ARTS 6900: Arts Graduate Colloquium

Arts Department, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Wednesday, 11:30-2:20pm, HYBRID (Online/WH 113)

Instructor: Rob Hamilton, West Hall 114

Office Hours: TBD

e: hamilr4 [at] rpi [dot] edu




Patience, creativity and grit.


This is a graduate seminar focusing on issues facing interdisciplinary arts practices and practitioners both within and without academia. Discussions focus on individual practices by students and invited guests. There will be cake*.


You must attend class to succeed in this course.

  1. Since much of the class is focused on listening to and discussing work in class, attendance is mandatory.
  2. ** More then two unexcused absences will affect your grade, detracting 1/2 grade each additional 2 unexcused absences. **
  3. Absences can only be excused by a letter from a medical doctor or from the Dean of Students' office.
  4. Late arrivals are very disruptive - continued late arrival will affect your grade.
  5. It should go without saying but no use of mobile devices or personal computers during class time (except for as required by the coursework itself) is acceptable. Continued violations will be treated as an unexcused absence.


This course is offered as a hybrid in-person + remote/distanced course due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will make liberal and regular use of email, Discord and WebEx to keep in touch, as well as prerecorded/asynchronous and live video streams to deliver course lecture and lab content. Ideally we do better than Pepsi Due to the distributed nature of this semester "attendance" is not necessarily required, however for live lecture broadcasts it is expected that students attend and participate as appropriate. Students who anticipate a conflict with a given class lecture should contact the professor prior to the class to receive authorization.


Collaboration between students in this course is strongly encouraged. Likewise, students are encouraged—indeed, to some extent required—to exchange ideas, opinions and information . You are also encouraged to help each other in the lab and with performance, production, and presentation of composition projects.

Plagiarism of any kind is in direct violation of University policy on Academic Dishonesty asdefined in the Rensselaer Handbook, and penalties for plagiarism can be severe. In this class you will be expected to attribute due credit to the originator of any ideas, words, sounds, or music which you incorporate substantially into your own work. This applies particularly to citation of sources for sonic "samples" included in your compositions.

Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy may result in a grade of F for the assignment in question. Violation of this policy will be reported, as defined in the Rensselaer Handbook


Students requiring assistance are encouraged to contact Disability Services: to discuss any special accommodations or needs for this course.

Week 1:
Wednesday, 9/2


Hello World 0.1:
Introductory presentations by members of the Colloquium:

Week 2:
Wednesday, 9/9

Writing about and presenting Arts Practice(s)
Week 3:
Wednesday, 9/16


Guest Presenter: Jeremy Stewart
Media Artist and Researcher
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Electronic Arts Ph.D. Candidate


Jeremy Stewart is a multimedia artist and performer researching the affective potential of distributed media systems through the creation of improvisational performances, artificial intelligence (A.I.) software, and wearable hardware. His work investigates the ways that technology can affect, interact with, and alter an individual’s agency, perception, and autonomy.

Stewart is currently developing a framework for (re)thinking the artistic process/practice through the language and concepts of A.I. while exploring the creative potential of A.I. agents as performers and collaborators. CIBO, a musical live coding agent, has performed with Stewart at New York Live Arts (NYLA) Live Ideas 2019 /A.I.: Are you Brave Enough for the Brave New World?; the International Conference on Live Coding (ICLC) Madrid, 2019; and at venues around New England. SCP-079, a real-time, interactive, generative video A.I. agent, has performed as part of the Liveware project with Shawn Lawson and Michael Century in Brooklyn, NY, and at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University.

Stewart is a funded researcher developing new A.I./M.L. software for real-time musical applications. This work seeks to provide new understandings of musical form and structure through the implementation of probabilistic and neural network based architectures in the field of musical performance.

Since 2017, Stewart has been technical director on a number of projects created by the Boston-based Masary Studios, including Sound Sculpture, HDBPM, and Figuration, which have been seen at events and venues in New England and across the country including the Peabody Essex Museum, ICA/Boston, Canal Convergence (Scottsdale, AZ.), and MUTEK San Francisco.

