Programme notes (please click on title):
Readings in the field of cosmology - the evolution of the universe - led me to the formulation of a related musical structure. The two main theories of the time both state that the universe began in a compact state of infinite density and is presently expanding isotropically(evenly in all directions). One theory, however, maintains that this expansion will continue indefinitely at an ever decreasing rate, whereas the other predicts that the universe will expand to a maximum size and then contract again to its original state.
The musical structure of ISOTROPE is based upon two coupled processes: a statistical transition from low, dark to high, bright sounds and a likewise statistical transition from abstract sounds to verbal sounds back to abstract sounds. These two processes provide the centre ('present') of the structure; its flanks ('past' and 'future') are extrapolated from it on the basis of two sets of proportions: an arithmetic set, in which the interval decreases (O:1:2:3:4:5) and an exponential set, in which the interval increases according the first five powers of 2, as in (2:4:8:16:32) .
The first set of proportions determines the large-scale divisions, timbral differentiations, horizontal and vertical densities, interval fields and fields of dynamics; the second set determines the actual values of the parameters such as duration, loudness, density, etc. within these large-scale divisions.
The acoustic evets arising out of the combination of the values determined as above are of two basic types, each of which has two forms: groups, static or dynamic and fields, static or dynamic. Groups are generally very individualistic and transparent, containing only a few elements, whereas fields are mass-cloud type structures, often very dense. Changes in the various parameters in static structures are random about a central axis, whereas in dynamic structures they have clearly perceiveable directions.
The premiere of ISOTROPE was performed by the Saltarello Choir, by whom it was commissioned, conducted by Richard Bernas, and took place in London in 1978.
The course of events in this work is determined by the relationships between a fundametally static set of structures. 12 different interval fields are mapped onto 4 different sets 'articulation', resulting in the 48 different 'substructures', the 'particles' of the work.
The other prime characteristics of each 'particle' such as loudness,
density, duration and timbre are governed by a single set of static or
dynamic rules, four in all, which relate the particles to one another
via processes of transformation:
The final ordering of the 47 audible interactions between the 48 particles was determined by the simple rule that a particle can only be subjected to any interaction which leaves it with a final set of parameter values (e.g. duration, pitch, loudness) lying within the domain of the possible. In the course of all the interactions, every parameter reaches every one of its possible values only once; an interaction between particle number 48 and number 1 is implied.
The premiere of PARTICLES was performed by the Ensemble 2e2m, by whom it was commissioned, conducted by Paul Mefano, and took place in Paris in 1978, where it was recorded by the ORTF.
The work consists of a sequence of 4 times 4 structures, of which each group of 4 concentrates on change in one or a different combination of the following parameters: pitch, dynamic shape (envelope), linear density and verical density. Each of the structures is constructed by relying upon the same exhaustive sequence of combinations of the following kinds of change in the above parameters: rising (increasing), static, or falling (decreasing).
Selective use of the delay, operated by the player in the course of the performance, allows for the construction of further combinations, depending upon the number of layers employed and how the interval of entry between the layers - in this case 3 seconds - is subdivided; out of the total of 16 structures, 4 structures have only onelayer, 4 structures have 2 layers and 8 have 3 layers.
The premiere of POLYMORPH was performed by Harry Spaarnay and took place in Amsterdam 1977, where it was recorded by the NOS.
This is one of my earliest computer-aided compositions. For it, I devised computer program which generated the entire harmonic structure 'out of time' (independent of any durations): four different simultaneous, linear, cyclical interval progressions. Each progression also exists in a second version in which the octave placement of the pitches was also subjected to a cyclical progression.
This deterministic pitch/harmonic structure - a quasi-sequence of 8-note 'chords' - was then 'viewed' through five independent 'windows', each window periodically opening and closing for different lengths of time and at a different rate. There are times when only one or two windows are open, times when all windows are open, as well as times when none are open.
Each window imposes its own characteristic durations and articulations upon the pitches viewed through it. The rate at which the windows open and close and the length of time each window is open was chosen in such a way as to create a complex multi-stranded musical flow in which, although all strands are not audible all the time, one always senses their presence and continued development.
The premiere of LINEAR A was performed by Michiko Takahashi, who commissioned the work, in Darmstadt 1978, where it was recorded by the Internationale Musikinstitut Darmstadt.
This work represents an extreme reduction of means as the consequence of a structural idea: a musical structure in which all parameters may be experienced as equally significant, i.e. in which there is no hierarchy. The requirements of such a structure are very stringent: all parameters must be treated according to the same principles, no repetition of any kind is possible, time must be treated as a single 'sealed' moment since the perception of a 'before-now-after" already corresponds to a temporal hierarchy.
The fundamental problem is twofold: design a structure which, initself is absolutely and always unique, and expand the 'present' into a continuous self-suffcient musical statement. The work present three different approaches to the problem.
The premiere of CAMERA OSCURA was performed by the ensemble 20th Century Brass, who commissioned the work, in Saarbruecken in 1978, where it was recorded by the Saarlaendische Rundfunk.
