RPI is not exactly a humanities school; our emphasis is certainly on the STEM fields. More than half of our student body is in engineering, and the majority of the remaining half is made up of students in the fields of biology, physics, math, or computer science. However, many may not know that we actually have fantastic—once-in-a-lifetime—music and arts opportunities on campus all the time.
Just a few weeks ago, Brooklyn-based artist Oneohtrix Point Never played at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. He is a universally acclaimed artist, and his 2010 album Returnal was number 20 on Pitchfork Media’s top 50 albums of that year. At the concert, his music was played over visuals provided by Nate Boyce, making a unique hour-and-a-half long audiovisual experience. This performance is just one of the many such opportunities offered to us at RPI.
Another great event that EMPAC hosted only a week ago was a talk from Laurie Anderson about the steps she takes in making and preserving her art. Anderson is at the forefront of experimental music and is most famous for half-sung electronic piece “O Superman,” as well as her intricate custom instruments, like a violin that uses a bow with recorded magnetic cassette tape rather than horse hair. She is also deeply involved in many forms of music. She has collaborated with her husband Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, as well as Philip Glass, Beck, and many other incredible artists. Anderson was a member of the team that created the opening ceremony for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and was NASA’s first artist-in-residence. She is now an artist-in-residence at RPI and will be holding a screening of some of her films.
Helping Laurie Anderson with the screening will be professor Pauline Oliveros, a staff member at RPI. Oliveros is one of the pioneers of modern electronic music, working since before the birth of the synthesizer. She also teaches classes on her concept of deep listening, exploring one’s selective hearing through the use of physical activity or meditation and focusing on the sounds of nature or of inner thoughts.
These are all enlightening experiences students can have at RPI, yet only a small fraction actually become involved in them, perhaps put off by the obscurity of some of the artists or the unorthodox nature of some of their pieces. EMPAC is there to give us a chance to encounter some of the more esoteric forms of art—all we have to do is take a little interest, and we urge you to so.