Residency B: Tempo Polyphony

The research project Polytempo studies music with complex temporal structures, especially pieces with parallel and independent tempo layers. It combines technological and creative work to aim for three goals: developing software tools, establishing a corpus of polytemporal music, and documenting these works and their musicological and aesthetic implications.

This project’s primary tool to communicate the tempo to the musicians is the application PolytempoNetwork that indicates the beat as a visual animation. By connecting several instances of this application in a local network, one can keep the musicians synchronised even in complex tempo relations that could not be realised through conventional musical communication and interaction.

The application PolytempoNetwork can work in two modes. Either it reads a file in which the exact timing of each beat is precisely described, or it is partially or fully controlled by messages it receives over the network. Accordingly, the tempo structure of the music can either be predetermined or generated in real-time. Whereas a predetermined tempo structure corresponds to a more traditional notion of a musical work, a real-time generated tempo structure opens up a wide range of new possibilities. Tempo as a variable parameter allows for music with open form, tempo-based interaction, improvisation, audience participation, the inclusion of extra-musical data, etc.

For more information, visit:

Construction of a variable tempo (Diagram by Philippe Kocher, ICST 2019)

Composers applying for this residency should be interested in composing a piece for ensemble Soyuz21, and using the Polytempo software tools and exploring their possibilities. The composition may include the following instruments: saxophone, guitar (electric/acoustic), keyboard/synthesizer (no acoustic piano), and electronics.

Candidates will submit a conceptual idea or a composition sketch. A selective portfolio will reflect the candidate’s profound interest in tempo, rhythm and music technology, readily apparent in his or her artistic work.
For this year’s residency, we specifically encourage concepts that envisage the parameter tempo to be variable, generated in real-time, or part of an improvisational setting.

Since the residency entails several trips to Zurich, the application is limited to candidates who will be arriving from within Europe.

Rehearsal with the software tool PolytempoNetwork (Picture by Philippe Kocher, ICST 2019)

Course of the residency
The residency comprises a preparatory online kick-off meeting and three stays of one to two days each at ICST, during which workshop-type rehearsals with the musicians of the ensemble will take place. A detailed description can be downloaded here.
In addition to travel and living expenses (see Conditions/Selection process), residents of the Tempo Polyphony Residence will receive a composition fee of CHF 2,000.

The work’s first performance will be given by the participating ensemble within an independently programed and organized concert at the ZHdK on November 4, 2022.