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Abstracts and Bios

Listening Sessions

Strike!

BY STEPHEN KILPATRICK

Although the title of this piece has an obvious connection to one of the sound sources used, a striking match, it also implies one of the more desperate forms of industrial action.

This piece was composed very recently in a period of global economic instability where redundancy and unemployment were rising and various UK unions were discussing a return to strike action. In both the lighting of the match and the undertaking of industrial action, the strike can be an explosive catalyst for change and a painful process of transformation.

In Strike!, my aim was to explore change and transformation through the creation of a number of opposing sound worlds and landscapes, some of which are intended to evoke the natural and industrial worlds. Other sections are intended to be more abstract and are concerned with creating microtonal harmonic textures. Always, however, at the works core is the explosive power of the striking match and the potentially painful, yet transformative, nature of the flame.

Santa Barbara Soundscape

BY SALMAN BAKHT

Santa Barbara Soundscape is a piece in two movements. The first movement, Santa Barbara Etude, is a soundscape composition based on field recordings of a nature walk near Santa Barbara, California. At first, the listener is presented with a seemingly accurate representation of the sonic environment: the sound of waves mixes with cars driving by and planes flying over head; the constant song of birds is paired with the occasional conversation of those passing by. But upon closer listening, one may realize that many of the birdsongs heard are in fact transformed samples of human speech. Likewise, the realistic soundscape presentation is intertwined with musical intention: birds repeat rhythmically while a clarinet duo plays nearly imperceptibly.

The second movement of the piece, rough4radio3, is based on an analysis of the soundscape presented in Santa Barbara Etude. The sound sources in this environment are defined in terms of sonic qualities. For example, ocean waves have a consistent envelope shape but varying amplitudes and timing. This movement is for an 8-channel speaker ring with each channel corresponding to a sound source. However, each source is represented not by environmental recordings, but by stochastic triggering of samples of radio noise with parameters based on the original source’s sonic qualities. Combined, these streams present a fabricated noise soundscape that continues for the length of the piece. At some point within this duration, a live performance occurs. This live performance may be spoken word, instrumental performance, or even another tape piece. The only constraint on this performance is that it is masked by the noise source, so that the listener must strain to listen. This movement presents a dichotomy between signal and noise (or object and environment) while the entire piece forms a relationship between environmental soundscapes and the soundscape of radio as a medium.

Slumber (2006)

BY JOHN GIBSON

Slumber was commissioned by the Third Practice Festival for a DVD of multichannel pieces that engage the music of the past in some way. In Slumber I looked to music from Schumann’s Kinderszennen, Kind in Einschlummern. I asked pianist Mary Rose Jordan to record this piece. Then I subjected parts of the recording to my own software, which stratifies the spectrum of a brief sound and creates many shimmering, out-of-sync repetitive patterns. Slumber begins noisily but eventually settles into a quotation from the end of the Schumann. The listener slowly senses the presence of the piano — first only as a subtle timbral reference, then as explicit piano notes reconstructed from the recording, and finally as the unprocessed Schumann phrase.

Almost all of the sounds in the piece come from the piano recording. The synthesizer solo in the middle section was performed by me, using a glove controller. Thanks to Mary Rose Jordan for playing the piano, and to Neil Cain for engineering the piano recording.

The surround sound version of Slumber is available on [re], a DVD on Everglade Records (EVG06-01). A stereo version is included in the CD, Music from SEAMUS, volume 18.

For Tape (2008)

BY ADAM SCOTT NEAL

Since the first medium for composing electronic works was magnetic tape, many concert programs describe a piece as written “for tape,” much like a piece might be written “for piano.” This tradition persists today, despite the fact that most pieces are no longer presented from tape, but rather from digital media (e.g. hard disk). This is a companion piece to laptop quartet, (Not) For Tape. In that piece, four players follow an indeterminate score and manipulate sounds of adhesive tape. This version puts the same sound processes into a predetermined form. As an homage to early works “for tape,” I relied on sound manipulations used since the birth of musique concrete, namely speed manipulation, filtering, reverberation, and ring modulation. Initial improvisatory materials were created in MaxMSP, while final edits and mixing were completed in ProTools.

In Equilibrio

BY ARNE EIGENFELDT

In Equilibrio (Italian: "In Balance") is a realtime composition created by Kinetic Engine, a multiagent software designed by the composer. Responding to performance control over density, the first set of six agents interact to create an evolutionary rhythmic structure, communicating amongst themselves and altering their patterns in an effort to balance their own goals with those of the other agents. Rhythmic events are passed to a second set of six agents, which assign specific pitches: these decisions are mediated by their own desire to explore their environments (which are under performance control), while balancing the ensemble goal of harmonic stability.