This post is a reflective one dealing with some of the topics we’ve covered so far in this module, specifically the ones which I’ve found most useful and the ones which have influenced my project.
Session 1 covered a couple of things in Pure Data, specifically various ways of playing back samples and generating tones. We also put together a system using select nodes, metros and randoms which randomly triggers an automated volume fader. This was particularly useful for me as select nodes can be used to alter the frequency at which sounds are triggered, something that has been central to both my piece for Public Making and the generative system I am building for this module.
This is the aforementioned system which triggers an automated fader. Mine features 8 oscillators which create a complex layered tone.
This is a very simple patch which plays a sample from the disk. Nothing we haven’t looked at before but we did some interesting stuff to develop it.
This is a development of the above patch which triggers and loops a sample, in this case 0.wav. The actual looping part of this was something I found quite useful but apart from that this wasn’t really anything we hadn’t looked at before. It appears that I’ve made some notes here which I’ve started to develop on the patch below.
What we did here was alter the above patch so that it would randomly play one out of three files. I haven’t added a line object to smooth out the fade, I guess I must have run out of time.
Overall this session was one with a mixed degree of usefulness. It was worth it for learning about select nodes and trigger bang bang (etc) nodes, both of which are central to the Pure Data work I’ve done since then.
Session 2 involved making field recordings at various places in an around the university, loading them into the computer’s RAM and scrubbing through them.
This is the patch that we worked on during this session. I’ve made some notes on it and integrated some FX in order to smooth playback and create a tape like slow down and speed up effect.
I found the concept of loading things into the RAM to be pretty useful and incorporated it into my VLF radio system which I built for public making. It’s an interesting and convenient way to use longer files, enabling me to play ranges of the sample rather than the whole thing as a one shot.
At this point our study was interrupted by the strikes and the Easter holidays so I spent the intervening seven weeks developing my generative audio system which I’ll cover in detail in a later post.
During our first session back we performed three pieces; Radio Music by John Cage, From Unknown Silences which is part of Four Meditations for Orchestra by Pauline Oliveros and Dot Piece by John Stevens. These pieces were interesting for me because I have not previously encountered music which is scored in this way. I am not really a music theorist in the sense that I don’t use western notation and only use the bits of music theory that are useful for my practice such as scales and modes.
From Unknown Silences (1996)
This is an invitation to create and play single independent sounds — no melodies. One unique sound at a time.
Sound means any type of sound including pitched or non-pitched (noise) to make an inclusive and very wide variety of sounds.
Silence before — silence after each sound, listening for the beginning and ending of each sound. Each sound and silence as dissimilar as possible in every aspect .
Duration of sounds and silences are free — silences need as much variety in duration as sounds.
Articulations and dynamics include the full range that is possible.
The piece is over when there is no more sound.
An optional soft ensemble performs the same score at a very low dynamic level (ppp) moving slowly in and around the audience and adjoining spaces such as the foyer or other entry ways. Depending on the duration of the piece the performers gradually make their way to the stage to be with the other players for the final silence.
The above is the score for From Unknown Silences. To perform this piece we each used either an instrument provided by Tim or our own instruments/patches that we’d been working on. As my patch is generative and essentially does whatever it wants I was unable to use mine so instead I used Tim’s Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesiser (which was very cool!). We had some problems during our first performance because we were not really playing as an ensemble and the result was rather cacophonous. After a short break we tried again and really focused on listening to one another and responding rather than doing our own thing and that really seemed to help. The piece went on for a minute or two longer than it probably should have but overall it was a much more satisfactory performance.
HERE is a link to a YouTube video of the orchestra of the WIU School Of Music performing From Unknown Silences and doing a decidedly better job of it than we did.
Shown above is the score to John Cage’s Radio Music. This piece is played using radios with the numbers representing the frequency to be tuned to and the lines representing breaks. Players can play the frequencies and breaks for as long as they like and the piece is finished after everyone has played the last frequency. We also performed this piece twice, the first one being more free form and the second one having a tighter time limit. Of note for me was the sheer variety of sound that came through. We heard everything from snippets of popular music, classical music and speech. Of course there was an awful lot of static and white noise present too. This piece is interesting because its very nature means that every performance is unique and it changes depending upon where in the world it is performed. In a sense I suppose you could call it somewhat generative.
HERE is a link to a YouTube video of an ensemble performing this piece. Again, doing a decidedly better job of it than we did.
The final piece we performed was Dot Piece by John Stevens from his book Search and Reflect. I was unable to find a copy of this particular score online but it essentially consists of creating the shortest sound possible and playing that sound in response to and as part of the ensemble. Of interest to me here was its emphasis (for me) upon the spaces between the sound. It’s an old adage in music that ‘silence is as important as sound’ and for me that kind of minimalism is very important in my work as a composer/producer.
HERE is a link to an ensemble performing Dot Piece.
Overall this session was very interesting for me. Admittedly not so much in a way that directly influenced my practice for this module but more in that it encouraged me to think about music and sounds I hadn’t previously considered. In that way this kind of indirect influence is something which will no doubt influence my practice in more subtle ways.
Most recently we revisited the project we did during the induction week where we used the oscillators on a 4093 NAND chip to create sound (diagram shown above). We wired them up to potentiometers and generated variable tones with them. I very much enjoyed this activity during induction week so it was good to revisit it. I was able to put together 3 separate oscillators and have them play in unison which was very satisfying.
Also during this session John showed us a piece named Ohm-My-God which utlised a bowl of random components, a 9v battery, some spoons and some connecting wires. He agitated the components to create random circuits and probed the bowl to give us an audio output. This piece was very interesting because it highlighted that pieces can be based on very simple ideas but still yield conceptually interesting results. It also raised issues to do with performance gestures and we were asked to think about how our movements reflected the music we were performing and how that relates to the audiences experience.
Study One for Random Circuits by J.M. Bowers (which uses a variation on the above technique) from his website.