An Artistic Free-For-All

Even John Supko doesn't know what his compositions will sound like

You never know what you're going to hear when listening to a composition by Duke music professor John Supko. Neither does he.

In 2012, Supko headlined a Swiss music festival with "Usine," (Factory) a commissioned piece that played without pause for 20 hours in 90-second cycles. The work included fragments of music by Ravel and Mozart, noise samples, and excerpts of interviews with Surrealist authors Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault. 

Although Supko writes music with conventional tunes and chords, he also uses a computer program to recombine shards of those tunes and generate an almost infinite, scattershot collection of variations.

Add to that the sounds he gathers from the natural world and urban environments, and the result is an artistic free-for-all -- from moody and atmospheric to a mechanical cacophony of clicks, beeps and whirs.

"Well that was pretty weird," Supko said at a recent demonstration of one recombined piece. The audience laughed appreciatively.

In the above video, Supko talks about his art and gives a demonstration of a project he's worked on with Bill Seaman, a Duke professor of visual and media studies. "We'll see what happens," Supko says before the computer works its magic. "I have no idea."