EAR Duo with EMMI EAR Duo with EMMI




New Music

EAR Duo with EMMI

  • $25 Assigned Rows 1-2
  • $15 Assigned Rows 3-5
  • $10 General Admission
  • $5 Student
  • Michael Straus, saxophones
  • Dana Jessen, bassoon
  • Peter V. Swendsen, composer
  • Troy Rogers, EMMI

Event Details

Praised by The Boston Music Intelligencer for performing “with conviction and authenticity,” the EAR Duo in collaboration with EMMI (Expressive Machines Musical Instruments) and composer Peter V. Swendsen present an evening of music fusing saxophones and bassoon with musical robots, live electronics, and film. 

EAR Duo + MARIE @ Logos Foundation from Michael Straus on Vimeo.

EAR Duo + Peter V. Swendsen @ MIT from Michael Straus on Vimeo.

In Matthew Burtner's Coral Attractions the EAR Duo plays in liquid harmony, performing on an array of coral percussion alongside their own acoustic instruments. The duo will then join forces with MARIE, a new modular robotic ensemble, in a set of works that fuse human and machine power. Peter V. Swendsen's Northern Circles finds the duo exploring extended musical textures meant to evoke the summer solstice in northern Norway's Lofoten Islands. The evening winds down with Terry Riley's epic 1960s composition Dorian Reeds, accompanied by the magical film Looking for Mushrooms by West Coast experimentalist Bruce Conner.

Founded in 2005 by saxophonist Michael Straus and bassoonist Dana Jessen, the EAR (Electro Acoustic Reed) Duo is dedicated to the performance of new, improvised and experimental electroacoustic music. Praised by the Boston Music Intelligencer for performing "with conviction and authenticity," the duo can regularly be seen performing a variety of works ranging from new commissions to original arrangements of works by Terry Riley, Steve Reich and James Tenney.

Highlights from the EAR Duo's recent seasons include appearances at the University of Virginia's CCT Forum on Electroacoustic Improvisation, Belgium's Logos Foundation Tetrahedron Series, Chicago's Heaven Gallery of Art, U.K's Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Dartmouth College's Vaughan Recital Series, Amsterdam's Karnatic Lab and Washington D.C.'s Artomatic Festival. They have presented lectures on a variety of topics ranging from contemporary performance techniques to working with video and electronics in performance for students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Franklin Pierce College. For their recent European debut, the duo teamed up with visual artist Sarah Buckius, turntablist DJ Dubble8 and guitarist Vitor Rua for an evening-length collaborative concert at the Musicbox Nightclub in Lisbon, Portugal.

Coming off of a highly successful 2010 Kickstarter campaign, the EAR Duo recently raised money for MARIE (Monochord-Aerophone Robotic Instrument Ensemble), a series of interactive wind and string robots from the Charlottesville-based EMMI (Expressive Machines Musical Instruments). Featured in online press from Wired, Create Digital Music and several other publications, their campaign was Kickstarter's featured project of the day for New Year's Eve 2010. The EAR Duo recently unveiled these new musical robots alongside a set of new works from EMMI in March 2011 during a multi-day residency at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other events during this tour with MARIE included a residency at Amsterdam's STEIM, a return performance at the Logos Foundation in Ghent, Belgium and an evening-length multimedia performance collaboration with the Dutch flutist/composer Anne La Berge.

The members of the EAR Duo hold graduate degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, Peabody Conservatory of Music and were both recipients of Fulbright Fellowships to Amsterdam where they studied contemporary, electronic and improvised music.



Expressive Machines (EMMI) is a band of sonic thrill seekers: composers who have turned to the creation of novel robotic musical instruments to achieve their musical vision. Founded in Charlottesville by Troy Rogers, Scott Barton, and Steven Kemper in 2007, the group and their mechanical string, wind, and percussion instruments have turned heads and opened ears at festivals and venues throughout North America and Europe. Exploring the expanded palette of sounds offered by these new devices, the group provides audiences with a sonic and visual experience unlike any other.


