NOTES FROM THE COMPOSERS
Doug Bielmeier Costa Mesa Rocking Chair
This work infuses live-performance of lap steel with audio processing over fixed audio and video components from “Betty and the Sensory World,” a full-length album released in 2017 on Ravello Records (Ravello RR7972). This work has been performed at the Circuit Benders Ball in Nashville TN, and at Alumni Hall, in Bloomington, IN. The piece was also the keystone piece of the artist’s 2018 Spring and Summer tour incorporating live lap steel, effects processing, and audio and video accompaniment.
This recording of the work is a studio version of the performance that utilizes studio production techniques and approaches to reimagine these sonic landscapes. This piece employs the practice of windowing: the manipulation of found sound files by the stretching and compression of time, sample rate, bit depth, and window size. The layering and temporal placement of these windows create larger sonic landscapes for the creation of new musical works divorced from the source context. Costa Mesa Rocking Chair pushes this concept of windowing further by windowing the live performance of the lap steel to add a more active component to this compositional approach.
Jon Bellona Currents
Currents investigates the overlaps and gaps between noise and pattern; acoustic and electronic timbre; and live and fixed elements. Currents sounds out the intersections of our current electronic state while referencing its history. The piece was written for Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, a full stage production exploring the life and work of Serbian-American inventor, Nikola Tesla. Currents references Thomas Edison’s inefficient and noisy direct current (DC) electric motor and imagines the brilliant showmanship of Tesla and his revolutionary alternating current (AC) technology.
Julius Bucsis IN THE INTEREST OF TIME
In the Interest of Time explores the relationship between subtle rhythmic shifts and the sense of groove. Rhythmic devices employed include the use of syncopation, rhythmic displacement, and polymeter. The piece was composed in 2011. It has been accepted into the Electronic Music Midwest 2011 festival held in Kansas City, Kansas, the Soundcrawl 2012 festival held in Nashville, Tennessee, the Electroacoustic Barn Dance 2012 held in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Tutti New Music Festival 2013 held in Granville, Ohio, the SEAMUS 2013 conference held in St. Paul, Minnesota, Circuit Bridges 2 held in New York City in 2014, the Oberlin College and Conservatory Play Festival and Symposium held in Oberlin Ohio in 2015, and the NYCEMF 2015 held in New York City.
Herbert Deutsch ABYSS
Abyss was created to explore the desperate conflict between a mother and her schizophrenic son. It is based upon a poem by Sonia Usatch which she shared with me some years ago when we were both involved with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. I composed this as a performance-art composition for computer generated sound, piccolo and mezzo soprano voice. Against a drone-like C Major electronic chant which quietly repeats itself in a slow 5/4 metric pattern, the soprano appeals, quietly, tonally and melodically to her son who, represented by the piccolo playing through various modes and meters of a 12-tone row attempts but can neither understand her nor or be understood by her. In performance, the piccolo player and singer enter the stage from opposite sides after the electronic drone begins. They never recognize each other during the performance and exit the stage when each has completed their final lines, leaving the drone to slowly fade. Although the music is in no way related, the dramatic concept of this work was influenced by my great love of the music of Charles Ives, and especially his darkly philosophic orchestral work The Unanswered Question.
Bill Whitley ABSENT LIGHT
Absent Light (2004-2011) was started on All Saint’s Day, 2004 and was completed in the spring of 2011. It is scored for piano, soprano saxophone, electric bass, electric guitar, celesta, glockenspiel, tenor instrument, and glass bowls or tanpura. In Paradisum from the Latin requiem—which is performed as the casket is incensed toward the end of the liturgy, just prior to the recessional—is central to the composition, and the piece is inspired by the spirit of that moment.
