The Art of David Tudor preview
The Art of David Tudor is a new 7 CD boxed set released from the ever great New World Records. The most exciting release IMO since their epic Music for Merce. Of course while there was much music of interest to me on Music for Merce it was the David Tudor pieces, especially the unreleased material, that was particularly of interest. In my series of posts covering that box set I time and time again bemoaned that the bulk of the Tudor pieces were only excerpts and more than once mentioned that there should be a boxed set of his pieces. Miraculously New World has provided. This set can now be ordered, though I’m not sure if it’s in anybodies hands yet. It will apparently be available for download on at least iTunes though the link is not currently active. However the liner notes for the set are currently available (major props to New World for putting these online – makes quotes and such from them a lot easier) and I’ve given it a looksee. So before I have this set in hand let us consider what we are going to be getting.
The Art of David Tudor
Variations II (John Cage)
For 1, 2, or 3 People (Christian Wolff)
Bandoneon ! (A Combine) (David Tudor)
Anima Pepsi (David Tudor)
Pepsibird (David Tudor)
Pepscillator (David Tudor)
Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled (John Cage, David Tudor)
Weatherings (David Tudor)
Phonemes (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV (David Tudor)
Webwork (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV (David Tudor)
Virtual Focus (David Tudor)
Neural Network Plus (David Tudor)
Quite a few of these pieces have been previously released either in whole or in excerpt. But these pieces were performed live and often performed with the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company or in concerts and due to the nature of live electronics can be quite variable. So in the cases where there are new performances or different versions it is certainly a cause for celebration. The full versions of the pieces released only in excerpts are of course especially welcome. Let us now consider each of these pieces in brief.
Variations II can be heard on the David Tudor Edition RZ set plus a different version on vol. 1 of the John Cage Shock set from EM Records, Edition Omega Point. This version is from the ONCE Festival and is I believe a third recording of the piece. I’m all for more versions of this piece as they all vary due to the nature of working with feedback.
For 1, 2, or 3 People is currently available on Edition RZ’s Christian Wolff set as well as an excerpt on the Music for Merce set. These two versions are the same IIRC and this one is listed as also from tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance company. So could be the same one or a different performance.
Bandoneon ! (A Combine) This has been released in excerpt on the DVD documentary series on the E.A.T. 9 Evenings series. This is not listed here as an excerpt but at just over 14 minutes it almost certainly is. In my review of the DVD I note that the length of the performance is not known, but I do go into the available data. This is a longer excerpt than found on the DVD by about 5 minutes which is welcome, but one still awaits the full piece.
Anima Pepsi was released on the album Live Electronic Music (Electronic Music Foundation) and this appears to be the same version (both are 23’37” which is a pretty good clue).
Pepsibird & Pepscillator These two pieces were along with Anima Pepsi were recorded at Recorded in the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan but only Anima Pepsi has been released. So these are two new tracks that presumably will be in a similar vein of Anima Pepsi.
Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled Untitled, a definitive Tudor composition, has been released in a couple of forms but was originally performed with John Cage’s vocal performance of Mesostics re Merce Cunningham. As far as I know this version has not been released (a version with Takehisa Kosugi on vocals is on the album Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music).
Weatherings This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and assuming this is an entire performance, this would be the first complete recording of this piece.
Phonemes This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and a complete version can be found on Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music. However this is a full live performance of the piece, whereas the Three Works For Live Electronics version is a layered version of many recordings. So this will be a full, live, single version which is a welcome addition to the recordings of this piece.
Rainforest IV There are two versions of Rainforest IV on this set both credited to Composers Inside Electronics during the period when Tudor was performing with them (they are still a going concern). As Rainforest IV is a sculpture based piece that was constructed anew on numerous occasions and thus was often different this is certainly justified. However the Rainforest pieces are of course Tudor’s most well know and most well documented. Mode has a disc with Rainforest IV (as well as Rainforest I) on it and there was an German instance of the installation in 1980 which has been released on an LP by Edition Block and on CD by Lovely. One of the versions of on this set is this German installation the other from a Stockholm version. While most likely the German versions are all from the same source it could be a different excerpt or even a different recording. The Stockholm one appears to be a new release.
Webwork – This was presented in excerpt form on Music for Merce so a complete performance is of course highly anticipated. This has only otherwise been released as a 7? excerpt on the John Cage tribute CD A Chance Operation.
