Phoenix and Firewhip

Seth Shafer, University of Nebraska, Omaha

South of the equatorial plane, near the great Cleft scarring the continent called Aquila (named after its eagle-shaped form), lies an unusual biome that has evolved to generate and survive great discharges of energy and fire. The forest is dominated by tesla trees, which under certain meteorological conditions, violently release explosions and lighting bolts of static electricity that ignite massive wildfires across the Pinion Plateau. Only the hardiest lifeforms like phoenix shrub, firewhip, amber lambent, glowbirds, and multihued gossamers are witnesses to the volatile conditions of these flame forests.

The materials used in this piece are inspired by Dan Simmons’s novel Hyperion and were produced using ambisonic and binaural techniques.


Seth Shafer is a composer and researcher whose work lies at the intersection of technology, new media, and art/science, with a specific focus on real-time notation, interactive music, and algorithmic art. Seth’s compositions have been performed internationally and across the USA. Recent performances include the 2018 International Computer Music Conference (Daegu, South Korea), 2018 Sound and Music Computing Conference (Limassol, Cyprus), 2017 Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation (A Coruña, Spain), the 2016 Sound and Music Computing Conference (Hamburg, GE), 2015 Shanghai Conservatory Electronic Music Week (China), the 2014 International Computer Music Conference (Athens, GR), and the 2013 Festival dei Due Mondi Spoleto (Italy). In addition, his piece Pulsar [Variant II] for trumpet and computer was a finalist for The Engine Room’s International Sound Art Exhibition 2015 (London, UK). His sound installations have been shown at Kaneko (Omaha), the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas), Long Beach Museum of Art’s Pacific Standard Time Exhibit, and the Long Beach Soundwalk.    Seth is Assistant Professor of Music Technology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He holds degrees from the University of North Texas and California State University, Long Beach.    As a performer, Seth played tuba in the Golden State Pops Orchestra, co-founded and co-directed the Cole Conservatory Laptop Ensemble, and performed in various new music ensembles. He has also played in several popular bands including a performance on the Grammy-winning Vampire Weekend album Modern Vampires of the City.