Program notes (please click on title):
A friend of mine, Polly Hope - painter, sculptor and amateur pianist - asked me to write a piece for her, not too difficult. At that time I was experimenting with some composition software based upon Julia Sets and the Mandelbrot Set which had been developed by a colleague composer, Hugh MacDowall. He had asked me to tell him what I thought of his software. Thus the first piece of the Suite came about; it is the simplest and easiest of all the pieces, their complexity and degree of difficulty gradually increasing throughout the Suite.
The software basically translates any desired areas of the field of complex numbers that makes up the Mandelbrot Set into pitch and duration; the interval structure of the pitch sets and the durations that are to be employed can be determined by the user.
All but two of the nine pieces that go to make up the Suite were composed using this software. The focus in each piece is different: in some it is more on making the characteristically 'fractal' melodic evolution clear by placing it in relief, contrasting it to a quite simple, almost static harmonic evolution. In others, several independently evolving 'melodies' - generated by different subsets - are supported by a common harmonic texture. In almost all cases quite transparent harmonies are employed in order to allow the ear to follow the 'fractal' evolution.
Pieces No.3 and No.4 were composed with a different but related approach based upon the ideas of Catastrophe Theory, a mathematical theory of abrupt, discontinuous change.
The first performance of the entire Suite took place at CEM in Arnhem, Holland in 1991 and was carried out by a computer controlling a Yamaha Disklavier.
After working on my Suite for Piano which employed Julia Setsand the Mandelbrot Set for structuring the pitch and duration fields, I decided to develop a piece which could be performed using the SOUND=SPACE as the instrumental interface to a computer-controlled piano, the Yamah Disklavier. At the time I was working at CEM in Arnhem, where I had been appointed artist-in-residence with the 'brief' of developing the SOUND=SPACE system software, including the development of it as a 'performance' resource.
The score of Strange Attractor consist of a graphic representation of the evolutions of the Julia Sets as calculated for numerous generically different points within the plane of Mandelbrot Set. These 'shapes' are taken as models for the movement of the player's arms and legs within the SOUND=SPACE performance area - a 2 metre high, 230-degree curved surface of approximately 1.4metre radius - surrounding the player. There are approximately 40 different shapes, laid out in an interconnected network according to how they evolve in the plane of complex numbers. The player can start with any one shape, playing it for an indeterminate time, and then move on to any immediately neighboring one in the network.
The first performance of this work was by Rolf Gehlhaar, with the SOUND=SPACE system controlling a Yamaha Disklavier, and took place at CEM in Arnhem, Holland in 1991.
As I had recently attended a series of lectures on particle physics and cosmology - one of my long-term interests -, many of the ideas coursing through my usually fevered mind while I was thinking about a piece for this somewhat unusual ensemble of instruments, were of a cosmological nature.
I began to conceive a musical flow which, liberating itself from the gravity of the unison by responding to forces of different magnitudes and scales, arises out of a musical plasma to individuate into fragmentary but recogniseable shapes.
To some extent, I have taken 'snapshots' at various scales of the first billionth second or so of the 'Big Bang' and used these as structural models for G.U.T.E., but very loosely, as an inspiration. The development of the piece is by no means linear and occupies less space and considerably more time.
G.U.T.E. was commisioned by Harry Spaarnay's nifty little group Het Trio with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the first performance took place in Eindhoven, Holland in 1992; it was recorded by the NOS.
This work was commissioned by the Nettlefold Festival in 1993 for their installation of the huge inflatable 'Colourscape' on Clapham Common, London.
INNA SPACE 2000 was aimed primarily at children, intended in part as an introduction to multi-dimensional electronic music. 'Colourscape' is a large inflatable, consisting of approximately 60 linked architecturally identical pillow-shaped chambers through which people can perambulate. The intense primary colours of the chambers are very carefully chosen for their effect upon the visitor.
The composition is in the shape of a 'space' journey, with the performer playing the role of captain and navigator, occasionally also speaking to the 'passengers'. The journey, beginning with an energetic take-off, proceeds to a number of different 'stations' and 'risky' adventures in space, and then safely returns home. All the sounds employed - both the performed ones and the ones on the accompanying tape - were chosen primarily for their 'dynamic' and 'spatial' qualities.