Virtual Focus This very interesting piece excerpted on Music for Merce so a complete performance is definitely a huge plus here. There has otherwise been unreleased barring a 3? of excerpt on Musicworks 73.
Neural Network Plus Again excerpted on Music for Merce but in this set a whole disc is dedicated to a 55″ version. While Lovely Music has put out a double CD of the related Neural Sythesis pieces and Atonal Records put out a disc split between Neural Synthesis No.2 and a Cage piece this is the only recording of Neural Network Plus which includes Kosugi on violin. Even the extract was intense and wild so really can’t wait for this complete performance
Basically the pieces from Expo ’70 are the most novel of the set but the complete performances of the later live electronics pieces are of course the big draw. There is still quite a bit from David Tudor’s oeuvre that is still unavailable. His first piece, Fluorescent Sound is of course the first one that springs to mind (though perhaps no recording exists) but just scan through his list of compositions on DavidTudor.org and you can see that many are not represented here or anywhere. One hopes that of those that recordings exist that some day these will come out in some form. With all the variation and iteration in his live performances one hopes that in the future these will all be available for download. This is I think the direction that any music that is so varied in performance needs to. It is a shame that these recordings just languish in vaults. Still I can’t wait to get this set and and it is a vital edition to the David Tudor legacy. I commend New World for putting it out and will write more here once I’ve had a chance to absorb it.
For David Tudor
David Tudor performing John Cage's Water Music
Today, January 20th 2013, would have been David Tudors 87th Birthday. This occasion provides sufficient impetus for me to write a bit about the major theme of the Eleven Clouds project. This is the notion of what I’ve often referred to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics. Before delving into that subject let me relate the origin and early history of the Eleven Clouds project. I’ve written many times about the Network Instrument and how I began thinking about the live electronics work I’d been doing in those terms. While I want to explicitly state that I didn’t really independently develop any of this I was quite ignorant of this history when I began my own music making. I was aware of what might be thought of as third or fourth generation live electronics and perhaps that could be thought of as my starting point. In a way I was working backwards but it wouldn’t be for several years until I really realized that. Network Instrument theory on the other hand is my own development in that it is a way of thinking about these existing practices, practices that were often treated as mysterious, purely intuitive and esoteric.
Around the end of 2009 I began working exclusively with various networks in order to further develop my understanding of this theory I was developing. This would generally take the form of setting up a network and working with it, changing it, pushing specific parameters and the like. If I hit a configuration (a cloud in Network Instrument parlance) that was particularly interesting I’d document it in various ways, typically a recording, photographs and any patching data. In late December 2009 this process led to a piece I found so strange and yet compelling that I felt I should do something with it. But I was pretty attuned to the tastes of my fellow travelers at the time and I knew this was a particularly odd piece not particularly attuned to those tastes. But I still felt that the music demanded that I do something with it. So I made a few 3″ CD-Rs of the piece and I gave one to a fellow live electronicist. This gave me the germ of the idea – I would continue my exploration of network instruments, documenting it as I went and releasing a series of recordings of these efforts. I decided right off that if I was going to do this it had to be done right and that this exploration of network instrument theory had to be just the base of the project. That is that it had to have multiple components to it; it had to be an exploration of several ideas both overarching and in each individual release.
Winter Clouds Setup - used for I'm not completing any thoughts and Skipping Stones
The overarching themes of the project were three: Post-Tudor Live Electronics, Music as Object and Conceptual Music. Not every release would encompass all three themes though they often did. Music as Object, clearly pointed at by the projects slogan ‘No ideas but in things‘ (William Carlos Williams, A Sort of a Song1), was the fulcrum around which each release was built. Additionally each release was also done in tribute to one or more musician, composer, artist or poet. It is this additional layer that would generally determine how an individual release would engage the overarching themes. Three of the releases were explicitly engaged with ideas of live electronics particularly the notion of a configuration as score. These three releases were dedicated to David Tudor.
