Kuki no Sukima

For the next coming weeks I will be commenting on my newest composition Kuki no Sukima performed November 24th by Trondheim Sinfonietta with conductor Halldis Rønning.

Since the piece is written as a part of my research project Conducting Digital Systems (ConDiS) I will be reflecting on the following:

  • Use of the ConDiS technology
  • My own artistic development with regard to ConDiS
  • The extended role of the conductor using ConDiS
  • Artistic output using ConDiS
  • Mixed media composition
  • Reflections regarding mixed music for ensemble
  • Mixing and mastering live interactive music performance
  • and more…

Stay tuned.


Controlling using Conducting Gestures

As part of my ConDiS project I have been looking at various conducting gestures to control electronics or the balance between live electronics and live acoustic sounds. The main task has been finding an answer on how do I add these controls to the professional music conductors gestural library. Do I use classical conducting gestures or do I have to invent some new?

I have come to the conclusion that using already well known gestures is probably the safest way, although I might have to introduce few new. The main reason is purely practical, the professional orchestral conductor has trained for years his musical gestures and it might be difficult to ask to learn new one. Therefore do the use of ConDiS less attractive so to speak. Another thing is that since the conductor is conducting very similar elements in the electronic as for the acoustic instruments why not use same gestures?  Therefore I use the following gestures all that are well known in the conducting repertoire:

Controllers and signs.

The original plan, made at the start of the ConDiS artistic research program, controllers (parameters) to be controlled by the conductor were grouped into following categorization:

Volume control (Overall volume)

The conductor can raise or lower the overall volume of the electronic sound. With simple finger gesture, an OK sign, he/she can trigger the volume control feature “on” and then by lifting left arm raise the sound. When the volume level is at “right” level, the volume control is triggered “off” by closing the hand. Same goes for lowering the sound except the arm must be lowered.

Pan control (spatial location)

The conductor can move sound in space. He/she can with finger gesture (thumb up) trigger the pan control feature and then by tilting the hand move the special location of the sound. As with volume control, the pan control function is deactivated (turned off) by closing the hand.

Effect control. (sonority and spectral timbre)

The conductor can raise or lower the overall effect volume. He/she can with finger gesture (little finger out) trigger the effect control feature and then by lifting or lowering left arm raise or lower the sound. The effect control function is turned off by closing the hand.

Back on Track

It has been a while since my last blog. The reason I have been very busy working on a new composition for nine instruments and an interactive conductor. Will be posting more about the project in the coming weeks.

This coming Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 I will be using my conducting glove to control and play with a trumpet player Erik Kimestad. It is going to be very interesting and I will post some examples and “deep” thoughts after the concert.

Spent the day today working on ways to contact and control various elements of reverb, like decay time plus sweeping filter with the rotation of my hand. Had to repair the conducting glove and will have an upgraded version of it tomorrow.

Etude for Flute and Conductor

I have been working on a short piece for flute and interactive conductor where I both try out notation for extended flute technique and graphics indicating electronic sounds. The extended flute technique notation is based on the notation Kaija Saariaho uses in her compositions and has somewhat become a universal way to notate this kind of flute playing. I like using it since it is directly evolved from the traditional notation system and therefore a logical extension causing the performer as little needless extra steps and makes reading the music more “natural”. It is always a question how far composer should go when notating his/her compositions. In the sixties, there was a “period when every new piece had to have its own notational system”. (Dick, Robert. “Notes.” Notes, vol. 46, no. 1, 1989, pp. 236–237., www.jstor.org/stable/940783).Since then “…there has been a sensible trend toward directness in notation and its plethora of notations discarded in favor of traditional noteheads with simple, direct instructions printed in plain language above them. (Dick, Robert. “Notes.” Notes, vol. 46, no. 1, 1989, pp. 236–237., www.jstor.org/stable/940783.)
I must confess that I do agree with Robert Dick that there is a limitation how “innovative” one comes when comes to music notation. The classical notation has survived all sorts of new musical trends or styles and does not need any drastic changes. Therefore it is my intention to use the classical notation system to its utmost, adding “approved” external notation and plain written text.

