitations of math itself. I just find it to be really beautiful—visually, audibly, and in any other way."

The Audi Icons series, inspired by the all-new Audi A7, showcases 16 leading figures united by their dedication to innovation and design.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community
Loading More...