Stewart is currently a PhD candidate in the Electronic Arts program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY

Week 4:
Wednesday, 9/23

Week 5:
Wednesday, 9/30


Guest Presenter: Barbara Nerness
Artist, Researcher and Composer
Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA)

I am many things, but foremost an artist, researcher, and composer. Currently I’m working toward a PhD at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University. I have a Masters in Music, Science, and Technology from Stanford and a BA in Mathematics from UC Berkeley. In 2019, the Stanford Department of Music awarded me the Carolyn Applebaum Memorial Prize for “helping to engender a robust and engaged arts community,” as I love to curate inclusive shows in unlikely spaces. Recent performances and exhibitions have taken place at BAM in NY, ZKM in Karlsruhe, and C4NM in San Francisco, among many others. Lastly, I have spoken about my work and research to everyone from high school students to the elderly, as I enjoy speaking both within and outside academia.
Week 6:
Wednesday, 10/7

Week 7:
Wednesday, 10/14


Guest Presenter: Kathleen McDermott
Industry Assistant Professor, NYU Tandon
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Ph.D.

Kathleen McDermott is an interdisciplinary artist and designer with a background in installation, prop-making and sculpture, currently based in Brooklyn, NY. She combines her knowledge of fabrication with open source hardware to build a language of absurdity that merges new media, design, performance, and video. She is interested in technologies that are not productive, robots badly suited to absurd purposes and electronic creations beyond her control. She received her BFA from Cornell University and her MFA in Creative Media from City University of Hong Kong. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an Industry Assistant Professor at NYU Tandon. Her work has been featured in a range of major publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Fast Company, and Dezeen, and has been exhibited internationally. In addition to her artistic practice, she is an advocate for accessible technology education, actively seeking opportunities to give workshops, and sharing tutorials for working with DIY electronics online at . Follow me on instagram @kit_the_robot for more images of works in process.
Week 8:
Wednesday, 10/21

Week 9:
Wednesday, 10/28


Guest Presenter: Niloufar Nourbakhsh
Stony Brook University, Dept. of Music, Ph.D. Candidate

Described as “stark” by WNPR, and “darkly lyrical” by the New York Times, winner of 2nd Hildegard competition, and recipient of 2019 Female Discovery Grant from Opera America, Iranian composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh’s music has been commissioned and performed by Nashville Symphony Orchestra, I-Park Foundation, National Sawdust Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, Symphony Number One, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, PUBLIQuartet, Forward Music Project, Calidore String Quartet, Cassatt String Quartet, Akropolis Reed Quintet, and Ensemble Connect at numerous festivals and venues including Carnegie Hall, Washington Kennedy Center, Mostly Mozart Festival, Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music, and many more. A founding member and co-director of Iranian Female Composers Association, Nilou is a strong advocate of music education. In 2014, she worked as the site coordinator of Brooklyn Middle School Jazz Academy sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. She is currently a Teaching Artist Associate for composition students of NY Philharmonic Young Composers program and teaches piano at Brooklyn Music School.

Nilou is a music graduate and a Global Citizen Scholarship recipient of Goucher College as well as a Mahoney and Caplan Scholar from University of Oxford. Among her teachers are Lisa Weiss, Laura Kaminsky, Daniel Weymouth, Matthew Barnson, Margaret Schedel and Daria Semegen. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in music composition under the supervision of Sheila Silver at Stony Brook University.
Week 10:
Wednesday, 11/4

Week 11:
Wednesday, 11/11


Guest Presenter: John Sullivan
Music Technology Researcher
McGill University, Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory (IDMIL), Ph. D. Candidate

John Sullivan is a music technology researcher at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory (IDMIL) and course instructor at McGill University. His research involves the design and evaluation of new digital instruments and interfaces for music expression, human computer interaction, haptics, and movement analysis. Artistically, John comes from a background in music performance and multimedia design. His creative works have included several albums of recorded music, international touring with various bands, and exhibitions of audiovisual installations. Currently he is working on his Ph.D. on the topic of musical interface design and conducting research on design methodologies and evaluation of new instruments for popular music performance.

Sullivan holds a BFA in Contemporary Music Performance and Composition from the College of Santa Fe (United States), 2003, and an MFA in Intermedia from the University of Maine (United States), 2015.
Week 12:
Wednesday, 11/18

Week 13:
Wednesday, 11/25

Week 14:
Wednesday, 12/2

Week 15:
Wednesday, 12/9

Week 16:
Monday, 12/14

* the cake is a lie