FLAMETHROWER

 

Flamethrower has been an on-going project lasting almost eight years. My thanks to all of the composers for making our collaboration a unique journey. This collection of extended trumpet works began when performing colleague Allen Strange began writing to me about a fiery work that he was composing for me that would occupy his thoughts for several years. Allen passed away soon after the premiere of Velocity Studies V: NGate, but he continues to remain an artistic force in my life. Allen is the source for this project title, and this album is dedicated to his memory. His Misty Magic Land gets a solo turn here, displaying the diversity of his compositional world.

 

The initial step for each new piece began as the sounds of the previous work faded in performance. My SoundProof performing colleague Brian Belet followed up with System of Shadows for trumpet, flugelhorn and Kyma, which we have taken to venues all over the world. My gratitude to Brian for creating this virtuosic piece for me is boundless, and the collaborative performance platform that he has given me has been one of the great live performing experiences of my career.

 

Elainie Lillios is a composer of rare insight, imagination, and clarity in interactive, electroacoustic composition. During 2010-2011, Elainie and I worked on crafting the extended trumpet techniques and sonic gestures for November Twilight; creating just the perfect aural atmosphere to translate Wally Swist’s haiku poem. The high-point of recording November Twilight, in the spring of 2013, with Elainie, our spectacular audio engineer Lee Ray, and producers Brian Belet and Gordon Stevens (Open Path Studios), was one of most exciting recording sessions of the project.

 

Working with Bruno Liberda on “a sphere of air is bound” for our KISS2010 Vienna performance was an exhilarating ride; starting

with the developing and recording of trumpet samples, receiving Bruno’s Kyma-articulated processing, and orchestrating a

schema that we used in our live performance. Bruno is a master at real-time interactive Kyma processing and improvisation, and is a

consummate performer. Capturing our cross-Atlantic working sessions for this album crystallizes the magic in this extraordinary work.

 

Velocity Studies V: NGate (Allen Strange. 2007)

 

NGate is the fifth in Strange’s Velocity Studies series. Ngate is scored for solo trumpet with six pre-recorded trumpet tracks.* Allen writes about NGate: “This work was requested by my long-time colleague, Stephen Ruppenthal. I thought about it for several years and on a recent trip the work began to take shape in my mind’s ear. During this trip I was inconveniently re-routed to a rather distant departure gate, called NGate, at SeaTac airport in Seattle. While making my way to the gate I was mentally working on this piece and decided that Ngate might be a suitable title, it being both a technical audio pun and bearing a bit of mystery! As the work developed into this thing for seven trumpets I tried to make some connection between the word “NGate” and the number seven. The closest links I could find are in the Christian Book of Revelation describing the rapture. This is definitely not what I had in mind, although it could make a great back-story! The work somewhat solidified during a recent vacation to Oaxaca, Mexico- known as the ‘”land of seven moles,” so this work really has more to do with Mexican food than the apocalypse and seven blasts from Gabriel! It is interesting, however, to note that the work was completed on July 7th, 2007 – 7/7/07! Mexican food has more to do with my life than most other things!”  – Allen Strange

 

*Note: While Allen originally composed ‘NGate’ for 6 pre-recorded trumpets and solo trumpet, he later decided to add two more trumpets that “lagged” the soloist by varying note lengths.

 

 

A Sphere of Air is Bound (Bruno Liberda, 2010)

 

Bruno comments: “There are no limits to the fantasy of the interpreter with respect to unusual mouth pieces and other aides on the instrument on the one hand and electronic extensions of the sound on the other.” I don’t believe that we spared any fantasy for this performance. Liberda supplied three beautiful transparent score pages which served to structure the piece. I combined them into various different constellations to suggest possible direction and inspiration. This resulted in multiple time/space fields that I interpreted using various over-lay combinations with often aqua-like superpositions and flowing transitions defining the sonic image. Working together, Bruno and I were able to produce a constellation of shaded transitions of pitches, dynamics and articulation; amalgamate vibrato, glissandi, tremolos, multi-phonics, breathing techniques, flutter-tonguing, and vocal manipulations. Thematic recapitulations reprise themselves during the sparkling interplay between trumpet, voice and Kyma.  – Stephen Ruppenthal

 

November Twilight (Elainie Lillios, 2011)

 

“November Twilight (2011) for trumpet and live, interactive electroacoustics takes its inspiration from a haiku by poet Wally Swist who generously granted permission to use it for the piece:

 

