Interview with WL Altman in Attic Transmissions

Attic Transmissions interviews WL Altman - Spotlight on Jennifer Castle.

Attic Transmissions interviews WL Altman – Spotlight on Jennifer Castle.

W.L. Altman is a composer and laptop performer based in Sackville, NB. His written works are performed and commissioned by musicians across North America, and confound conventional models of notated music by sharing real-time creative processes with the performers through improvisation and reactive listening.

WL came into our studio for an interview and performance. Check for a video of the performance.

Attic Transmissions: Welcome WL, what’s new?
WL Altman: I’m doing a group show with NAISA (New Adventures in Sound Art, Toronto) – a group of keyboardist asked me to write a piece for them, so I’m writing a piece for toy piano and live video. The video tracks their movements and the effects on the toy piano. There’s a live projected image of the toy piano overhead, so you can see a Schroder-type person hovering over the piano and the other two people will put their hands in the frame of the picture and their hands movements will affect the sounds of the toy piano. Hopefully in a very evocative, connected way.

AT: Is that a collaboration?
It’s a technology I’ve been working on in a couple of my pieces for a while – various kinds of sensors that make a video out of space – where you can stand in the video proejction and you’re painting with sound – my attempt anyway.
AT: How did you get involved with this tecnology?
WL: There’s a Institute in Germany that’s developing human interfaces for comupters and particularly of music. There’s an artist, Michel Waisvisz (, who wanted to be able to move his hands arond and make sounds by doing it, so he created these really complex sensors he called “The Hand” – they’re volicity, tilt, pressure sensitive…all these things he’d want to do with his hands and he’d just have a microphone and go “whhhittchchch!” and then “pssht!” and then huge universes of sound would come out while he’s moving his hands. Actually, I don’t have a huge knowledge of computers, I just use them to make things I like to make.
It’s been successful in a sense – like a piece I made where you walk into the space and when you move you hear sound relating to your movements, and then that attracts you to start moving more. And people just loved it, it was like a game.

WL’s piece will be performed August 8th at the Wychwood Barns (Toronto) as part of Sound Travels, series organized by NAISA (New Adventrues in Sound Art). He’ll also be performing a live laptop set on August 9th.

For video of the full interview and a recorded studio performance check out Tune into the Attic Transmissions radio show every weekday at 2pm for more interviews and new music!