It is constructed with the use of three separate rhythmic cycles: two shared between the piano, the vibes, and the guitar; and the other—73 beats (876543212345678)—played by the glockenspiel establishes the timeline for the entire piece. All of the events in this piece occur in some relationship to the bells. “The loop that makes up Absent Light occurred to me as I was driving on a stretch of Hwy 99 between Junction City and Corvallis on my way to teach in Monmouth, Oregon. It was November 1st, 2004. I was absorbed in the significance of the day. I was thinking about how perfectly earth-based traditions lined up with the Christian calendar—Samhain, autumnal equinox, All Souls, All Saints, the celebration of death, the rapid descent into darkness until the cycle begins again on the Darkest Night. Fog was coming in off of the river. I saw those little dots that you see when engulfed in fog and I remember Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of other-worldly presences explained as light particles in The Physics of Angels.
That’s when the loop started...
The loop sat in a sketch book for two weeks before any composing started. I was perplexed by how a gesture that didn’t go anywhere or do anything could be so engaging. I knew that most likely it would call for some sort of additive process. I tried all types of techniques, none of which worked. I tried repeating a note every loop…adding rests every three loops…nothing seemed to set the piece into motion.
After several days of attempts, I thought maybe a ‘subtractive’ process would work better. I tried a couple of processes, and liked the effect of the loop evaporating into thin air. Toward the end, after several loops, the result was very pointillistic, and you would start to forget what it sounded like. For a while, that was the piece.
Ultimately though, I made the decision that simply evaporating the loop wouldn’t be as interesting as ‘migrating’ the notes from the piano into other instruments. In this way, as the loop disappeared it would also be transformed into particles—like particles of light. But at what rate? I decided to choose numbers for their numerological significance. Every 11th note, for example the vibes picked up a note from the loop. Every 27th note (9+9+9), the celesta. Every 21st (7+7+7), the guitar.
I wrote out the entire thing in this way until the piano had completely disappeared. The structure for the loop was complete. But then what? I would have the vibes, celeste, and guitar reverse the process, and gradually disappear—going back the way they came, like incense. Like angles ushering out the piano—the body—transporting, then releasing it.
In stage performance, once the piano part has completely evaporated, the pianist gets up, quietly closes the lid, and exits.
The glockenspiel establishes the timeline of the entire piece—73 beats (876543212345678).
The soprano saxophone plays three notes, a sighing motive. This gesture grows longer by the value of an eighth-note with each iteration and intersects with the beginning of each 73 beat cycle, while the tenor instrument begins a new phrase at the beginning of each 73 beat cycle.
The piece is centered on B, another symbolic element, since B is the 11th note of the scale, and November the 11th month, the end of the Christian calendar.”
Jim Schliestett & Bob Bliss SUNRISE SONATA
Sunrise Sonata was recorded in 1987 and is part of a group of electronic recordings that together make an album, as yet unreleased. The work was placed early into two divergent settings in separate renditions; one was used in many modern dance performances, while the other found its space in mirrored meditation chambers. The initial inspiration, and the name, come from a painting by visionary artist Sheryl McCartney. We quickly veered from her beautiful abstract imagery to something more concrete: visualizing an ocean scene at sunrise. Against this backdrop, various flora and fauna come into focus above and below the surface, with broad arcs of tension and resolution in the sound. That said, the music can be taken as representational or absolute, depending on how you choose to listen to it. The present rendering is a blend between the very immersive style that was used in the meditation chambers and the more thematically-featured style that was used in dance performances. It is our hope that this makes it ideally suited for pure listening purposes.
The compositional process began with a broad, overarching vision, sketched on paper, replete with shoreline, various characters, kelp forests, clouds, sea spray, and crashing waves. Clear harmonic underpinnings were determined, providing solid musical foundation and structure. The slowly evolving, watercolor-like harmonic transitions were deliberately employed to avoid the schematic chordal progressions that reveal an order so prevalent in man-made classical and popular forms, but seldom found in nature. Recurring melodic motifs, unfolding in variations and unencumbered by strict meter, bring a focus to the impressionistic soundscape.
We employed a panoply of electronic synthesizers: Yamaha CS-80 polyphonic analog synthesizer, Roland D-50, E-MU Emax, Roland Juno 60, and the venerable Minimoog, along with several prized electric guitars and echo effects. Powerful in their day, to be sure; and, despite the far-reaching advances in current electronic instrument technology, they all remain fine collector's instruments, prized for their distinctive sound qualities.
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