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Telematic Collective brings electronic music to life at IUPUI

Feb 8, 2018
Arun Berty plays the keys.
Arun Berty, a music and arts technology graduate student, plays the keys during a recent Telematic Collective rehearsal in a studio within the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex.Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Department of Music and Arts Technology graduate students Harry Chaubey and Arun Berty each traveled thousands of miles to continue their studies at IUPUI.

Both young men are technologically adept and avid music consumers. Creating and understanding music through the help of computer programs and electronic equipment was their next academic step, which made the School of Engineering and Technology program an easy choice. 

But these students’ backgrounds and previous stops are as different as future bass and witch house. Chaubey came from Los Angeles. He was working in sound and composition studios when he decided to up his game. Berty traveled all the way from Chennai, India. He received an undergraduate degree in computer science from Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology in southern India. He made a big change when he decided to pursue his love of music. Both students’ skills have been welcomed in the Department of Music and Arts Technology as well as in the Telematic Collective, a unique electronic music ensemble that performs original works regularly on campus.

“I wanted both of my interests to merge,” said Berty, who found IUPUI online after he finished his computer science degree. “That’s what put me here.”

Description of the following video:


[Video: A shot outside of the Donald Tavel Arts and Technology Research Center.]

[Music: Chill electronic music]

[Words appear: IUPUI Presents]

[Scott Deal speaks: Our program is really growing at all levels, bachelor’s, master’s and now the PhD. We have actually, we started the PhD last year, and now we have four people in the PhD program. So, we’re one of the first universities in the country to have a PhD in music technology.]

[Words appear: Scott Deal, Professor of Music Technology]

[Video: A shot of graduate student Harry Chaubey playing keyboard]

[Scott speaks: We have several labs here in the department. This is one of them, the Tavel lab, which focuses on synthesis and then also telematics using the Internet for artistic expression. And then also some other kinds of research, machine learning, artificial intelligence. We find funding for graduate students, and they do work in here.

I started my career as a percussion professor in a regular, traditional department. But I was always doing crazy technology things. So, this was a natural next step. In fact, they called me and said, hey, you’re doing all that crazy stuff, why don’t you just come here and leave the percussion behind? Yeah, okay. So, I still play a lot of percussion, but I don’t really teach it as a professor anymore. Now I teach this ensemble and I teach graduate courses in technology.]

[Video: Students play music on their keyboards and laptops.]

[Scott speaks: We have a combination. We have a lot of computer people who come into the program. But then we also have a lot of people who really love computers, but throughout their whole life they were playing in rock bands or they were doing clubs and playing music with controllers. And so, our program was real natural for them.]

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise,]

[End of transcript]

Telematic Collective gets its name from the tradition of online collaboration during its live shows. Musicians from across the globe have been known to patch in and perform with the IUPUI musicians onstage within the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex. The group’s next concert is at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in ICTC Room 152. 

And the collaboration isn’t limited to online talent. A typical Telematic experience will include original video work, live dancers from local organizations like the Ballet Theatre of Indiana and guest Indianapolis musicians. While most students in Telematic have laptops guiding their sounds, musicians have also been known to pick up a saxophone or guitar. The vibraphone is a staple, as it’s the instrument that faculty advisor Scott Deal specialized in during his previous academic career. Like his students, he was lured to IUPUI by the possibilities of electronic music and technological advancement.

“I was always doing crazy technology things,” said Deal, a professor of music arts and technology. “This was a natural next step.”

Laptop jam

Like a rock song, a Telematic piece starts with a riff and a beat. A recent rehearsal saw Chaubey, Berty, fellow grad student Dustin Paugh, and undergraduates Sam Duncan and Charles Cheesman working on a piece. The tune was still being shaped as each student got his chance to work the riff or add their own notes. Deal was sitting in as well, but he confirmed to Inside IUPUI that every Telematic piece is written by the students.

Sam Duncan and Charles Cheesman communicate during a Telematic Collective rehearsal.
Sam Duncan, left, and Charles Cheesman communicate during a Telematic Collective rehearsal. The undergraduates study within the Department of Music and Arts Technology.Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

“They bring their ideas; they engage the other students; and then we use all of these wonderful technological merging tools to create something that sounds new, fresh and original,” Deal said. “They get to work their creative chops in putting the music together.” 

Telematic gained new members this semester, and they are using their time to master music-composition programs like Logic Pro X and equipment like the Native Instruments Maschine drum machine and Ableton Pushes. This device is a sequencer, piano, sampler and effects modulator all in one console about the size of a textbook.

And speaking of those antiquated things made of paper, textbooks don’t tell these tech-savvy musicians how to make an original instrumental work that could earn a live audience’s interest. Experimentation, improvisation and practice fuel the tunes. 

“The possibilities are endless,” Chaubey said. “This technology is my instrument.”

Chaubey and Berty manned laptop keyboards and the more traditional keyboards in a musical setting. Berty said he’d been playing piano for several years and was happy to contribute to the ensemble. Each player brings a different expertise, making Telematic an always evolving and changing entity. Berty’s background will help construct technological feats yet to be explored in the group. Other Telematic members – currently 10 students – have had video experience, which helped improve the visual side of the collective.

“We look at this more as a working group,” Deal said. “It’s multidisciplinary.”

Telematic comes alive!

Telematic concerts are much more than students sitting in front of laptops for an hour. Video screens display imagery, the online collaborators and dancers contribute, and moody lighting adds to the atmosphere. The music itself is presented with expert live sound. After all, the Music and Arts Technology program pumps out dozens of sound engineers and studio producers every year.

Save the date

Students work on pieces for months before they are debuted live. The works are usually several minutes long, allowing for live musicians and online artists to add their own flourishes.

“I came here specifically to learn these tools and to incorporate technology into my skill set,” said Paugh, who studied classical music and vocal performance at the University of Nebraska before coming to IUPUI. “This is more collaborative in nature. Everyone contributes their piece. There’s a give-and-take.”

While putting on a good show is important, making sure these students get jobs is crucial. Like his students’ varied backgrounds, Deal said, the degree in music and arts technology can start an array of different career paths. Most students go into the recording industry, including sales and performance. Some have tried their skills at electronic instrument design. Other students have gotten positions with lucrative companies, both music related and not. 

“We had a student get a job at Spotify in San Francisco doing their programming,” Deal said. “One student got a job at Boeing doing audio things. He said his job is classified and he couldn’t tell me what exactly he was doing, but it does have to do with audio.”

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