Patrick Flanagan serves as the token human in the cyborg percussion ensemble Jazari, which fuses African rhythms, algorithmic composition, computer music, and electro-mechanics into beat-driven steamfunk. Jazari has been lauded on tech blogs as “fully rockin’” (Boing Boing) and “utterly brilliant” (Create Digital Music) and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Before he began soldering circuits together, Patrick studied composition at Columbia University and the University of Minnesota.
More about Patrick from the article on Minnesota Culture Club:
“By the end of his undergrad career at Columbia Universtiy, Patrick became interested in algorithmic composition, which uses systems of rules to generate reams of notes. That interest developed further in Germany, where he began making electronic music and researching ways to model music on sound itself.
Patrick returned from Germany in 2003 with a desire to apply his ideas about spectral harmony, the mathematics of funk, and algorithmic methods to composition. Over the course of the next several years, he realized those ideas in pieces for ensembles as varied as duos of electric pianos, string quartets, and purely electronic improvisations. While earning a Master’s degree in composition from the University of Minnesota, Patrick began experimenting with using machine learning to create virtual musical agents, experiments that ultimately led to the formation of Jazari. In 2008, he left his PhD program and academia in order to give himself total artistic freedom.
According to Patrick, three hundred years ago, the mathematician Gottfried Leibniz wrote, “Music is the arithmetic of a mind unconscious that it is calculating.” He points out that the neurons in the frontal cortex that solve equations sit only a few centimeters away from the neurons that control pleasure and pain, but supposedly these groups of brain cells don’t talk to each other. Recent research suggests that Leibniz was right, though probably not in the way he thought. Computational musicology has shown that the funkiest rhythms—the Bossa Nova pattern, the Cuban Son Clave, Hip Hop kick drum lines—exhibit unusual mathematical properties that give them their pulsing, self-renewing vitality. Sadly, this research has mostly collected digital dust in online publications. Patrick Flanagan’s Jazari project aims to rectify this situation by using the insights of music theory and music cognition to drive his band of instrument-playing machines.”