Monday, July 28, 2008

Music Monday: A Tribute to Harris Wulfson

A friend of mine's brother passed away last week, so this week's Music Monday is a tribute.

I never met Harris Wulfson, but I heard about him from his sister and have been looking around for information. Harris was a musician and composer. You can check out some of his music at his website [] and learn more about him at his Wikipedia page or at this person's blog post.

In addition to composing and performing music, Harris was also a software engineer. One really cool thing he did was coming up with the The Hidden Chair. At Jazz Central Station (a really good music BBS I used to visit), there was a drawing of a chair that was part of the graphic in the left nav without any indication that it was a link of any sort. It totally just blended into a larger graphic. Clicking this chair took you to a hidden discussion board that became an integral part of the core of the community. As somebody on a bulletin board said upon learning of Harris' passing:
I was thinking about The Chair yesterday, I really was. That was a cool concept that was pulled off so successfully. Harris didn't tell anyone about it, he just let users find it and have fun. Well it was a gift he gave us.
Anyway, here are some other gifts Harris gave us--his music. These are pieces he composed, so they really give you an idea of his innovation.

Az Meshiach Vet Kumen

hifuleanictins (an improvisation)

Finally, we have LiveScore. Harris didn't really compose this. He invented the system by which a computer turns data created by audience members turning knobs into sheet music that is sight-read and performed by classical musicians live. Harris described the piece:
... an interactive network piece with live generated music notation for sight reading musicians. The music is generated algorithmically, and sculpted in real time by participants in the gallery using a MIDI knob box.

Harris was a polymath who saw and made really cool connections between forms of music, between music and technology, and even between people. I'm sure that life wasn't always easy for him, but he was really a special person.

My deepest sympathies go out to his friends and family. We are all poorer for his passing.

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