Eric Honour

Eric Honor composed and performed the NWEAMO 2020 piece Murmurations on Palestrina
Performed by UCM New Technologies Ensemble

Program note:
for iPhone octet, real-time video, and real-time spatialized audio Performed by the UCM New Technologies Ensemble Live footage from the NTE performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO in March 2016 Originally published in Palestrina’s second book of motets in 1581, “Adoramus Te” is a gorgeous, short motet for four equal voices. A glorious example of 16th-century counterpoint, something about the ineffably logical movement of the voices in this motet put me in mind of the movements (properly called “murmurations”) of enormous flocks of starlings, which are never guided by a single bird, but always by the logic of the group as a whole. This work, for eight iPhones, computer, and real-time video, uses Craig Reynolds’s venerable “Boids” algorithm to model the flight of four (later doubled to eight) separate flocks of birds/boids, comprising several thousand individuals. Each boid is represented on the video screen by a single dot and in the music by a single voice of a synthesizer. The left-to-right position of each boid determines both its pitch and its spatial position in the array of speakers, while up-to-down position controls the timbre or brightness of that individual voice. The work uses a meantone tuning system, defined in 1523 by Pietro Aaron (as described by Kyle Gann), which is reasonably similar to what would have been used in Palestrina’s time. Four of the performers use their iPhones to control the centering points, around which the flocks cluster, as well as the overall levels of the flocks. The other four control the dispersion of the flocks, via parameters like “centering instinct,” “neighbor matching,” “speed,” and “willingness to change speed and direction.” The performance employs custom software I programmed in Max, building on previous work with the Boids algorithm by Wesley Smith and Sam Tarakajian.


Devoted to exploring and furthering the intersections of music and technology, Eric Honour’s work as a composer and saxophonist has been featured in numerous international conferences and festivals like ICMC, SEAMUS, MUSLAB, Sonorities, EMM, NYCEMF, and others. A member of the Athens Saxophone Quartet and noted soloist specializing in works involving live electronics, he performs regularly in Europe and the United States, and has presented lectures and masterclasses at many leading institutions.

Honour’s music has been described as “fast, frenetic, and fiendishly difficult” and performed around the world by such notable artists as Quintet Attacca, Shanna Pranaitis, Stephan Vermeersch, Elisabeth Stimpert, the Thelema Trio, and Quartetto Musicattuale. His work as a composer has been recognized in many competitions, published by Roncorp, and recorded on the Capstone, Ravello, and Innova labels. Professor of music, head of the music department, and director of the Center for Music Technology at the University of Central Missouri, his work as an audio engineer and producer appears on the Innova, Centaur, Ravello, Irritable Hedgehog, Weighter, Orpheus Classical Music, Everview, North Star Appli, and E.M.E. Action labels, as well as on numerous independent releases.

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Looking forward to it!
Eric Honour