This performance is made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Special thanks for additional support from 


Narayana's Cows (1989/2012) by Tom Johnson

for bassoon, alto saxophone, MARIE and narrator


Selections from EMMI (Expresive Machines Musical Instruments) including In Illo Tempore (2011) by Steve Kemper, Push for Position (2011) by Scott Barton, Improvisation for EAR Duo & MARIE (2011) by Troy Rogers

for saxophones, bassoon and MARIE


This person would be an animal (2011) by Dana Jessen

for interactive computer keyboard


Northern Circles (2011) by Peter V. Swendsen

for bassoon, alto saxophone, live electronics and film


Dorian Reeds (1964/2011) by Terry Riley

for bassoon, soprano saxophone, tape delay system, MARIE and film


* Setlist Subject to Change

Michael Straus

Saxophonist, composer, and improviser Michael Strauss has firmly established himself as an important new voice for experimental music through his ongoing collaborations with visual artists, composers, robots, turntablists, conductors, dancers and instrumentalists around the world. He is founder of the multimedia performance project What are you looking at?, the eco-performance project 70.8% and regularly performs with the chamber ensembles Moonrise Hernandez, quux, M2Duo, Portals of Distortion and EAR Duo. Michael has been featured artist at music festivals internationally with recent performances at New York City's The Stone, Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 8 Days in June Festival, Lisbon's Musicbox Nightclub, Minneapolis' Spark Festival of Electronic Music & Art, Berlin's Universität der Künste, Italy's Festival Internazionale del Sassofono, Oslo's New Interfaces for Music Expression Conference, Belgium's Logos Foundation, Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Ireland's Sonic Arts Research Center, Paris' Eglise Saint-Merri and Amsterdam's World Minimal Music Festival.

As an educator, Michael has presented guest lectures for students at Yale's Music & Technology Lab, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, STEIM, Brandeis University and the University of Miami among others. His recordings as a performer, composer and improviser can be heard on Innova, Everglade, EcoSono, SEAMUS, New Tertian and The Walter's Art Museum record labels. He is the recipient of a 2010 American-Scandinavian Foundation Creative Arts Grant (Oslo) and 2008–2009 J. William Fulbright Fellowship (Amsterdam) alongside two Peabody Career Development Grants, an American Composers Forum Encore Grant and Meet the Composer Creative Connections Grant. Michael is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Experimental Music & Digital Media from Louisiana State University and holds M.M. degrees in saxophone performance and computer music from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University.

Dana Jessen

Bassoonist Dana Jessen (b. 1983) is a versatile musician with a concentration in contemporary and improvised music. Focused on expanding the role of the bassoon outside traditional settings, Dana has collaborated with composers, improvisers, visual artists, poets, filmmakers and chamber musicians around the world. Her strong ambitions to explore jazz and creative improvisation have led to performances with the Bik Bent Braam Ensemble, guitarist Joe Morris, reed players Michael Moore and Frank Gratkowski, and the Braam/de Joode/Vatcher Trio. She has performed at concert venues and music festivals throughout the United States and Europe including New York City’s The Stone, Berlin's Universität der Künste, Boston's Jordan Hall, Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, Amsterdam's World Minimal Music Festival, and the U.K.'s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Dana's ongoing exploration and experimentation of new sound possibilities developed into a deep interest in composition. She has written acoustic and electroacoustic music, with a common element of improvisation. Her recent compositions, Storm Scenes for two soprano saxophones and sound samples and In Flux for bassoon, soprano saxophone and sound samples, include an electronic component that she created by recording her own sounds and layering them into an atmospheric backdrop. Playing the role of composer-performer, Dana continues to explore new performance techniques as a bassoonist while creating adventurous new ways to communicate with audiences through composition.

Troy Rogers


Troy Rogers is a composer/sound artist/instrument designer whose primary research interest lies in the realm of musical robotics.  He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia, completing a degree in Composition and Computer Technologies.  Troy designed and built his first music robot, a collection of tuned drums and bells called PercusBot, for his master's thesis at the University of Oregon.  At the University of Virginia, he teamed up with fellow doctoral composition students Steven Kemper and Scott Barton to form Expressive Machines Musical Instruments (EMMI), a group dedicated to the creation and musical exploration of custom designed robotic instruments.  


As a 2009-10 Fulbright Research Fellow, Troy spent a year at the Logos Foundation in Ghent, Belgium where he apprenticed with founder Godfried-Willem Raes, creator of the world's largest robot orchestra--the M&M (Man & Machine) Ensemble. While at Logos, Troy composed for the ensemble, designed new robotic instruments of his own, and aided Raes in both the development of new music robots and the maintenance of existing instruments.


Aside from music for robots and robots for music, Troy's output also includes music for soloists, chamber ensembles, orchestra, dance, theater, and digital media. He has spent time as a composer/researcher at Simon Fraser University's Sonic Research Studio exploring acoustic ecology and soundscape composition, and at the University of Oregon's Cognitive Modeling and Eye Tracking Laboratory creating audio/visual art controlled by eye movements.  More recently he has worked with architects Jason Johnson and Nataly Gattegno of Future Cities Lab on projects exploring the intersection of kinetic, interactive architecture and musical robotics.

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