Monday, April 4, 2011

Program for The Sound Theater

Program Notes for: The Sound Theater

Notes About the Program:

Matthew Barber writes about his work: “I wrote Interface Chapel for Scott Worthington in 2008. It exists in two versions: one, which you will hear tonight, is a six-movement suite for solo contrabass and computer. The other situates these six movements among 22 others, played by members of a large ensemble. Each of the six movements is designed after one of six important abstract solid objects, collectively the sphere and the Platonic Solids. The Platonic Solids are the regular polyhedra, that is, for a given solid all of the faces and vertices are identical. Examples include the usual cube, the tetrahedron which is a 4-faced pyramid, and the octahedron which is like a pair of Egyptian pyramids glued base to base. In each movement except for Sphere I imagined assigning each face of a polyhedron to some musical idea, such as a tempo, a spatial placement, a timbre, a register, a specific musical figure and so forth. Next I imagined traveling from vertex to vertex until I reached all of them. A number of faces meet at a vertex, and so for a given section I draw only upon the elements assigned to the faces which meet at the vertex at hand. For the sphere I imagined traveling in various directed motions along the outside and inside surface. Each movement is in a different tuning system – some of these systems approximate mean-tone tunings, and some are more overtly microtonal.

In each movement I also use various contrapuntal techniques or constraints, which often depend upon the computer processing. In Octahedron all of the pitches are from open strings or harmonics. In Icosahedron the contrabass plays repeating patterns in different meters using a snare-drum stick, among prerecorded contrabasses playing similar repeating figures. Sphere has the most obvious processing, which seeks to echo and reflect the music played by the bass, and to add octaves above and below the pitches the bassist plays. Later on in the piece, the octaves change to perfect-12ths, and the corresponding underlying scale changes as well. You may hear Dodecahedron as a kind of quarter-tone “baroque” prelude, in straight 16th notes: some of the notes are prerecorded, though, so there is a secondary dance-like counterpoint between the live and recorded bass sounds. In Tetrahedron I use the computer to transpose the sound of the bass to make something which might sound like a microtonal version of a medieval vocal piece. Finally, Cube records the bass sounds and plays them back at different tempos (and therefore at different pitches) in counterpoint with the live bass, creating a kind of electronic canon.

Paul Koonce writes about his work: "My goal ... is to identify a kind of real-time voice and corporeality for electroacoustic music -- a kind of presence predicated on the linking of sophisticated sound models with non-trivial controls. The search for sound presence -- unbelievable presence -- has driven much of my electro-acoustic work going back to Hothouse and its concern with creating anomalous, ear-catching sound events."

This concert presents two of Koonce's seminal works. In Pins (1996) Koonce begins with the sound of children playing the classic video game “Pong”. These everyday sounds are manipulated and layered to create an evolving drama of sound. Sounds of street musicians, creaking doors, and forest insects blend with those of video games, office work, game shows, isolated musical instruments and traffic (among others) to create an always fluid fantastic daydream composed of varying densities of sonic reference.

As the title suggests Bernard Parmegiani's De Natura Sonorum (2001) is a collection of etudes on the nature of sounds. Already a tower in the style of composition known as musique concrete the fact that Parmegiani would humble himself in the composition of a series of etudes so late in his life is a testament to the ever inspiring resource Parmegiani found in everyday sounds and, as the title suggests, the nature of sound itself. Here we present two selections from a collection of 12 studies. In Incidences RĂ©sonances Parmegiani uses the ideas of resonance and interjection to create motives during his development of metallic timbres. In Conjugaison Du Timbre Parmegiani creates an almost pyschedelic exploration of the timbres of a low woodwind instrument through granular synthesis, layering, and filtering.

Koonce's Hothouse (1992) begins with what might be heard as a surreal recording session consisting of a drumset, upright bass, and a saxophone. The sounds of children and men's voices interject and give cause to the instruments' varied and wild responses. A more intense work than Pins, Hothouse's title undoubtedly references the term as it has been applied in the lore of Jazz music, a use of the term that invokes the idea of a space for vigorous growth and development. Here Koonce stretches the Jazz Trio using digital audio techniques to create a surreal, moody, and highly dramatic reflection of this tradition.

Scott Worthington writes about his work: “Before composing At Dusk, I had become jealous of pianists' ability to hold the sustain pedal of their instrument down indefinitely, allowing the strings to freely resonate, and hoped to find a way to let the bass resonate in a similar fashion. To this aim, I wrote a simple computer program in SuperCollider to become my sustain pedal. This program places the bass's sound in a faux resonance chamber tuned to the pitches played throughout the piece (for the technically minded, this is done with tuned all pass filters in series—sort of like an intentionally poorly designed Schroeder reverb).

The piece is comprised of four large sections which overlap to form transitions. In addition to the digital resonances, the bass part takes copious advantage of the bass's resonant possibilities through the use of harmonics, open strings, and low pizzicato notes allowed to vibrate until they reach silence. These long-ringing pizzicati subdivide the piece, not necessarily coinciding with the four sections.”

The Sound Theater

Music Under the Influence of Computers returns with:

The Sound Theater

Scott Worthington, Bass

Monday, april 4th, 2011
Calit2 Theater
Atkinson Hall
UCSD Campus


Interface Chapel (2008) - Mathew Barber
(Live Bass and Computer)

Pins (1996) - Paul Koonce
(surround sound)

Selections from De Natura Sonorum (2001) - Bernard Parmegiani
(surround sound)
1. Incidences résonances
6. Conjugaison Du Timbre

Hothouse (1992) - Paul Koonce
(surround sound)

At Dusk (2009) - Scott Worthington