CP16: Day 3 – Why electronics?

Today is more of a general musing day, I think. The last couple of days have been good, but I’m having a bit of trouble getting my brain into gear today. I’ve done a bit of listening (Wim Merton/Glenn Branca’s soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s The Belly of an Architect, which I rediscovered during last year’s Creative Pact) and very much enjoyed that, and I’ve been having a think about some great layered drawings by Lisa Temple-Cox, which I discovered thanks to a recommendation by Stuart Russell after talking about Joseph Cornell yesterday. I do find the whole medical aspect a bit creepy (especially the babies… eugghhh) but I really like the layering she has going on in images like this one:

7th ARS dissection drawing workshop

Not sure yet how I might use this, but it did start me thinking more about what I really want to do with this piece, and why I feel it needs to be cello and electronics. Right from the first idea it’s been about combining these two and I need to understand how I want the two elements to interact.

I do want to be sure that neither part is included ‘just because’. There’s a certain value to learning how to incorporate live electronics, but – like how I feel about including video – it needs to not be just an add-on. So what sorts of things am I interesting in doing with live electronics that I couldn’t do otherwise (or couldn’t do simply otherwise)?

  • randomising content
  • freeing up the performer to have more control over when he does things or the pace at which he moves through material, working with an electronic partner that can respond to minute changes if need be (responsiveness)
  • using live-recorded material as playback or as the basis for digital manipulation pre-playback (not sure how interested I really am in this, but I’m not dismissing it yet)
  • on the fly sound manipulation
  • triggering video and/or pre-recorded sounds based on live performer’s actions

I think the idea of freeing up the performer, maybe making his part very very vague (I’ve been thinking extra-long tones at low volume, or super-short ones interspersed with long silences), is the one that interests me most. To be able to use digital material that is triggered by his actions without the tension involved in having another performer triggering those things from listening, and also enabling subtle changes to trigger events – e.g. a very slow glissando that triggers a cascade of digital sound when it reaches a certain pitch.

My concern at this point is also to not make the piece too long. The last piece I did I was aiming for 12 minutes and ended up with something that, while flexible in duration, could take anywhere up to about 25 minutes. I need this one to be more contained (aiming for 5-8 minutes, with an absolute maximum of 10) so I think I need to severely limit the elements I choose to work with – pitch, tone colour and rhythm, but also digital processes.

I do feel I need to do more listening to work for solo instrument (especially string instruments) and electronics. Any suggestions for masterpieces I should seek out?

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