Friday, March 29, 2013

coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe - Troy Herion: New York City Symphony Trailer

Check out the trailer for Troy Herion's newest visual composition, New York: A City Symphony, premiering next Friday at Carnegie Hall as part of the coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe project.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

coLABoratory: Lab 5 - Ray Lustig: Before the Lab

Ray Lustig

The latest of the workshops for Latency Canons was the first time I brought musical material that I knew would actually be going into the piece.  For the previous two workshops, I'd come with only fragments of music for testing out the dynamics of playing with delay under various scenarios (a conductor in New York conducting players in England, vice versa, no one conducting and the players just following each other by sound, or by sight only, etc. etc.).  And I actually ended up using none of that early fragmentary material in the final score.

But those early workshops were essential in helping me to figure out what kinds of material would work well, for showing me what scenarios of the imitative setup were likely to yield interesting results (or even be practically possible), and helping me get to the heart of what it was I wanted to do with this idea.

Gildas Quartet
Latency Canons is in some ways a concerto for string quartet, but the onstage string quartet is replicated in three other places (the furthest of which is the Gildas Quartet in Manchester England) that will all be in communication via GoogleHangouts.  The latency (delay) of the internet connection will hopefully allow the remote quartets to create a halo of resonance and reverberation around the onstage players' music.  This unstable and multipart echo made me think of a ritualistic recitation, as congregants chanting in a strange cathedral that wraps around the world all the way to Manchester England.

Dan Lame
The piece opens with only the onstage quartet playing.  Then the offstage quartets join in imitation.  The orchestra joins with its own imitations, and the piece becomes a conversation between the orchestra and the "canonists" of the four quartets.  Eventually conductor George Manahan passes the baton to conductor Dane Lam on the other side of the Atlantic.
The piece ends with the onstage players gradually dropping away, until only the offstage players are left playing.  The music that started on Zankel Hall's stage has drifted out into the world.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

coLABoratory: Lab 4 - Judith Sainte Croix: After the Lab

Judith Sainte Croix
At the 4th workshop of Vision V the entire Sonora Trio was present, Oren Fader on electric guitar, Andrew Bolotowsky on Native American Flute and composer Judith Sainte Croix on 88-key synthesizer.

The orchestra played with live synthesizer realizing the soundscapes we have been creating over the workshops.

Judith Sainte Croix
One of the experiments for this workshop was to try out the audience participation aspect of the piece. A group of students from Frank Sinatra High School in Queens was present and helped out with this. One of the issues being tested was the ease of teaching this part to the audience before a performance. I taught them their part in under 2 min. The conductor rehearsed them for less then a minute and they performed with the orchestra following their cues.

We tried running the digital images on the three large sections of the piece and decided to create more images - 10 in all - one for each of the subsections:

I.  Toward Liberation - Reaching, Extreme Mystery, Essence, Soarings;

II.  SunShadow - Wind Opens the Trees, Thunderbirds, Portal of Roots & Joy  

III.  Inner Space - Lucid, Breezes, Diamonds in the Grass

Each of the subsections will divulge the experience of the contemporary individual; seeking to capture an animating life force. The orchestral music forms alliances within and across instrumental family groups articulating the behavior of the fabric of humanity as the composition unrolls its aural story. 

coLABoratory: Lab 3 - Judith Sainte Croix: After the Lab

George Manahan & Judith Sainte Croix
At the second reading of Vision V we added the electric guitar, played by Oren Fader. In the sonic drama of the piece this sound represents a contemporary “everyperson” ranging from mild distortion in the lead guitar effect, moments of shimmering introspection in the planger effect and insight expressed by harmonics with echo, delay and reverb.

Andrew Bolotowsky  played the Native American Abenaki flute, the sound of which suggests something in the inner life. 

Andrew Bolotowsky
The orchestra worked with synthesizer sounds and poetic images of light creating sonic images which will be integrated into the score for the next reading. 

We tried running our first set of digital images as the orchestra read through the piece. We are developing digital images for each of the sections. 

I. Toward Liberation 
II. SunShadow -. Inner Space

Friday, March 8, 2013

coLABoratory: Lab 2 - Dan Visconti Explains His Inspiration

ACO’s “Playing it Unsafe” initiative is just what’s most needed at a time when everything about America’s major orchestral organizations—from programming to performance practice—seems increasingly routine compared to the range of musical and visual possibilities available to composers working today.

