NOTES about THE aLBUM
THE SINGING FOREST loosely tells the story of evolution across multiple time scales through a series of surreal scenes, beginning in the ocean and then transitioning to a forest. The composition explores the increasing complexity of organisms and ecosystems which emerge from the evolutionary process, rather than recreating a precise ‘history’ of how this happened on earth. The increasing complexity is expressed in two ways. Firstly, the mimetic material represents increasingly complex lifeforms. This begins with life in the ocean, followed by mammals on land, which then progress to more intelligent apes. Secondly, the increasing complexity of the ecosystems is expressed through the more frequent use of pitch throughout the composition and the harmonies generated by various 'singing' creatures.
The gradual changes which happen across many generations are explored by the development of the sonic material within each section which is generated by an interactive genetic algorithm. Populations of sounds are evolved, with child populations developing the musical material generated by their parents. The use of an interactive genetic algorithm as both a tool for generating material and for informing composition structure naturally lends itself to the themes explored in this composition.
I composed VOX BALLET for the Yonder Dance Company, who will be performing it throughout 2018 in the United States and in Edinburgh, Scotland at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This piece was created with the goal of not just fulfilling the dancers needs but to also create a standalone stand piece of music that would only featuring my own sampled recordings. All of the sounds within the piece were recorded outside of the studio environment and were created and manipulated by myself without the aid of synthesizers. I proposed this method to challenge myself and to step outside of my comfort zone of using synthesizers. By doing this, I believe it helped me create an electronic piece that feels organic and flows forth to the listener. Allowing each person to go on a journey from beginning to end and experience something unique each time they listen.
CONVERGENCES explores the merging and juxtaposition of sound and silence, momentum and stagnation. The electronic medium allows a composer to create a unique musical environment in which sounds can simultaneously exist near to and distant from the hearer. In this piece I attempt to create that dualistic environment which is an unnatural auditory occurrence.
The work is composed with two basic elements: metal and wood, which are featured in their own space at various points in the piece. Where they converge, the cold metallic gestures are contrasted with the warmth of the wood – the metal aggressive, the wood gentle.
For CUT I wrote twelve short segments of music for toy pianist Keith Kirchoff to record for this project. These segments included numerous approaches to structured improvisation: pitches in boxes, graphic scores, proportional rhythms, etc. With these recordings as source material, I composed using Musique Concrète techniques. The process of cutting destabilizes continuity, while its prevalence creates a field of mistakes, and from this, form.
SOME WRITINGS OF SPRING was inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s composition The Rite of Spring. The composition is not an attempt to recreate the Stravinsky masterpiece but rather draws from it to present some of its concepts in a different way. Several themes by Stravinsky were subjected to Schenkerian analysis and then the resultant material was transformed through various audio processing techniques. Attention was also given to form. The piece incorporates repeating motifs and the juxtapositioning of unrelated musical elements. It is constructed of three distinct sections. It was composed in 2013 in response to a call for works by Lewis University for their Fall 2013 musicBYTES: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring concert. The piece was accepted for the concert and presented at the university in Romeoville, Illinois. The piece was also accepted into WOCMAT 2013 held in Luzhu, Taiwan, the 14th Biennial Symposium for Arts and Technology 2014 held in New London, Connecticut, the New Horizons Music Festival 2014 held in Kirksville, Missouri, the Electroacoustic Barn Dance 2014 held in Fredericksburg, Virginia, CICTeM 2015 held in Buenos Aries, Argentina, and SEAMUS 2018 held in Eugene, Oregon.
For the story behind LES CRAPAUDS DE LA FONTAINE (EDM BULLFROG): In the summer of 2008, I lived in Williamsburg, Virginia in a development called La Fontaine. On the surface, it looked like a quiet, quaint community with a fountain in the middle of a pond. But that summer was not quiet. When the sun went down, the sounds of the creatures outside were astonishingly clamorous, making themselves known even inside the sealed air-conditioned apartments. One evening, I went out to investigate. I found that the frogs and toads were having quite the party! (Later, armed with a guide from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, I identified them as Fowler’s Toad, Green Treefrog, and Cope’s Gray Treefrog.) As I wandered along the grass, I heard snippets of melodies and polyrhythms that could serve as the accompaniment to a human dance party. The bass clarinet is your tour guide through this party, at first blending in with the amphibians, and later singing and dancing above their rhythms.
Les Crapauds de la Fontaine was commissioned by the Third Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival in Fall 2015. Many thanks go to Benjamin Broening, Andrea Cheeseman, and Andrew Kovaleski for their assistance in bringing the piece to life.
Jennifer Bernard Merkowitz [email@example.com]
A TINY FLECK OF BLUE CRYING LIGHT INTO THE VOID is comprised of four vignettes played on a piano tuned for La Monte Young's The Well-Tuned Piano. These vignettes are suspended in a web of high-frequency electroacoustic music. This webbing was created by inverting the sound spectra of the piano recordings, and then time stretching those inversions. The title is taken from the novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which tells a disorienting story about a house, the inside of which is somehow much larger than the outside.
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