The first performances of INNA SPACE 2000 were given by the composer during the Nettlefold Festival 1993 inside the inflatable 'Colourscape' in London; an excellent video recording, summing up the performance and including numerous glimpses of the audience, was made by Graham Elliott.
Composed to mark the first official visit of the President of the Republic of Armenia to Great Britain, Angaghoutiun (independence in Armenian) was inspired by the recent re-emergence of Armenia as an independent nation.
The work, like the nation, is a fragment of a rich and broad tapestry, the edges of which lie beyond our horizons, reaching to a far distant, partially forgotten, partially suppressed past, as well as forward into an uncertain yet hopeful future.
Small, almost microscopic elements - scales, fragments, colours, textures, moods - drawn from Armenian art, landscape, liturgy and folksong, were employed to shape the material. The work is dedicated to my sons Hagop and Vahakn, and to all the children of Armenia.
The premiere in 1994, during a fundraising concert for the victims of the horrific earthquake in Armenia in 1988, was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, by members of the Chilingirian Quartet with Seta Tanyel, piano.
Commissioned by and written for Roger Woodward, QL is a somewhat mad trip into my 'herbal garden' of computer-aided composition tools: it is, in part, slightly revisionistic, but on the whole, a beautiful piece which every self-respecting pianist of contemporary music should be able to play from memory. The ending of the work contains a coded message to the world from Hiroshima.
sorry, not ready yet....still sleeping.
I was asked by my sons' school if I would offer a composition for sale at an 'auction of promises' for one of the school's fundraising events. The parent 'buying' the composition had two children, one beginning the violin and the other, beginning piano.
The work is thus clearly divided into a main line for the violin and a simple piano accompaniment. The violin line was generated by fractal arithmetic and the chordal piano accompaniment by simple superposition and permutation of the violin line intervals.
A collaboration with Laurie Booth choreographing members of the Shobana Jaya Singh dance company, this work was commissioned by the dance festival STEPPING OUT and was performed several times in the - specially for this occasion - enlarged Purcell Room. Laurie's conception for the work consisted of a number of permutations of the same formula of movements. The programs I wrote for the SOUND=SPACE attempted to reflect this structure: each of the 9 different programs for structuring the space shared some of the sounds of all the other programs. Reading short excerpts from texts about 'out-of-body' and 'life-after-death' experiences, the voices of the dancers were also sampled and included in the sound material of the work.
Lyrics by Michael Sharkey, antipodean masterpoet
sorry, not ready yet....another one of those impossibly difficult pieces, so I'm still waiting for the first performance so I can find out what it is I tried to do in it!
The CYBERNETs - sound installations consisting of a variety of acoustic feedback loops, piped-in sounds from the exterior world, small electronic 'instruments' and also some physical, amplified instruments such as very long steel strings stretched across the entire space, or enormous electro-inductively active 'thunder sheets' - were designed and developed in collaboration with David Johnson in the Feedback Studio.
An important aspect of the installations were the acoustic feedback loops, which were constructed to 'listen' to the space and to modulate the sound and re-inject it into the space. The sounds caused by these loops would not only slowly drift, modulating themselves, but would also be affected by the mere presence of people in the space due to the fact that the acoustic characteristics of an empty room are different from those of the same room with people in it, especially people moving about. Furthermore, a set of microphone 'telescopes' were used to bring in sounds from the exterior world, usually one channel of natural-animal sounds and one channel of human-machine sounds.
These installations, in which both the presence of visitors and their actions - in many instances just touching any one of the 'instruments' - would change the prevailing sound world or 'inject' new sounds into it, were extremely well received and, conceptually speaking, were the origin of my ideas for SOUND=SPACE
The first CYBERNET was installed in the municipal museum of Moers, Germany; the second in a large underground space in Munich during the '72 Olympics. Some of the elements of the CYBERNETS were also used to animate the sculptures and painting-environments of Mary Bauermeister in exhibitions in Cologne and Amsterdam.