    November twilight:

    the mountainside of birches

    lavender with shadow

 

The piece drifts through the encroaching twilight, exploring the mystery and majesty of a vast mountainside. Twilight wanes and with its decline comes nightfall. By day’s end the landscape lies in deep shadows, where only the essence of dusk remains. November Twilight was commissioned by Stephen Ruppenthal.” – Elainie Lillios

 

Premiered at the University of Oregon, 2011; also at ICMC and SEAMUS

 

 

Audio engineer Lee Ray, Stephen Ruppenthal, composers Elainie Lillios

and Brian Belet (Open Path Studios sessions)

 

 

Misty Magic Land (Allen Strange, 2004)

 

This world-premiere recording of Misty Magic Land is Allen’s original version for solo fixed media, and digital processing. The digital media consists of a pre-composed electronic soundtrack, and a software signal processor. The prerecorded audio is played back into the performance space and the amplified instruments, mostly improvising long notes over a notated harmonic drone (created with granular synthesis) are processed in real-time, under the control and discretion of the performer(s). This version was to be included in a set of works titled Crossing Zero based on Alan Moore’s Prometheus saga. In 2006, Misty Magic Land became part of an orchestral suite of programmatic ‘ear movies’ titled Brief Visits to Imaginary Places about four fantasy lands taken from contemporary literature. Misty Magic Land is the home of the weeping gorilla in the Promethean Saga. – Stephen Ruppenthal

 

 

System of Shadows (Brian Belet, 2007)

I. Aurora Borealis   II. Andromeda’s Dream   III. Zephyr Apparition

 

Brian Belet writes of the work: “System of Shadows was composed in close collaboration with performer/sound poet/composer Stephen Ruppenthal, and the work is dedicated to him. The music environment is an interactive field for the live performer and Kyma. The trumpet music is fully notated through the three movements (which are performed as a single arc without a break in the computer processing), with the invitation for the performer to improvise and otherwise comment on the music as the performance unfolds. All of the computer music is live processed trumpet within Kyma: various analysis/re-synthesis, deconstruction/reconstruction, and filtered feedback algorithms generate a unique sonic layer with each performance. The collaborative composing process is therefore reflected and reinterpreted during each collaborative performance.

 

The ‘shadow’ imagery operates both as a systematic process between trumpet and computer (and between computer and trumpet) and as a symbolic metaphor. The two sound sources shadow each other in a variety of ways, including reflection, variation, anticipation, and commentary. I find that shadows, in their own way, illuminate what they otherwise obscure in unexpected and often revelatory ways. The subtleties of the northern aurora cannot be clearly seen straight on; yet glancing aside into the deeper shadows of the night sky reveal the shimmering curtains and colorful ionized trails. Dreams, apparitions, and phantoms also point to those shadowy premonitions and after images we experience during moments of insight.” – Brian Belet

 

 

System of Shadows and A Sphere of Air is Bound employ real-time Kyma processing. November Twilight uses a MAX/MSP time-line as the processing engine. All three works are live studio recordings. Velocity Studies V: NGate required me to pre-record six tracks of trumpet voices, and an additional 2 tracks of trumpet “lag voices” which ‘ghost’ the soloist in movement two. The original score for Misty Magic Land uses a MAX/MSP playtime object (Time Machine) on the solo trumpet, producing a myriad off electroacoustic signal processing during performance. For this recording, Brian applied real-time Kyma time-line processing in the studio recording. Another live recording of System of Shadows (with its own unique Kyma processing) is published on Belet’s Sufficient Trouble (PARMA/Ravello Records, 2017)

 

Sincere thank-you’s: To Belinda Carr, whose never ceasing encouragement, support, and artistic vision helped tie this project together. It would not have been possible, otherwise. My appreciation to composer Brian Belet for being project producer on this journey, and for being the best performing partner, and friend, that I could hope for. Special thanks to Lee Ray for his recording and post-production artistry and partnership during the project, and patience during the long-haul to bring this CD to fruition. And, to Gordon Stevens of Open Path Studios for his inspiring faith in the project, support above and beyond the call. Gratitude to Marianne Bickett for the portrait she did of me in the recording studio ~ it enhances Flamethrower with its imagery. Finally, thanks to the creative group at PARMA Records, with acknowledgements to Bob Lord, Chris Robinson, and Lucas Paquette for simply having the best record publishing company in the known universe!

 

Stephen Ruppenthal

Emerald Hills, California, 2016

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