MaxMaxwell Tfirn is a second year Ph.D. student studying Music Composition and Computer Technology at the University of Virginia. He received a Bachelors of Music degree in Music Education and a Percussion Performance Certificate from the University of Florida where he studied with Dr. Kenneth Broadway and Dr. James Paul Sain. Maxwell also received a Master of Arts in Music Composition from Wesleyan University and studied with Dr. Paula Matthusen, Anthony Braxton and Ronald Kuivila.

The focus of his masters thesis titled “The Musical Mapping of L-systems” was focused on the mapping of L-systems into musical parameters.An L-system is a type of fractal or algorithm that has a set of rules. The rules are applied recursively to create images that look like plants.  The output of applying the rules creates patterns that can then be mapped to different musical parameters. In the thesis, multiple techniques and approach to algorithmic mapping are demonstrated such as using the sequence of characters produced by the L-system to create form. He also created a visual approach that involved dividing the L-systems image into sections and interpolating the sections into a number based notation to control a midi controller. A midi controller is a musical device that sends messages to a computer to control different musical parameters.  In the case of the thesis, a midi controller with 9 volume controls and 36 parameter controls was used to manipulate the music in real time. This can be thought of as playing the computer as an instrument.
TreeMaxwell is now a second year Ph.D. student in Music Composition and Computer Technology at the University of Virginia. He is currently focusing on interesting ways of interpolating matrices with audio signals and manipulating them to produce various effects in the sounds spectrum. A major focus of this research is to realize the advantages and disadvantages of storing information in matrices opposed to buffers for real-time sound manipulation. Music buffers are tables that store the signal of the sound. A buffer has 2 dimensions as shown below.  The X dimension is time while the Y is amplitude. The Y is a number between -1 and 1. These numbers can be thought of as how much to move the speaker in and out with 0 telling the speaker not to move. This can be contrasted with a matrix that is a series of numbers in the X and Y dimensions that do not directly translate into speaker movement. The table of numbers (matrix) can store more data than a buffer (or less) and can be more easily manipulated. The computer then takes the information stored to create a sound. If the sound is from a recorded source a matrix that does not adequately store the data can warp the sound in different ways. This can be compared to the process of bit crushing, under sampling, distortion or aliasing. If the signal is computer generated, different effects can occur ranging from pitch transposition, the creation of artifacts in the sound, but can also store enough data to accurately time-stretch or vocode a sound. Maxwell is also composing for acoustic instruments and focusing on extended techniques or how the contrast between extremely fast and extremely slow passages can affect the temporality of the moment in which they are played. Extended techniques can be described as unorthodox sounds and techniques that can be played on instruments.  He also is experimenting with analog circuit building and hopes to be able to incorporate these devices into different compositions.


Maxwell has had work selected for the SEAMUS, Electro Acoustic Barn Dance, FEAST Festival, Technosonics XIII, South Central Graduate Music Consortium, 12 Nights series, Contemplum, Subtropics Music festival and he was a featured composer for Share. Press about Maxwell’s master recital can also be found here.

Recordings of Maxwell’s compositions can be found at

You can visit his websites at or


Project 1: 32o(F+F) F[+F][-F]F[-F[-F][+F]F]

Data from L-systems are:

  • interpolated into computer code (computer programming)
  • mapped into music
  • refined into a composition

Project 2: Traversing Eternity

Star maps are:

  • spatially notated on a music staff
  • visible magnitude translated to volume

Future Project

RGB video of fluorescent nanoparticles

  • sonification into sound
  • analyze data to see if sound can be used to identify patterns

Music Composition is

  • science > data mapping > music parameter control
  • math functions > derived sound
  • medicine > test data > music parameter control
  • cultural studies > musical aesthetics, styles
  • computer science > sound synthesis
  • language > phonemes (choral composition)

Music is the combination of sound and silence. Any information/data can be represented by sound.