Faculty Profiles

Robert Rowe

Associate Professor, Music Technology

"Music is and will always remain a fundamentally human endeavor,but technology has frequently had the power to significantly change and shape how we experience music, and I believe the process of trying to help a computer become musical enables us to better understand the true essence of the art form."

Composer Robert Rowe is a pioneer in the development of 'interactive music systems,' which are computer software programs that enable a machine to think more like a musician. Willy, Rowe's 'smart,' interactive virtual saxophone player, made his debut in November 2001 during an evening at Lincoln Center of classic silent films and new animated films made by NYU Tisch School of the Arts students.

Rowe has written a primer on creating interactive music and multimedia, Machine Musicianship (MIT Press, 2000), which describes the creative process and technical implications for composers of working with new technologies.

'When scoring a piece to be played together by a live musician and a computer,' Rowe says, 'I have to imagine a kind of conversation rather than a script. Instead of specific sounds, phrases and rhythms, I think of the broad range of ways in which the machine can react. The process is very rooted in traditional music theory and knowledge of technique, and yet very liberating creatively.'

Rowe oversees two concerts of interactive music on the NYU campus each year featuring about a dozen student composers and performers.

'More and more young musicians are attracted to this field,' Rowe says. ' I enjoy helping them find new voices through the use of technology.'

A recent student project involved programming a computer to respond to rhythmic gestures in dance so that a live dancer and a machine could perform an interactive duet.

'Music is and will always remain a fundamentally human endeavor,' Rowe says, 'but technology has frequently had the power to significantly change and shape how we experience music, and I believe the process of trying to help a computer become musical enables us to better understand the true essence of the art form.'

Robert Rowe's complete faculty bio.