Artist Spotlight - Mike Roberts, The Guildhall, London
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is internationally renowned for its teaching and research. Mike Roberts, Head of Electronic Music & Music Technology, runs the principal study course for musicians specialising purely in electronic music. The Eigenharp has been designed to facilitate live electronic performance – something that fits in perfectly with his area of expertise. We decided to pick Mike's brains.
“Instantly I could see the potential of the Eigenharp ...There's nothing quite like it that you can compare it to historically”
Mike originally trained as a composer, something he has continued to do in tandem with his post at the university. Realising that there was an increasing use of technology to make music, his work became progressively steeped in electric influences. As an academic, Mike is particularly interested in the advent of electronic music in the 19th century. The first 40 years of electronic music was performance based before it became a studio based discipline. This trend has turned on its head in the last ten years and electronic musicians are starting to take their music out of the studio again in to a live arena – something Mike describes as “really exciting”.
Mike believes the urge to communicate, to express something from within is built in to musicians.
“The Eigenharp has come about at an interesting time in history. There's an explosion of studio musicians taking their music out on stage via a laptop or other computers.”
Mike describes the Eigenharp as a “unique interface between electronic sound and performance”. The Eigenharp is unique – it spans the gap between the studio and stage like never before. Mike suggests the Eigenharp has a place in education on a number of levels - there is huge scope for younger children to bring their music tech and recorder skills together. At the other end of the spectrum, he would like to have one of his own students studying the Eigenharp at degree level.
“Our students are very interested in anything that will allow them to take their studio development out on to the stage. There is a lot of open interest from other more traditional musicians to perform with electronic musicians.”
The most rewarding thing for Mike about working at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama is seeing how his students develop. He provides them with a space to pursue their own creative impulses, supported with rigorous assessment and coursework. Seeing how they come in and subsequently, where they end up going is a real testament to the conservatoire. The framework, within which they pursue their passion is conducive to success. To date, 100% of Mikes students have gone on to work in electronic music after they graduate.
So, what excites someone like Mike about the Eigenharp? Its “immense creative potential”. He thinks it opens a door traditional instruments can't -they have sonic limitations. “Being so open, so limitless, any definition you create starts to build limitations … The Eigenharp has the potential of being the most expressive musical instrument full stop.”