In the unpublished companion document to the Eleven Clouds project there is a short section on each of the overarching themes as well as an entry for each individual release. Below I’m including the section on Post-Tudor Live Electronics as well as the entries for the three releases dedicated to David Tudor. The generally short entries for individual releases describe the format, dedications and additional ideas. Also there is some discussion of how it was released and how this was received. This aspect is part of the Music as Object thread of the project which as I noted above is the axis upon which each release revolved. This document was unfinished and there was meant to be additional writing on each release exploring the individual idea(s) that may be explored herein. These entries are primarily included for completeness sake. Additionally the music and photos from each of these releases has been uploaded to their corresponding sub-pages in the Eleven Clouds webpages. Thus for the first time complete versions of these pieces can be heard by anyone. The three releases dedicated to David Tudor in the Eleven Clouds project are:
I’m not completing any thoughts
Skipping Stones, and
A Closed Letter
Network Instrument utilized for A Closed Letter
Post-Tudor Live Electronics
The first overarching idea is purely musical: what should follow on after David Tudor in the area of live electronics. Tudors legacy in live electronics is huge but barring a few people who were working with him at the time as well as some tangential artists it did not seem that many followed in his path during his lifetime. After his death in 1996 there were many tributes and retrospectives and the like there wasn’t much in the way of attempting to follow on with his work. Those who had been engaged in live electronics already did of course continue on, but they were following their own trajectories that could be seen as concurrent to Tudor’s as opposed to starting from it.
Over the next decade though there would be a renaissance in analog synthesis, followed by a DIY resurgence and suddenly more and more people are citing Tudor as an influence, working in the same general areas and, finally, trying to use his techniques to explore the ideas that have captured the current zeitgeist. I think of artists such as Matt Rogalsky and Micheal Johnsen that can be seen as having started where Tudor left off as well as those such as Brian Eubanks and James Fei who started within the current milieu and found their way toward Tudor. However I think that it can be said that even with an increased awareness and interest in his work it is still an open question of how to iterate from where Tudor left off. He was such a virtuoso and so idiosyncratic plus there is a dearth of information on the subject that this is hardly surprising.
The very first release in the Eleven Clouds project, I’m not completing any thoughts2, was part of an initial stab at this notion. The electronics in this piece are, unlike David Tudors custom and modified electronics, commercial products interconnected in such a way asto increase unpredictability. The Network Instrument3 was a theory devised to attempt to create an understanding of the instruments that Tudor created and to attempt to develop a language to facilitate to further developments in this area. I’m not completing any thoughts was an interesting step in this direction but in isolation didn’t seem sufficient. It was at this time that the notion of Clouds (a configuration of a given network instrument) was codified and the notion arose of a series of statements exploring this instrument.
(01) I’m not completing any thoughts.
Released January 2010 on 3” CD-R in an edition of 4.
This release could only be acquired by being given it. Of the three copies that were given away none of the recipients were from the same country. The ideas explored in this piece were Post-Tudor Live Electronics and network instrument theory. It is the network that was developed for this piece utilizing an interconnected Clavia Nord Micromodular and a Chimera BC-16 that would form the basis for many of the following pieces.
The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: I’m not completing any thoughts
(02) Skipping Stones
Released toward the end of February 2010, offered to anyone who would send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelop to an addressed supplied by an auto-responder.
This was perhaps too great of a jump for the initial release – actually asking someone to go to the post office is perhaps too much. It also is of course difficult for those outside of the US though it was stated from the beginning that there would be allowances for that. Ultimately eleven (11) copies of this piece were sent out, though only a few of these to people who jumped through the hoops.
Musically this piece expressed the most successful attempt at a Post-Tudor live electronics. The network was iterated from the I’m not completing any thoughts and I think displayed a way to work out complex sounds from minimum structure. Ideas of the last decade of improvisation mixed with Live Electronics in a way that was different and engaging.
The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: Skipping Stones
(07) A Closed Letter
Released in July 2010 on a single 3” CD-R.
This piece used an expanded network to create a denser more spiky piece than previously generated. As part of the promotion of this piece a short excerpt was put up onto Sound Cloud to allow people to check it out. According to Sound Cloud statistics it was played around 40 times. The method of acquisition was not stated; only a question mark. Again this garnered no posts in response, no inquires publically or privately. Interest does not seem to have bee acquired.
The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: A Closed Letter
In retrospect I am of the opinion that I’m not completing any thoughts and A Closed Letter are closer to examples of historical live electronics. It is only with Skipping Stones that I think that the ideas of live electronic are iterated upon with respect to the work that occurred since Tudors time. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t aspects or portions of those two pieces which I do think work in that way and it is the case that I was coming from that mindset. That I think is a critical aspect to these abstract notions of instrumentality. A live electronics configuration truly is the score – that is it directs and limits what you are going to do. But it is the performers mindset that influences how that score is performed and what it becomes. In this way it is like a graphic score – a noise musician playing Christian Wolff’s Edges is going to end up with a different soundworld then a classically trained cellist. But unlike a graphic score the sound world is set and it has definite boundaries with a live electronics configuration. So it is the networks of those pieces and not just the mindset of the performer (myself in these cases) that keep these at least one foot in the past. It is interesting to note that Skipping Stones – the most successful I think of all of the Eleven Clouds pieces is an iterated version of the I’m not completing any thoughts network4. While A Closed Letter is as well I added many more components to the network and is best thought of as more evolved (punctuated equilibrium even) than iterated upon. What all of this goes to show is that the network, in effect one’s score, has to be as reflective of your mindset as anything else.