Lowcountry from Simon Tarr on Vimeo.

This current project, Glitchscape, is a collaboration with experimental film artist Simon Tarr (check out his website Quark Nova Films here). Simon has previously produced a fantastic film to accompany my composition Low Country Haze, which premiered in Spring 2012 at South Carolina’s Indie Grits Film Festival—so it’s great to take our collaboration one step further by creating a piece that features live video that pulses and syncs to the music via audio input algorithms. 

George Manahan & Dan Visconti
In Glitchscape, we’re looking to contrast our previous exploration of the natural world by incorporating technology into the project—specifically, a bunch of offbeat noisemakers and electronic toys that have been circuit-bent in order to make all kinds glitched sounds. The theme of glitching as distortion within a system is one that I’m eager to explore, and it’s cool to be playing with (and often abusing past the point of sanity!) several toys from the early 1980s such as the Speak & Spell unit.

Technology has come so far that old technology must be one of the most dated things imaginable—a casualty of the speed at which we move today, something that has been replaced by something newer and shinier and more efficient. This project will be an exploration of the expressive power of obsolescence, and how old and broken things have a way of touching us by virtue of their imperfections.

ACO & George Manahan
This process of exploration is a time-consuming and labored one, and it’s easy to see why most major orchestras might shy away from the rehearsal commitment in exploring such strange and uncharted territory. That’s why Simon and I are so psyched to have this tremendous opportunity to try out our work at several stages of completion. For the workshop on December 11th, we’ll be syncing a mockup video to some sample music for the strings in order to determine which electronics setups are possible—a prerequisite to developing the larger composition and an exciting point for beginning our explorations.

coLABoratory: Lab 1 - Ray Lustig: After the Lab

Raymond Lustig & George Manahan
It's pretty amazing that one can actually just get together with an important orchestral ensemble and play around with ideas like teenagers in a garage band.  Crazy fun, and an amazing learning experience.

Here's some of what we learned:
Well, we knew this already, but technology continues to be the dog in musical performance, even though we're trying to use something no more complicated than Google Hangouts, something designed to be the most reliable, user-friendly software.  We had trouble linking up with our Manchester partner Dane Lam until the very end.  But at least when we did, it was really informative.

We learned that the transatlantic link to Manchester seems to a good deal slower, stickier, uglier, which is great!  This is what we're looking for, the problems, the limitations of the technology.

Raymond Lustig & Derek Bermel
Most of my test canons yesterday were swirly in continuous note values throughout, but Derek Bermel encouraged me to do more with canons of greater textural variety within, periodic aural landmarks that the listener hears go by at different times in each voice, and that can create their own polyphonic independence of voices.

I'll probably include some sweet diatonic (scaler) canons in the set, but diatonicism under aleatoric circumstance just becomes pan-diatonicism (all the notes of the scale), whether the delay is 1 beat or 10 beats.  Pretty, but the degree of delay doesn't really make much difference to the sound.  More interesting for me are canons in which the degree of delay changes the music by degrees, so most of my canons to date cycle through the keys via the circle of fifths.  Thus when delays are short, the music sounds diatonic and consonant, but as delays get longer, the sound gets crunchier and spacier as the voices get into more and more distant key relationships.  I like this because it makes the degree of delay matter a lot in the musical result, rather than delay being merely this random offset of music that would sound more or less the same with a long or a short delay.  That said however, sonic variety between the various canons might suggest having some diatonic canons interspersed in the complete set.

George Manahan conducts remotely
Much of what we learned was about the setup possibilities of who is where, who is playing what, and who is following which conductor.  Morton Subotnick suggested two interesting possibilities: Crossing conductors (having onstage players follow a remote conductor, and remote players follow George Manahan onstage at Zankel Hall), and choose-a-conductor (individual players choose which of the conductors to follow, which actually helps because some of the players, like the harpist, have trouble seeing the screen from the stage, and could therefore just follow their local conductor).  But in the end we agreed a variety of conformations, specified in advance in the score, will probably be best.

Plus a lot of other things.  But that's all for now.