Electric ensemble ‘starting from zero’

The Boyer Electro acoustic Ensemble Project formed three years ago.

Dr. Adam Vidiksis created BEEP in 2013. Now, the group is an ensemble in Boyer. | ERIN BLEWETT TTN

Three years ago, Dr. Adam Vidiksis saw there wasn’t enough electronic music present in the curriculum at Boyer College of Music and Dance.

In 2013, Vidiksis, a Boyer professor with a Ph.D. in composition from Temple, saw an opportunity to change that. He created a group called the Boyer Electroacoustic Ensemble Project (BEEP), intended to educate students about the production of electronic music.

“I’m a percussionist, and I’ve been working in electronic music for years. There were a bunch of students who were like, ‘Oh I saw you do this, it’s really cool, how do you do that? I’m working on this, can you help me?’” Vidiksis said.“I just realized that there was a lot of interest.”

BEEP started out as a class before becoming a performance group at Boyer about a year ago. BEEP can be taken repeatedly by Boyer students as an ensemble credit class.

Arnab Nandi, a junior media studies and production major, has been involved with BEEP since its formation six semesters ago.

“I was in Dr. Vidiksis’ music theory class, and about three weeks in he addressed the class and said, ‘Hey, I’m starting an ensemble for electronic music,’” Nandi said.

“I was one of four people back when it started, and we were doing shows in classrooms for like five people,” Nandi added. “Every semester since then, it’s gotten bigger.”

The group prides itself on its acceptance of anyone with interest, said Matt Day, an undeclared freshman in the College of Liberal Arts. There are no requirements for enrollment or any prior experience with electronic music required.

“I remember the first time I came here everyone was really welcoming,” Day said. “It was just really cool, and we jumped into everything right away. It opened a lot of doors for me.”

Carlos Johns-Davila (left), and Skyler Hagner are members of BEEP. | ERIN BLEWETT TTN
Carlos Johns-Davila (left), and Skyler Hagner are members of BEEP. | ERIN BLEWETT TTN

Vidiksis said the group works to maintain an environment where anyone can come in and participate “starting from zero.”

“I’m always amazed at how quickly people become extremely proficient,” he added.

“What’s awesome about BEEP is that there’s a huge learning curve with technology, but because of the environment here  it’s not as daunting and scary to learn,” said Alyssa Milman, a junior music theory major.

BEEP has played shows in Philadelphia, as well as in Georgia, Maryland and recently one at the New York Electronic Arts Festival.

“Last semester we did a show at the Painted Bride, and one of the things we did was we all played kind of characters,” Milman said. “The first piece started out in the lobby while people waited to go in. We all had our phones, and we were all walking around pretending to text while we were actually playing music on synths on the phones.”

Vidiksis said the group often utilized skills outside of those typically used by musicians for their performances. Currently, the group is learning computer programming, and each of the members can code “a little bit, at least,” he said.

“It’s definitely a different type of performance practice, what skills you need to work in electronic music as opposed to something like violin is very different, but they’re both equally rigorous,” Vidiksis said.

Sam Tarasenko, a junior music theory and history major said he and other members are always thinking about “what’s the craziest thing” that they can do “with sound and art.”

“We are really pushing the boundaries and seeing how far we can go,” Tarasenko said. “It’s really easy to put different kinds of art in a box, but it’s way more fun to cross that line.”

Tarasenko said BEEP looks to question standards set in the music community that are commonly accepted as normal.

“That’s why I think we are special to Temple,” he said. “We are really experimenting and we don’t know what we are going to be in five years or 10 years. We are always questioning that and pushing.”

Erin Blewett can be reached at erin.clare.blewett@temple.edu.

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