1) William Carlos Williams, A Sort of a Song
Let the snake wait under
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
2) Robert j Kirkpatrick, Eleven Clouds Hollow Earth Recordings 011: http://spiralcage.com/hollowearthrecordings/discography/ElevenClouds.html
(01) I’m not completing any thoughts. (January 2010, 3″ cd-r. Edition of 4)
(02) Skipping Stones (February 2010, 5″ cd-r. Available throughout February)
(03) Vertical Landscapes 1-5/aeolian electrics (March 2010, 5 Paintings w. 2×80′ cd-rs.)
(04) Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) (April 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(05) An delay (May 2010, 2×3″ cd-r. Edition of 16)
(06) 100 Black Kites (June 2010, box of assorted items. Edition of 1)
(07) A Closed Letter (July 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(08) 47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W (August 2010, micro-c60. Edition of 1)
(09) Fugue State (September 2010, 5″cd-r. Edition of 12)
(10) Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) (October 2010, mini-cd-r edition of 9)
(11) …and yet (November 2010, Edition of 11)
(12) Aleph (December 2010) [never released]
3) Robert j Kirkpatrick, The Network Instrument (a work in progress), A Spiral Cage, March 2010, and The Network Instrument (WIP): Subnetworks, A Spiral Cage, April 2011
4) It is worth noting that the majority of the other pieces in the Eleven Clouds project also worked with the Network Instrument and are examples of Post-Tudor Live Electronics with varying degrees of success. They aren’t considered in this post due to not being specifically dedicated to David Tudor.
without chemicals he points
For Morton Feldman
this world of dew,
is but a world of dew
November 2010 the final release of Eleven Clouds, …and yet, was made available. As previously noted each of these releases was dedicated to various artists, musicians, composers &c. Each of these was a complex web suspended between several overarching themes and ideas, trying to be true to them all while staying true to itself. Let me once again quote from the unpublished essay that was written to accompany Eleven Clouds:
The Eleven Clouds project is a number of disparate ideas wrapped around the idea of creating a physical object, that contains data in the form of music, every month for year. There are ideas being explored that encompasses the entire project but also ideas that drive each individual release. The overarching ideas may be the primary idea in a given release or may not be instrumental to it at all. Additionally there are references, homages and nods toward a number of artists in plastic as well as musical arts. Finally considering that one of the overarching ideas has to do with interpretation there are some aspects that inherently must be left up to observers.
By November there had been ten releases encompassing over 8 hours of music and there was a certain level of exhaustion. Making a complete CD with often quite elaborate packaging month in and month out had taken its toll. For me the music of Morton Feldman is the music of exhaustion. It is the music I put on when I’m too tired to sleep and let its slowly iterating stasis fully envelope me. The principle members of the New York School have all been a major influence on me and they were all paid tribute, in greater or lesser form, throughout the series. By November there had yet to be one for Morton Feldman, though of course I’d always intended there to be and now at this point of weariness seemed like the time to do it.
John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet Music for Piano and Strings by Morton Feldman vol. 2 (Matchless)
This year has seen a number of excellent recordings of Morton Feldman’s music. The incredible recording of Crippled Symmetry by the Feldman Soloists (Eberhard Blum, Nils Vigeland, and Jan Williams) on the Finnish Frozen Reeds label. A compendium of the the early, mostly indeterminate pieces, Early Works for Piano performed by the always stunning Sabine Liebner on the Wergo Label. The second volume of Music for Piano and Strings from my favorite pianist John Tilbury accompanied by the excellent Smith Quartet on the Matchless label. Re-Releases of some of the classic recordings by the Ives Ensemble on hatHut. And of course plenty of releases that I have yet to hear.
