Friday, 15 June 2012

Of Sound and Silence

Last week I organised a concert featuring John Cage's 4'33" and Yves Klein's Monotone-Silence Symphony, as well as works by local composers, including myself. The concert was the fourth in Frakture's series of acoustic music nights, Acoute, and took place on 7th June 2012.

In programming the event, I wanted to explore the relationship between Klein and Cage, between sound and silence. Both pieces were written within 3 years of each other. The composers were both interested in Zen Buddhism. Cage's piece was influenced by Rauschenberg's monochrome paintings and Yves Klein is most famous for his blue monochromes.

Klein's original version of the piece had 20 minutes of one continuous sound, followed by 20 minutes of silence. On the night, we presented a 'medley': 4'33" of all one sound, followed by John Cage's silence (apart from a rogue note in the third movement ;) You can watch a video of the performance below.

My piece, Of Sound and Silence, was written in response to Cage and Klein's. In it, I explored the idea of a  single note containing tension, tension that is only released in an explosion of harmony. I also explore 'silence' as a means to create highly textural, or timbral, music. One of the goals I set myself in this piece was a continuation of much of my work for orchestral forces of recent years, the democratisation of musical performance. Using a text score with a conductor, I set out to create highly complex textures and forms that would be impossibly virtuosic for the vast majority of performers.

A few years ago, I started using more aleatory techniques, alongside guided improvisation, in my pieces with this goal in mind. I wanted to create music with complex textures that could be played by musicians from a wide range of playing abilities. After discovering Stockhausen's text scores, I decided to try out the idea. Now musicians didn't even need to be able to read conventional notation, opening up performances to an even wider public.

One of the strengths of aleatory form is also its weakness. It's very easy to create textures that expand, diffuse, grow more complex and polyphonic over time, however the reverse is much more difficult to achieve. One of my aims in Of Sound and Silence was to find mechanisms that could coalesce the music, bring it together in moments of unity. This is something I will explore further in my next piece.

Here is a video of the performance:

The night also featured works by local composers, Richard Harding, Lucia Dunbar, Alex Raimi-Scott. If you go to the Klein & Cage video below, their pieces are also part of the same playlist.

Yves Klein - John Cage medley
Performed by the Novo Ensemble
Conducted by Simon Jones

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra | Musical Settings Part III

Earlier this year I played in the a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra's Musical Setting's Part III in the Crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool. The concert featured works by Howard Skempton, one of the founders of the Scratch Orchestra along with Cornelius Cardew, on which the a.P.A.t.T. Orchestra is based, including a newly commissioned piece written by him for the event.

Here is Howard Skempton's new work, Hope St Melodies:

Other pieces included Air Melody, based on techniques from mediaeval music:

And Lament. This was the one piece of Skempton's I really liked, having turned his back on the avant-garde after leaving the Scratch Orchestra. It was interesting, however, that Skemtpon did not conduct the most interesting version of the piece. During rehearsals, the orchestra's director, Jon Herring, had conducted, taking it much slower, with much less rigid timing between chord changes. This created a highly textural piece, where the chord progression became just part of the timbral evolution. Skempton's version, however, was rigid and compacted, not allowing the music to breath. Judge for yourself:

Jon Herring also had a piece of his own in the concert, which he had written specially. It was inspired by the spiral staircase in the Crypt, and features a section that uses the 'Shephard tone' aural illusion to create a sense of continuous downward motion.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Geometry of Flux | UWA Centenary


Yesterday I entered the University of Western Australia's Centenary 3D Open Art Challenge, a prize for 3D art created in the virtual world of Second Life. A few years ago I was one of the winners of the UWA's Imagine art prize under my previous Second Life name of Snubnose Genopeak. Since then, the UWA has worked tirelessly to promote the Arts in Second Life, and I was pleased to be able to support their centenary celebrations.

For my entry, I wanted to celebrate not the UWA's past, but their future, and the work they have done to support cutting edge developments in art. My submission is a kinetic sculpture called The Geometry of Flux, and was entered under my Second Life name, Cajska Carlsson. It is an exploration of the future of form and content, a geometry that constantly evolves into ever new forms. The sound component of the installation similarly generates evolving forms in a continuous evolution. It was composed using only feedback, though this is disguised by the ethereal nature of the sound.

The exhibition will be open throughout June and July 2012. You can visit it by following this link. You will need a Second Life account, which is free.

Here is the description that accompanies the piece.
Form and content are linked together through a dialectical process in shining unity.
Constant evolution...
a movement towards, but never reaching...
never repeating...
Discard the old semiotic forms of meaning, that endlessly recycle the experience of the ages.
Create a new form of sensory-motor meaning.
Meaning through direct experience : of the senses : of movement : construct a new world.