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SDSC Brings Renowned Ying String Quartet Together with Aspiring Composers

High Speed Internet2 Network Enables Live Virtual Coast-to-Coast Interactive Workshop

Published 11/12/2002

On September 16, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) hosted a "virtual performance and conversation" with the acclaimed Ying Quartet and aspiring composers as part of a unique music outreach competition organized by the La Jolla Music Society (LJMS). A collaboration between the LJMS and the California Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center enabled the Ying Quartet, from a music room thousands of miles away in New York at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, to play for and interact live with novice composers from the San Diego area who had gathered in SDSC's auditorium on the campus of UC San Diego in La Jolla, California.

"We at SDSC were excited to support this innovative music education outreach event," said Sean Peisert, a computer security researcher at SDSC who helped organize the event. "As both a computer researcher and a musician, being able to use technology to make possible new forms of musical education and expression is very gratifying to me personally, and reflects SDSC's broader mission to benefit society through advanced technology."

Also present with the Ying Quartet in New York was groundbreaking composer and professor at MIT's Media Lab, Tod Machover. Machover's group at MIT developed HyperScore, the innovative graphical music composition software used by the contestants, which enables even novice composers to easily create musical scores. The contest has helped more people see how easy it is to get started composing, commented Machover, and this encourages aspiring composers to take that first step and express themselves musically.

The event was part of the LJMS San Diego HyperScore composition contest, a music outreach effort that will culminate in a live performance by the Ying Quartet of four winning submissions. To be held October 9 in Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla, the "Musical Dim Sum" concert will include short compositions by the contestants as well as other composers commissioned by the Ying Quartet, and it will be followed by a reception at which real dim sum is served. For more information, call (858) 459-3728, or visit

The contest began in July, when the LJMS, internationally known for its innovative music education, performance, and outreach activity, La Jolla SummerFest, invited the San Diego community to compose and submit miniature string quartets created using the HyperScore composition software. To participate, aspiring composers downloaded HyperScore from the MIT Media Lab Web site, were able to receive guidance from experienced mentors if needed, and submitted their contest pieces via e-mail or the LJMS website by the close of the contest on September 20.

"This event at SDSC has been a great opportunity for aspiring composers, novice and professional alike, to learn what makes a great string composition," said Mary Lou Aleskie, president and CEO of La Jolla Music Society. "We were fortunate to have the Ying Quartet explain the anatomy of a string quartet and offer tips on how to compose one. And we also got to hear the premiere of Tod Machover's own HyperScore composition, Winding Line."

HyperScore gives users, both with and without musical training, the opportunity to create musical compositions simply by drawing lines of various colors and shapes across a computer screen. By adjusting the shape, length, color, and position of the lines, users are able to readily produce melodies, choose harmonies, control tempo and more, according to their imagination.

The critically acclaimed Ying Quartet, winner of the 1993 Naumburg Chamber Music Award, is on the faculty of the Eastman Music School in Rochester, New York. The Ying has established an international reputation for excellence while maintaining the mission, through outreach activities such as this composition contest, to make artistic and creative expression an essential part of everyday life. -Paul Tooby.