In 2010 I was living in a small house in Kirkland WA that was right in front of an abandoned railway. On Sunday afternoons I would often walk for an hour or two one way or another along these tracks. Generally I’d listen to some recordings as I walked along usually softer stuff that I could play low enough so that ambient sounds would mix in. I found myself playing the Ives Ensemble recording of Morton Feldman’s Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello over and over again in these walks. For me, while I love Feldman’s music across pretty much all times and all instrumentation, it is his pieces for piano that particularly move me. Especially the longer more etherial later pieces both solo and in the various chamber ensembles. Of these chamber pieces I’ve come to love Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello the most. Unlike say Piano and String Quartet, the piano here leads and the the string section, deemphasized without the second violin, seems to comment on the piano pieces. The piano begins more discordant sound, especially with the inputs of the strings, almost prepared. After some time it settles down into this pattern, in typical late Feldman style, that is fully explored, mutated, iterated upon. This pattern, melody, tinged with melancholy, even a sense of weariness eventually becomes broken by time before hesitantly completing itself as the strings prickle and poke at it. On these long introspective walks and many times as I was wearily trying to sleep this piece has been my companion. The new recording by John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet which is a little more leisurely at around 90 minutes is particularly effective in my mind. Tilbury’s unparalleled touch for Feldman’s music and the Smith Quartets meticulous attention to Feldman’s require (slow and low) has created the best recording of the three that I’ve heard of this piece.
Another of the overarching themes of the Eleven Clouds project was what I refer to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics. Much of what I talk about w/r/t The Network Instrument is a way to codify these thoughts. A full discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this post but there is one aspect that is apropos. David Tudor’s live electronics was typically wild, flirting on the edge of chaos. The early indeterminate, graph pieces of Morton Feldman would seem to be the closest his pieces hued to what Tudor was doing with his electronics (no surprise then that Tudor remains the most impressive interpreter of those early Feldman pieces). But could one’s live elections, in the Post-Tudor era, be more like Late Feldman – soft, slow, floating and enveloping. For the final piece in the Eleven Clouds sequence, I wanted to explore that, to express the weariness, the melancholy of the end of this near year long project.
...and yet booklet interior scan
Of course there was always more then one (or two, or many) thing going on with an Eleven Clouds release and this one was no exception. The physical release itself was a roughly DVD size cardstock booklet inside a vinyl pocket. The front of this can be seen two pictures up and the interior directly above this ‘graph (I should note the above scan doesn’t capture the color well at all which is more of a light, blue-grey). The “disc” that came with this was a clear plastic CD sized disc that comes with a stack of blank CD-Rs. Along with this was a postcard that had the Hollow Earth Recordings logo on one side and a QR Code on the other (see image to the left). These “cds”, of which eleven were made, were sent out to anyone who asked. The promotional posts on i hate music and on this blog showed pictures of the recording session as an additional hint.
QR Codes hadn’t quite hit the level of ubiquitousness (saturation even) that they have now in which probably everyone would know to scan it and see what it encoded. What it encoded (if you haven’t already reflexively scanned it) was an URL to this page: …and yet. This page contains lossless downloads of the music recorded for this project. Watching my web statistics I only saw one person download it during the time of the project. I posted the QR code to this blog and I’ve sent that link to a couple of other people but this is the first public release of these recordings.
...and yet recording session
This piece is an ~95 minute piece on a Network Instrument where I attempt to create something like PPiano, Violin, Viola and Cello. This was the single longest piece in the Eleven Clouds project (though Aeolian Electrics wasn’t far off at nearly 80 minutes). The length of course was essential to capturing that Feldman feel; allowing it to slowly evolving over time. It is meant to be played softly as Feldman would insist for his pieces and it was indeed performed at a low volume. The setup and the patch are the “score” for this piece and it was performed and recorded in one continuous session. Overall I think it works and captures what I was trying to go for. Like a lot of the longer Feldman pieces there are moments that seem jarring and discordant but they are resolved (as it were) long minutes later. Give it a listen for yourself and see how you think it works out. Whatever the verdict, this one’s for you Morty.
Download …and yet in either Apple Lossless format or FLAC: …and yet
DIY 4x4 Matrix Mixer
To facilitate my on going experimentation with Network Instrument theory I’ve been moving more toward DIY and boutique equipment. Routing of signals is the most basic building block for developing your network and the Matrix Mixer is a super useful tool for this. Matrix Mixers were at the heart of many of David Tudors Live Electronics configurations due to its ability to allow you route and mix all any or all of your input channels to any or all of your output channels. Looping signals back into the matrix post processing allows for one to really work on the edge of chaos where so much interesting and unexpected behavior lies. I have recently completed building a small 4×4 matrix mixer as pictured above. So far I’ve only done limited experiments with it but it has already opened a vast world of possibilities.
