Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Player Piano Study No.8 ("Ignoratio Elenchi")

I awoke this morning before first light, having been dreaming some of these patterns: this is the eighth of my essays in virtual piano performance, part played, part programmed. 

Edited as score, graphs and 'piano roll': 
the music is an approximate recall of the repetitive arpeggiated cycles of my dream, in bright yellows, oranges and greens.

During rhythmic periods of equal length, speeds of harmonic change overlap between the two parts. 
Cycles are established then eroded or asynchronously phased before rejoining and again diverging incrementally in pitch, by octatonic degrees.

These are the ways that continual falling and swooping motions described themselves in the dream, suddenly broken with a different thought. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fluid Narratives of Virtual Music

When I started building an engine (3DBARE) to allow the listener to walk inside a piece of music, I thought it was a tool to help me carry on doing what I was doing – just a better way of listening.
Listeners at geo-located music with noTours for Android
But allowing a listener to determine the temporal content of music by their position and route through space means that all or many of the former controls held by the composer / performer / producer are removed.
The listener is in charge: they are attracted or repelled by sounds and their combinations, and they negotiate a path ‘blindly’, feeling without signposting for a way through the experience.
If the ‘work’ presented tells a story or – now more likely – allows a series of associations between the materials experienced and personal memory, visceral responses to these, thereby giving the listener the tools to construct their own narrative, how can we determine the outcome, some aspects of the whole?
Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori
The narrative of a ‘classical work’ is necessarily abandoned. Its message resides as firmly in form as in tonal colour and harmonic content.
The formula – of embarking on a sometimes choppy but ultimately protected journey before returning to the comfortable shores of the original key (and ‘tune’) – has, for all but a few music-makers, become necessarily historical.
The scope which we now enjoy for example of the exploration of textures was simply impossible in the pre-electronic age.

Digital transformation of the familiar and unfamiliar into and through each other lets us explore weird new identities.
The skewed reality of dreams becomes communicable, merging and overlaying in impossible but plausible juxtapositions allows music to reflect the complexities of our sensory and cognitive experience.
Music is not something we present people, like a cake or a pair of shoes.
Music is the ordering into communicative structures of sound.
You cannot touch, see or smell sound.
You cannot write anything about it that approaches the reality of hearing those sounds.
So why have we spent a couple of centuries telling ourselves that the musical composition was an object like a cake, like shoes, like a painting?
I refer you to the million-word discussions of others on this thorny matter.
Morton Feldman
My business is struggling to make the er, not-stuff, that music is.
So if we want a narrative in our music, let’s put one there.
I witness stories on the top deck of London buses, as I drive through landscape, sit in a city square.
Amalgamations of snapshots, overheard snippets, accents, phrases, references, calling up an un-knowable back story from every voice, each noise that flashes past and evaporates.
Composers cannot hope to control the tale they tell: there is no more agreement about the import of a Mozart string quartet than those of Morton Feldman.
We do though, have access to an unprecedented level of complexity in the material we present to our audience and the combinations in which these may, endlessly, be sensed.
The big issue for me has been how to deliver all this magical, vertiginous potential: no one can play it, read it, hum it.
Sounds that cannot be reproduced.
Combinations that cannot be heard if sounding all at once.
Varese composing Poeme Electronique
Here’s what we do: let the listener combine the materials as they proceed, like Amelie collecting photo booth snaps, or Cage with his same-different-same seas of traffic.
Why don’t we present the listener with a shoebox full of letters (maybe some distractions thrown in, certain pages strategically removed) – and ask them to tell us the life story of the unknown protagonist?
Then we can proceed beyond the need for a narrative altogether: removing the imposition of structure, particularly the temporal, is not an act of abandonment, of irresponsibility – it is the most generous gift you can make to an audience.
To present them with a collection of the most closely, finely wrought pieces of work possible, in placements and combinations that have been tested, over and again, until the swirling whole, this whirlpool of memory and desire, amusement, terror, revulsion, meditative curiosity, rage, sleepy contentment, laughter become not a fixed structure but like the inner and outer worlds flapping like Einstein’s dimensions against each other as we walk between them.

Painting landscape with sound
It is the fluidity of virtual narratives that can bring the virtual to life.

Annotating Landscape with Audio: 6 December, Soton.ac.uk

You are invited to join us this Friday 6th December for a practical training session on geo-located soundscapes tool noTours.  
Please email lw4 [at] soton [dot] ac [dot] uk to book a free place.
Lunch will be provided and parking is available on site.

Introductory seminar on
notours software for Android
presented by Benjamin Mawson

6 December 2013, 10 am – 4 pm
Avenue Campus (Building 65, Room 2149)
University of Southampton

Outline of Day – approximate timings:
A mix of short introductory talks and hands-on development.

10.00 Welcome and Introduction:
- Concepts and background to situated soundscapes
- Technical and editorial issues
- The editor interface
- New software developments
- Starting to work with the editor Interface

11.00 Break

11.15 First practical session:
- getting used to the interface
- creating project zones and editing sound behaviours

12.15 Site visit and discussion
- assessing the situational setting for your soundwalk
- topography, function and routes
- ambient noises & acoustic responses

12.30 Lunch

13.00 Second practical session:
- building your first geo-located soundscape
- GPS and open spaces
- managing files and folders
14.00 Field test 1 (Test your design in situ using gps-enabled Android):
- what was most and least effective
- feedback and discussion

14.30 Break
14.45 Third practical session and field test 2:
- Editing and developing your soundscape

15.45 Summary

16.00 Close