Interact (2013) and React (2014) are flexible, indeterminate works for flute, violin, and computer. Both works include complete scores, but instruct performers to be creative with many compositional aspects such as dynamics, rhythms, pitches, and pacing. In Interact, a computer performer exclusively uses live processing of the instrumentalists’ microphone feeds as his acoustic material for interacting with the performers in real time. In React, a computer performer is replaced by a computer program made up of algorithms containing tightly controlled ranges of randomness. By storing the instrumentalists’ microphone feeds in buffers, the computer program is able to process live material for both instantaneous and delayed transmission using various audio processing techniques.
Luminosity for flute (doubling alto flute) and electro-acoustic accompaniment (2002), was commissioned by flutist Jocelyn (Winkler) Goransen. The piece makes use of the stereo field produced by electronics to increase the apparent acoustical space of the flute - a process that has interested me since my earliest compositions for solo instrument with electronic accompaniment. Luminosity makes extensive use of digitally processed flute samples as well as purely synthesized sounds to aurally “illuminate” the harmonic sound space.
Vox Clamantis, for flute, violin, and computer (2014), was commissioned by the Francesca Arnone-Mikylah McTeer duo, reACT. It is an interactive work in which the computer captures and processes the sounds of the instruments, and uses those sounds as raw material to generate an electronic accompaniment in real time. The title comes from the Latin phrase, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, which is often translated as "a voice crying in the wilderness." It has several meanings in this piece, but the most obvious one has to do with the nature of the musical interplay between the flute, violin, and computer. The opening dyads in the violin can be thought of as "cries," which are immediately echoed, enhanced, and diffused by the computer, but seemingly ignored by the flute. Eventually, the flute does answer, and in the ensuing music, they become partners. At various times in the course of the piece, the roles change. Sometimes the flute calls and the violin responds; sometimes the computer reacts to the instruments and sometimes the instruments participate in something the computer has initiated. In the end, they all work together.
Partita, Perihelion for violin and interactive sound (2012)
Partita, Perihelion is dedicated to Max Matthews, the “father of computer music” and a devoted violinist. Partita Perihelion was inspired by Bach’s solo string works with their implied polyphony; the electronics change implied polyphony into multiple heard lines. A perihelion is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet where it is nearest to the sun. As comets come closer to the sun, near the region of space occupied by Mars, space becomes warm enough for them to evaporate, creating a coma and tail. The work is like a Bach Partita which has come too close to the sun and developed a tail of notes which hang in the air. Special thanks to Tom Erbe for developing the recursive sound stretcher used in the Max/MSP patch, and Iryna Krechkovsky who commissioned the work.
Category 5 (Echoes) (2011) was commissioned by flutist Francesca Arnone and violinist Mikylah McTeer. The electroacoustic accompaniment is based mainly on the flute and violin samples that I gathered in recording sessions with each of the two performers. The samples have been extensively processed on computer to augment both the timbral and harmonic resources employed in the instrumental parts. Interval class 5 (P4th/P5th) is used extensively in the processing of the samples through transposition, harmonization, and filtering, and is also prominent in much of the thematic/harmonic material used in the piece. The electro-acoustic accompaniment also incorporates fragments (echoes) from the electronics tracks of five previous compositions for instruments with electroacoustic accompaniment.
Lizamander for flute and computer (2003) was written for Elizabeth McNutt. It is the second in a series of works for solo instruments and Max/MSP, the first of which was called Gerrymander, written for the clarinetist, F. Gerard Errante. The focus of both of these works is on interactivity and live audio processing. The computer captures material played by the solo instrument during the performance and uses that material (as well as some pre-recorded sounds) to generate a syncopated rhythmic accompaniment, while adding various effects to the sound of the flute. Since the computer is constantly "listening" to the flute, the tempo is somewhat flexible, which allows the performer considerable interpretive freedom.
QfwfQ, (a voice, a point of view for two alto instruments) (2015) note by Katherine Kaiser
QfwfQ takes its name from the inter-dimensional narrator of many of Italo Calvino’s short stories including Cosmicomics (1963-4), which describe the beginnings of the world using both scientific hypotheses and comic language. Like the unknowable, unpronounceable QfwfQ, who has experienced all of time and space, this piece explores multiplicities of being, paradoxes, and contrasts. The piece is scored for two alto instruments, or any treble instrument capable of reaching down to the G below middle C. The players read from a two-line score and can choose to switch parts at bar lines that demarcate sections of varying length. The two lines have contrasting characters and are each treated to different electronic manipulations that create multiple voices. The bottom line is lyrical, almost Romantic in character, and its electronics create a Bulgarian chorusing effect through time, pitch and timbre shifting. This chorusing effect can accrue up to 96 voices and is reset when performers switch parts. The top line has an angular, disjunct, and modern character and also includes occasional percussive sounds. The electronics loop some of the percussive sounds, and, by the end of the piece, these create a third drum line. In total, this single piece played by two instruments can ultimately evolve into as many as 99 possible lines, which can be in agreement or in conflict depending on the musical performance. Only at the center of the piece do the two instrumentalists play the same melody, in a “weeping” fado-like passage that briefly unifies the voices before they diverge again.
The multiphonic, indeterminate, and polystylistic character of this piece is best described in the story, “A Sign In Space,” a kind of parable of the postmodern condition. In it, QfwfQ makes a mark to note the revolution of the Sun around the Milky Way galaxy (the first sign ever made), only to find after many millennia that many others had also made similar signs and the original sign was gone. QfwfQ ruminates on the experience of looking at the marks of millions beings in space: “In the universe now there was no longer a container and a thing contained, but only a general thickness of signs, superimposed and coagulated… constantly being dotted, minutely, a network of lines and scratches and reliefs and engravings...”Special thanks to Matthew Blessing for his help with the chorusing patch and the reACT ensemble for commissioning / inspiring / workshopping the piece.
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