One of my ongoing projects has been to create an “idealized” or “reference” network instrument which as I envision it would consist of toolkit of simple components that allow for the interconnectivity the theory requires. These simplified components do not really require much in the way of innovation but should allow for this increased interconnectivity. Things like a matrix mixer which allows you to route many signals into multiple devices are essential for this. But as I work on the other components I intend to alter them in such a way that there can be more input, output and control signals. I’m going to document the assembling of this tookkit here as well as the results of experimentation with this toolkit as it comes together.
The Curve of the Earth Prelude
With the first performance of the The Curve of the Earth scheduled for late October (much more on this later) the Network Instrument setup has been finalized with only minor adjustments in progress. With the current setup the first recording of the score has been made which I’ve uploaded to SoundCloud for all to check out.
The Curve of the Earth [Prelude/00:00:00-00:43:30]
from the score:
At the opening performance of the piece a prelude should be played. This can be an expression of the network at startup as it is brought into readiness by the performer for the beginning of the score. Alternatively there is hard line on the score that marks the beginning of the score but prior to that is some material that could be partially (or fully) obscured by the scroll handle or some device for holding it into place. An impression of this material can be used for this prelude. The Prelude should be specifically indicated in records or recordings of the score, which would include the duration but not a length. i.e:
The Curve of the Earth [Prelude / 00:00:00-00:43:30]
This recording is my first attempt at playing from the score and while done in my apartment approximates a live performance in that it is a single take from material which, while I created it, had yet to realize. As discussed in the initial post on the score, it is an overlay upon live electronics, a Network Instrument in specific, and thus is inherently unpredictable. I’d imagine that the more one plays the score, especially with a static or mostly static Network that increasing familiarity would lead to a certain degree of expertise. For this first recording it is about as raw and risky as possible as, while the parameters of this particular network have been explored, its behavior and limits are certainly only partially understood.
The scan from the score above is the entirety of the portion of the score that can be used for the prelude with a bit of the actual beginning of the score to the right of the hard line. As the score is a scroll and ideally would have scroll handles (currently it does not) this bit of the score would be partially or perhaps completely obscured by the handle. The hard line was put on the score to indicate material which absolutely must not be obscured in any way. The markings prior to that aren’t really representative of the score (and some of them were brush preparations) but are usable within the rules of the score to realize the prelude.
Also I put up all the current scans from the electric score onto Flickr; check em out if interested.
The Curve of the Earth
The Curve of the Earth (excerpt)
The Curve of the Earth
An electric score for soloist performing on a networked instrument with optional observations
The Curve of the Earth, is the new project that I’ve alluded to in a few posts earlier this year. This piece is a union of three elements: An Electric Score, a Network Instrument configuration and six optional Observations.
An Electric Score is a score meant to work in concert with a live electronics setup. Live Electronic configurations are rather score-like in and of themselves, in that a particular setup has it’s own characteristic behavior which the performer interacts withs. They tend to be self-activating to some degree and can operate independently (though often predictably) without much user input. Electric Scores are thus designed to influence this user input but are far from the strict guidelines of a traditionally notated score in which symbols require a consistent reaction. Electric Scores are a metascore that is to say it is a set of rules used to generate scores. It has few prescriptions on what the scores should be as they depend on the associated live electronics setup but it does describe a set of parameters that insures that the generated scores are all still an Electric Score.
The Curve of the Earth is a graphic score constructed of brushed ink on a long scroll of rice paper. The scroll is quite long -30 or 40 feet long. The ink is usually quite lightly brushed on and the folds, wrinkles and other imperfections in the paper are a vital part of the score. The score is meant to influence the live electronic setup, so it is not that case that you are turning a knob, or moving a slider in reaction to any of these markings. They are there to influence how you are trying to guide the setup. How this is done is left to the performer, but it definitely behooves the performer to be pretty familiar with both their instrument and the section of the score they are to play.
