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“Cinema for the ear”

Artist and composer Michael Rhoades showcases the traditional at not-so-traditional

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


The state-of-the-art Performance Theater at Sweetwater has served as a showcase for a lot of ground-breaking technology.

So if we were to tell you that on October 14 that that same facility will host an art show featuring a number of huge oil-paintings, you’d think that either (a) sounds a little staid for Sweetwater; or (b) there’s something about this “art show” that you’re not telling me.

The latter answer is the correct one.

It’s actually an art show/concert, and the artist is Michael Rhoades, a systems administrator at Sweetwater. In addition to being an accomplished painter of what he calls “abstract landscapes” (more on that in a minute), Rhoades is also a composer of… well, computer-generated music is probably the short definition of what Rhoades does.

“It’s algorithmically generated music, often based upon complex mathematical formulas, generative algorithms such as cellular automatons, and cosmological phenomena,” Rhoades kindly explains. “I use a computer programming language intended for music composition called Csound, and sort of ‘guide’ the computer as it creates the music, and then I edit it later.”

Since Rhoades starts the composition from a numerical perspective, he creates something entirely new instead of being limited to, say, the 88 notes on a piano.

It’s pretty heady stuff; Rhoades, who is a member of SEAMUS and one of the organizers of the SEAMUS conference at Sweetwater in 2009, described the music as akin to soundtrack music when we interviewed him about SEAMUS back in FWR #123.

Rhoades’ art show at Sweetwater will finish with a concert accompanied by computer-generated videos on the theater’s amazing video screen. For the concert the theater will be re-wired with an 8.1 surround system furnished by the Bose corporation.

“The way I like to think of it is like the cinema,” says Rhoades. “Cinema is sort of like live theater that’s just too complicated to be performed in real time, so it has to be recorded, and in a cinema, you get the ‘bigger-than-life’ experience. It’s similar to this music. It’s too complex to be performed in real time, but in a venue like this, with the visuals and the 8.1 sound and the audience, you get than ‘larger-than-life’ experience.”

As for his oil paintings, Rhoades calls them “abstract landscapes,” and fully acknowledges that it sounds like a contradiction in terms. “But that’s what I’m trying to do,” he says. “Some of them, it’s very easy to see what they are. But others… you need to step back, step away from them before they become clear.”

Rhoades doesn’t see anything particularly strange about the more traditional oil paintings and the far from traditional music sharing the same show, or coming from the same artist. “They really all come from the same state of mind, but they’re just really different forms bringing it out,” he says. “I think it’s kind of a progression, too. I think people are a lot more receptive to abstract visual art than they are sound, so the paintings are sort of everyone shifting their state of mind and preparing for the concert.”

Starscapes & Landscapes
A free multi-media event by Michael Rhoades
Thursday, October 14
Opens at 6 PM. Concert begins at 8 PM
Sweetwater Performance Theater
5501 US Highway 30 W
Fort Wayne, IN

For more information on Michael Rhoades, visit perceptionfactory.com

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