'Strangeness', 'charm' and 'colour' are several of the quantum characteristics of subatomic particles - quarks - which are called upon in order to explain their behaviour and predict their combination into larger particles according to previously accepted theory and observation. None of these terms has any connection with its conventional meaning; they are arbitrary labels.
The composition consists of a sequence of 27 structures (3 x 3 x 3) of varying degrees of interrelationship, the most fundamental one being that in all of them, the beginning (attack) is generally provided by the piano, the middle (sustain) by the trombone, and the end (decay) by the trumpets. Some structures of greater complexity, consisting of several simulteneous layers, have multiple attack-sustain-decay functions occurring throughout their lifetimes.
Every aspect of the structures - parameters such as duration, linear density (speed), vertical density (number of sounds at a given moment) intensity (loudness), degree of randomness, etc. - is determined by an exponential scale of values. This leads to a tendency for the values to grow very rapidly toward extreme quantities. Due to this extremeness, parameters tend to function relative to one another, that is, our experience of the musical flow becomes a relativistic one, dominated by that parameter which we happen to perceive as functioning in the foreground.
STRANGENESS, CHARM and COLOUR was commissioned by Roger Woodward and premiered by him, with the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, in London in 1978. It was subsequently taken on a CMN tour of the UK, where it was recorded several times.
Although the source of the sounds in this composition is the voice, a simple yet sophisticated combination of small electronic devices - a ringmodulator, a band-pass filter and a short digital delay line - through which all the sounds must pass before they are heard, allows a focussing on all aspects to such a degree that a kind of 'microsurgery' can be performed upon them. Even the minutest details can be exploited structurally. In the original version, the singers themselves operate the electronic devices (designed and built by Ian Macintosh and the composer) during the performance; only the distribution of the sounds in space is carried out by the sound projectionist
In order to take full advantage of the modulating possibilities, a very comprehensive and generally abstract palette of vocal sounds is employed, although occasionally text fragments taken from theoretical work in the field of space-time physics, emerge from the context. The piece itself develops in a continuity of gradually unfolding timbres and textures, drawing lines which, on the distant horizons, converge on our memories, smooth and well-worn like pebbles.
WORLDLINE was commissioned by Electric Phoenix and premiered in London in 1980. It was subsequently taken on a CMN tour of the UK, where it was recorded several times, also by the BBC.
"... flow, run, meander, gush, pour, spout, roll, jet, well, issue, drop, drip, dribble, spash, squirt, surge, swell, ripple, spurt, squirt, spout, splash, swash, rush, eddy, gurge, trill, trickle, gurgle, murmur, babble, bubble, guggle, sputter, splatter, billow, surge, sewll, ripple, calm...."
FLUID was composed with the aid of a computer employing algorithmic modelling derived from that branch of physics known as fluidynamics. The programmes generated groups of pitches whose movement represents the movement of molecules within confined spaces and clearly defined energy gradients, very much like the way a small stream of water navigates obstructions on its way downhill. Because the steepness of the descent and the hardness of the obstructions are the major factors in determining the shape of the stream, the computer modelling concentrated primarily on these two aspects.
The work was commissioned by Lise-Martine Jeanneret-Oxman who, unfortunately, due to a prolonged illness, could not premiere it. It was finally first performed and recorded by the Ensemble 2e2m in Paris under the direction of Paul Mefano in 1983.
This composition is based upon an examination of the physical interactionof various types of sound signals. Its structure and organisation emerge primarily from the totality of these subsurface interactions. The fundamental process involved is that of interference patterening, brought about by a very slight but repeated variable phase shifting of a signal with respect to itself or by superposing many frequencies that are only very slightly out of unison.
These kinds of interactions, taking place beneatch the 'surface' of the sounds, can give rise to completely new sounds as well as complex and shifting timbral patterns, such as in moire antique, where the rhythmic patterning of the surface is produced in manufacture by the superposition through pressure of slightly misaligned parallel weaves.
SUB ROSA was commissioned by the Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Musicale, Metz, where it was produced in 1980; it received its premiere in Lille in 1980.
In a fashion analogous to the way images are processed when they are digitised, an 'acoustic' image may be 'scanned' and reconstructed as a sequence of pixels, each having the same duration but its own particular 'shade' of density, articulation, timbre, loudness, interval field, register and instrumentation.
This approach served as the main point of departure in the composition of this work. I developed a series of interlocking computer programs which were structured to calculate the parameter values for density, articulation, timbre, loudness, pitch interval fields, register and instrumentationof 64 sections of equal duration.
Each section is assigned its own unique set of parameter values, the set belonging to a series of 'shades' of values as determined by a 'macrostructure program'. Underlying this program was a process of growth, decay and mutation governed by fluctuating statistical distributions somewhat analogous to the fluctuations in the conditions of the environment of a naturally developing organism.
Because the 'piece' was going to be generated by the computer according to statistical and weighted random distributions, leading to a possible multitude of different versions, I decided to generate two versions, for two identical groups of instruments, which would be played simultaneously. Thus the 'music' lies not only in the parallel, similar evolution of the events of each ensemble, but also in their differences. Sometimes these are substantial, but most of the time they are minute.
PIXELS was first performed and recorded by an ad hoc ensemble of the ORTF directed by Marc Monnet, in Paris in 1982.