The Network Instrument in questions
The Network Instrument
I’ve written about the Network Instrument quite a bit in these pages (primary articles here and here) so I won’t delve much into the theory. I used various network instrument configurations in the Eleven Clouds project and as I stated in the interview I took part in w/r/t that project, I learned a lot from that project about how I’d setup a network for extended performance. This network is the direct result of that experimentation and experience. There were several elements that I felt I wanted to add into the setup and since the conclusion of that project I’ve made a lot of progress in finding and integrated those components into my base configuration. In general I tried to use existing items where I could adapt them as opposed to just acquiring new objects, as that way I was able to test my theories without accumulating more stuff.
The Network Instrument detail
In this case here I’m using the Nord Micro-modular primarily for EQ which with the Doepfer controller I’m able to make a fairly fine grained adjustments to the overall sound. This has worked well enough that I could see adding a dedicated unit for this, thus freeing up the Micro-modular for other uses. The Rat Shack Mixer I’m using more or less as a matrix mixer and I definitely would like to replace it with the real deal – it’d be a lot smaller for one and could easily add a few more patch points. The major addition to this setup is the Jomox T-Resonator – this device is almost like a physical manifestation of aspects of Network Instrument theory. The unit combines filters, some simple effects, internal feedback and most importantly it can modulate between it’s two channels. It has a nice degree of unpredictability to it and after months of experimenting with it, it has really added to this setup. This network is highly (though far from totally) connected and that has really added to the possibilities.
This network allows for a variety of adjustments both in patching, connections and interfaces which I can utilize for varying parts of the score. This is vital as the score, in its section about the electronics, specifies that the network should not be fixed, that it should evolve along with the score.
Each performance of the piece should have the network especially considered for it. Which isn’t to say it should be a new network for each performance but that the section of the score that is to be played should be considered in what is to be played. Likewise the previous portion should be considered and a small section of a recording of it could even be added as a sound source at the beginning of a new section.
Observation 3 (for percussion) (excerpt)
There are six “observations” that are separate one page scores that can be performed simultaneously with any portion of the score. In the course of a complete performance they can be performed any number of times in concert with the primary score. At any given time no more than two ‘observations’ can be made. Over the course of a complete performance the tendency should be for the bulk of the time to be without observations and of course none need be made.
Observations can be made from any sound source within the specified constraints, but a network instrument, If two of them are occurring simultaneously they should be different instruments. The material on the pages should be interpreted as a Musical Pattern in that a duration for the page should be determined in advance (in collaboration with the Electric Score performer) and that the silences between material should be consistent within this time. The observations are printed on clear transparencies which should be overlaid onto the Electric Score (the same scroll that the primary performer is used, unrolled to where the observers are. If there is not enough score left to do this, then no observations can be made). The observations are interpretations of the intersection of the primary score and the material on the transparency. Material is not to be repeated.
Observation 1 – for a stringed instrument
Observation 2 – for any sound source
Observation 3 – for percussion
Observation 4 – for any sound source
Observation 5 – for bowed strings
Observation 6 – for percussion
The Curve of the Earth (excerpt)
Performance and Recordings
[The Curve of the Earth] should be performed sequentially, that is to say each performance takes up where the last one stops. Each performance should perform as much of the score as the allotted time allows but the overall pace should be sedate. Each section should be then marked and dated with the performance. Any recordings of any parts of the score should include the length and time of the score played. I.e.:
The Curve of the Earth [00’00”-05’30” / 00:00:00-01:09:47]
As the above excerpt from the instructions indicates, The Curve of the Earth, is meant to be played in its entirety as opposed to choosing a section to play. However it is not required to be performed in one single occaison, though of course if one could devote the time to it, one could. It is meant to be played at a deliberate pace, to allow the network instrument to reveal itself. For as I stated above, this score is a overlay on top of this network – the network is the score. And the network should shift and change as the score shifts and change. So really it is expected to be done in multiple performances, picking up where one has left off. It is hard to determine how long it would take to perform at this point, since it is unperformed and of course this will vary by performer. In the end I don’t think it is important, except that it is meant to be played at a rather sedate pace. It should live.
From the perspective of a listener perhaps the details of these elements aren’t important and there is also a risk of the music, once finally experienced, not really living up to any sort of lofty claims. But as I stated from the outset I want to more or less document the entire process of this project, to lay out what it is that is trying to be done. This post describes the score and some of the process; look for further posts that describe more of the ideas and concepts behind it. Ideally also performances should begin at some point, but life events may put those off for some time. A performance of this piece is pretty liberally defined and recording in ones living room qualifies. So perhaps I’ll try to get a recording of the first few inches made before I have to pack everything away for a forthcoming move – keep an eye out for that to be posted here. But ideally in the future the bulk of the piece will be performed live. Hopefully more on that later.
