Curtis Bahn

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Based in upstate New York, Curtis Bahn is a computer music artist, instrument designer, and bassist. He is mostly known inside computer music circles. He has devised computer interfaces for electric instruments,…
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Based in upstate New York, Curtis Bahn is a computer music artist, instrument designer, and bassist. He is mostly known inside computer music circles. He has devised computer interfaces for electric instruments, notably the sensor-bass or SBass, an electric upright bass equipped with touch and movement sensors that transmit data through a MIDI interface to a computer running sound manipulation software like Max/MSP. He has also co-developed the use of spherical speakers and speaker arrays in performances of live electronic music. His first solo CD came out on EMF in 2000 and he is a member of Interface.

Bahn is a trained jazz bassist. He has studied with Stuart Sankey, Edgar Meyer, Murray Grodner, Barry Greene, and Marc Johnson during the 1970s. In 1979, he won the Mingus Award from the International Society of Bassists. He has worked with Rashied Ali and saxophonist Bill Evans, among others, but his career did not break outside a certain local status and his interest in standard jazz performance declined in the 1980s. So he turned to the computer, with the help of Paul Lansky, who was one of his primary teachers during his PhD studies in music composition at Princeton University. From 1986 to 1993, Bahn worked as Technical Director of the Center for Computer Music of the City University of New York. He later taught at Columbia University, NYU, Princeton, and CUNY, before getting a tenure as an assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At the iEAR studios there, he finished developing his main project: the SBass. It allows him to take his electro-acoustic music out of the studio and into live improvisational context. R!g, released in 2000 by the Electronic Music Foundation's label EMF, features a series of SBass improvisations. Stephan Moore and Scott Smallwood, also attached to the iEAR studios, have released a remix album titled ReBahn on the latter's CDr label Wavelet. Bahn also recorded a trio session with Smallwood and shakuhachi player Joel Taylor for the same label.

With violinist Dan Trueman (playing the modified RBow) and didgeridoo player Perry Cook (on DigitalDoo) he created the sensor/speaker array system SenSAs. Trueman and Bahn also performed as the duo Interface beginning in the late '90s; their first album came out in 2001 on Cycling '74. Interface devised the performance piece "Pikapika" for dancer Tomie Hahn, whose costume includes an array of movement sensors and speakers.