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Program Notes

WARNING: at this time (sept. 2010) the Program Notes page remains woefully out-of-date and incomplete.

Program Notes:

Seven Words, Seven Worlds

Seven Words, Seven Worlds is a piece for 12 singers that was premiered by OSSIA New Music on Oct. 25th 2008. The following are the program notes from the premier.

“The germ of this piece, the all-influencing cell from which the piece was birthed, is the ‘sameness’ of dissimilar things. Traditional ideas of unity and harmony are largely abandoned in favor of a piece-view that sees unity and harmony in the sameness of everything, no matter how disparate. This means that there are, amongst the musical organs of this work, those that are traditionally constructed using, for example, the idea of canon, and those that are generated by far less conventional methods. These sections, however, are not viewed as contrasting or conflicting, nor are they viewed as superior or inferior. The sameness value-system that informs this work stipulates that from note-to-note and section-to-section, sounds are simply sounds and pieces are pieces, and everything that exists is a measure of itself and nothing more.”

“I must rely on the acceptance of a zen precept of immediacy if I am to make any further attempt to define this ‘sameness’ beyond the above. The precept is something like ‘That which is true and immediate is true, and that which is true, but is labored over is likely to lose its perceived trueness.’ As concerns this piece, trueness simply defines the honest creation of a self-reliant and self-fulfilling bit of music. While I cannot say that I did not labor over parts of this work, I can honestly attest to my willingness to get out of my own creative way. The individual sections of the piece were all composed from beginning to end individually before contemplating the next, and only after all were composed were they placed together in as honest a sound-universe as I could conjure up for them. Practically, this honesty is embodied in the transitionless nature of the whole.”

“The piece is, at the end, a putting-together of seven sections of music with five ‘interludes.’ The material for the larger sections was composed with no thought for what came before or after. They are self-contained musical worlds that exist and operate under their own, unique set of conditions. They share one common element; each is motivated by only one condition or state. As a mundane example, a section’s MO could be “gravity”, where all of the notes could only go down from where they started. On a more interesting and larger scale, this idea could be expanded to control sound objects in a 3D virtual space where gravity would mean that the pull of one musical idea affects that of another in a rule-based sound environment like planets circling a sun. A ‘state’ that is employed in one of the sections of the work is controlled chaos.”

“The Interludes were constructed differently. The basic pitch material for the interludes was generated by an algorithm I wrote in a computer synthesis language called SuperCollider. This algorithm, when supplied with the appropriate information (number of voices, number of notes desired) spits out a string of pitch class numbers. I then took these numbers and employed them in different ways to achieve different musical textures and styles from interlude to interlude.”

“Some of the musical material, the constructive ideas and realization thereof, are very simple. Some are very complex. I hope that in experiencing this work, the listener will gain some insight into the ideas of sameness as described above. More than this, I hope the listener will enjoy the piece from moment to moment.”

VT 1

VT 1 is one of a set of pieces currently in progress under the working title of Variations. Each piece in this set uses as its ‘theme’ a single sound source, most typically brief samples of either instruments or voices. For VT 1, a 7” audio clip of a man’s voice was used as the base material. All of the sounds in the piece are derived from this one sample. Many processes were used to create the resulting work, including phase vocoder analysis and resynthesis, spectral analysis and extraction, and time and frequency manipulation.
The compositional structure of VT 1 may be thought of as akin to a double canon in arch form. Different, yet similar versions of the primary ‘theme’ (a regular, percussive and occasionally noisy version of the source sound) are layered in semi-regular time intervals while the second ‘theme’, a less rhythmic and more melodic version of the source sound is added at specific moments throughout the first half of the work. The piece builds in density of texture and content until, at roughly the mid point, a brief fusion of the two ideas occurs, after which the second theme material maintains prominence while the first theme material dies away. The second theme sounds end the work in a similar manner to the way in which it began.
The programs used to create this work were SuperCollider, SoundHack, Fscape, and Logic 8.

QU 1

QU 1 is one of a set of pieces currently in progress under the working title ofVariations.  Each piece in this set uses as its ‘theme’ a single sound source, most typically brief samples of either instruments or voices.

The sound source for QU 1 is a 9 second, three-note sample of a quena.  The piece itself is not subtle.  The several versions of the source sound that are used are presented plainly.  Panning, spatialization, and other typical devices employed in “tape” pieces are either not used or are used sparingly.  The recording is highly compressed as most pop/dance tracks are mastered.  The only program used to produce this piece was Audacity along with a vast collection of AU and VST plug-ins.

Measuring Time and Place

All elements of Measuring Time and Place — pitch, rhythm (time), and spatialization—are connected.  The work is, literally, the measurement of a virtual space in time. These measurements result in a series of numbers that correspond to specific points in the performance venue.  The circumference of the space measures 14 by 19 seconds square.  Within these measurements of the space are areas of importance. They are important because they move from the virtual space to places of consequence in the real performance space. Examples of these places are where the performer begins the piece and where the speakers are positioned. The measurement of these places is made in the time it takes to traverse the distance from one to another.  For example, midway through the stage, where the player begins the piece, is 0, and it takes 7 seconds (steps) to either side to reach the end of the stage.  11 steps from 0, and he is at one of the front speakers. It takes 26 steps to reach either of the rear speakers in the hall, etc. These numbers, 7, 11, 14, and 26, join other numbers of importance, such as the time it takes to circumnavigate the entire space, to inform the large-scale structure and organization of musical events, as well as to inform local-level events such as the placement of accents or the number of repetitions of a note. In addition, the pitch material is related to these numbers. Numbered on the quena from bottom to top, the pitches were chosen according to their relation to each other in reference to the important numbers.

An additional element of Measuring Time and Place is the interaction of the parts, that of the live performer and that which is prerecorded.  The prerecorded material may be thought of as four distinct additional players, each constrained to perform in the virtual environment that mirrors the real-world environment of the live performer. Each of these parts interacts with the special areas of its shared virtual space, with each other, and with the performer. As the performer moves through the real environment, the performance space, he traverses a real space that is simultaneously being traversed by the other parts in the parallel virtual space. The interaction of the performer with the prerecorded material may be thought of as the simultaneous measurement of past and real-time musical events. Conceptually, the prerecorded elements occupy multiple places in time. They were real-time when they were created, but were also created with the future in mind. Although they are technically of a past time, they are experienced in real-time during the performance of the piece, “interacting” and combining with the material of the live performer.

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Handmade instruments by Scott Petersen and Brian Kane at Artspace New Haven

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