The Work in Progress
A scan of a small part of the Electric Score
I thought that I should write just a bit about the work-in-progress that my last couple of posts have been referencing. I’ve tended in the past to work on projects, usually for quite some time, finally producing some sort of finished piece. Eleven Clouds, with its requirement of producing something monthly, was a fairly new process for me. While generally there was a lot of behind the scenes work each month some months were fairly major undertakings that normally I’d have probably spent a lot more time on. So in a way that project was a kind of a work-in-progress as the project. Or to put it another way the entirety of the Eleven Clouds content was the actual release and each month was a work-in-progress toward that whole.
Contrast this to my Book of Musical Patterns, which I worked on for two years and then published the book and its two companion CDs. While it was not work entirely in isolation (I released one of the tracks on an i hate music comp) that is more indicative of my process -long, slow, contemplative with a final product being released at the end. So for this current project I’m trying to take sort of a middle ground. It will be a long, well thought out process but I thought that I’d put out some of the work as I do it could be seen to develop. The sketches of the previous two posts are the first part of the process I’ve put out so far, but at some point there will be posts on other aspects of the project. It’ll probably be quite some time before I’m satisfied with the network configuration that I’m working toward for the live electronics setup and the sketches probably won’t ultimately be very indicative of the overall sound but I thought it might be of some interest to experience some of how things develop.
This project has three major components to it:
I) An overall structure for the piece that combines an “Electric Score” which is a meta-score used for generating scores that are used with a live electronics setup and a set of companion scores that can be played along with the Electric Score by additional performers. Look for a forthcoming post on “meta-scores” and “electric scores” in particular and the score(s) for this project in particular. The header image is one (tiny) part of the Electric Score for this project.
II) A Network Instrument setup which is said live electronics setup, that is as I’ve written about, somewhat of a score in and of itself. This is what the series of sketches is working through, the attempts to create this “score” that is flexible enough to realize the primary piece. As I’ll discuss in the third point below, this is a long and involved score and the network is not required (or even expected) to be static for each performance, but it should be iteratively developed. So this also is part of the process- developing a flexible network that can evolve as per the score.
III) Performance of the score. The end result of this project is not a recording, or at least not explicitly. The Electric Score (which has been created as of this post) is quite large – the largest score I’ve made since the Book of Musical Patterns. It is expected to be played in parts, though it is not created in segments like the BoMP. The expectation is that in a performance you play a section of the whole, though given sufficient time one could conceive of performing the entire thing. However one performs it it must be played sequentially from beginning to end. That is to say that it is not a score like, say, Treatise, where you can pick pages to play. Performance does not necessarily have to be public, one could sit down in ones backyard, or living room or studio and over a series of sessions perform the piece. My goal though is a mix of private and public performances until I have played through the piece. When circumstances arise to perform with other musicians the companion scores, which can be played with any portion of the primary score, can be utilized.
This project (as readers of this blog I’m sure have noted) combines a lot of my primary interests: Graphic Scores, Indeterminacy of Performance, Live Electronics and the Network Instrument, Structured Improvisation, Experimentalism in various forms, Long Form Works, Novel Forms of Collaborations and of course a lot more that I’ve yet to get into. It can be seen in a way as a direct continuation of both the Book of Musical Patterns and Eleven Clouds and certainly as a product of a lot of the ideas that have interested to me for the last five or more years. Of course this is an ambitious project and there certainly is a chance (perhaps even a likelihood) of failure, or of not meeting expectations and these kind of posts can certainly add to that – they can make something seem overhyped, or overworked or less than the sum of its parts. So there is definitely some risk in these posts, but I think it’ll be interesting and informative to myself as well as any readers/listeners.
Anyway to conclude, there will be a continuing series of posts on the score(s) and probably some further sketches as I work on the network configuration and then at some point, I hope, announcements of the performances as they begin.
This sketch, from the next day of the previous two uploaded, is more concerned with form, though in a somewhat hypothetical way. The material (or material possibilities) from the previous days sketches are explored in how they could be used to construct a coherent piece. It should be noted in live electronics that form often follows material and develops as your setup does. This is a kind of indeterminacy that is of particular interest to myself. These sketches are also for a work in progress that utilizes an overlay score so there are three layers of structuring agency that are considered in these sketches.
http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F16155824 Sketch 0514.2 by spiralcage
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