When it comes to writing down the electronics I do get a bit confused, how can I interpret the electronic sounds so that it is easy for the performer and conductor to follow or understand. There has to be some relationship between what is heard and what is seen in the score. In this example, I try to draw graphically the various volumes of three major effects used in the piece, Delay, Reverb, and Feedback. The graphics I use for the effects are based on well known graphical signs for these effects as I try to be in harmony with my own theory to re-use and adjust to my needs already accepted signs instead of innovating. Still, I am not concerned if I am on the right track and will continue to do some experiments. One of coming experiment is if I can use graphics (fonts) used in “Aural Sonology” (auralsonology.com) a method to analyze sonic and structural aspects of music-as-heard that has been developed at the Norwegian Academy of Music. More to come…

Notation and control

In my last blog from March 9th, I started to talk about notation or score writing for Instrument (flute) conductor and electronics. I talked about the importance of finding the fine line of saying exactly what is needed. This is something I have been working on through most of my recent compositions where I have been using mixed media of live acoustic instrument and electronics ending op by using graphical lines and textures for the electronic part mostly indicating increase/decrease in the use of reverb, delay, and feedback. In the score, I do write them as textures random circles for the feedback, half circles in a triangle for the delay and black columns for the reverb. see attached:

Since there is a similar increase (crescendo) in all three of them at the beginning they are all combined into one crescendo sign. In line two the Delay and Feedback stay unchanged while reverb increases and therefore written on a separated line. Still not sure if this is the best way to do it, but will keep it till I find a better solution. Feel free to send me ideas.

Now a few words on my artistic need there. While flute plays very soft wind like sounds the electronics increase both in volume and complexity until they kind of drown the flute at the end of measure 6. At the fermata sign, the conductor stops the electronic timeline and waits for the electronic sounds to fade out before she/he turns the timeline on again. This allows the conductor and the performer to wait as long as needed before turning the play on again and still, everything is in synchronization when turned on again. This is, of course, possible to have done by a performer but would be rather difficult if there are more than one performers, hence the ConDiS conductor.
Let us take a closer look at the score and follow the indicator line. Unfortunately, if the play is stopped in measure 7 the electronics stop (which they do not do in real performance). But still, it should give a little look into the things I am dealing with.

Writing score for instrument, conductor and electronics

As I continue to work on my experimental piece for flute and conductor there are tons of decisions to make. How precise can or should I write the score. It is my destiny to write the score as precise as possible and leave few things in the air. Still, I want the score to be simple, clear, and somewhat just say what is needed to say. Here there seems to be a fine line and still I am not satisfied. So let’s look at the first measures of the flute and conductor piece. In the beginning, the flute plays breathing sound that is repeated with acceleration in between few sounding breath notes. The phrase comes then to an end with two sforzando notes that are played with tongue pizzicato and key slap. At the same time, the electronic part is gradually growing from no effect to very soft tap delay effect that increases towards the end of the phrase, so does reverb and feedback. The sound is also moving in space from left front speaker in circles to the right. Confusing? Let’s take a look at the score.

As can be seen, indications about tempo are given by asking the player to start slow and gradually get to the tempo of m.m.72 and then a little ritardando till the end of the phrase when (see slanted beams). Then the end of the phrase should be played in tempo 72.
The conductor prepares control of the electronic volume by activating volume control and closes her/his hand so the ConDiS program is on alert if the conductor decides to raise the volume by pointing out the index finger. The text is written to the conductor indicating that she/he should be aware of the balance “raise/lower arm if volume adjustment is needed”. Pan location in space is shown by circles showing it first at the front left position moving to front center then front right and so on. Other electronic indications are missing and will be added to the score any time soon. I will keep it here for a further look and with more electronic graphics I will continue to reflect the question I raised at the beginning. How precise can I or should I write the score?

Instructions for Conductor

Worked on an instruction page for conductor to learn her/his sign language  linked to the ConDiS. Will post it here. Please feel free to comment on these signs and/or suggest other possibilities or even recommend other sites, papers or books to look into.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the conductor is not or at least as I think about it, controlling the electronics (use that term for all computer-generated sound) all the time. The electronics are written (composed) in the score like they were individual instruments. If the electronics are meant to be soft they will play soft with or without the conductor, because they do have instructions about how loud they should be. Just like a performer gets information on how loud she/he should play in the form of f or p for forte and piano. The conductor’s job is to adjust these levels during the performance, bit more string here and there or a bit louder flutes in this section. The conductor does exactly the same for the electronics, bit more electronic level here or there, by turning on the volume and raise her/his arm. Bit less volume, turn the volume control on and lower arm.

Con Flute

Working on an experimental piece for solo flute and conductor. Another approach towards the ensemble composition. Creating notation and graphics in Adobe Illustrator and then transferring to Sibelius notation software is a bit tedious work and quite time assuming, but once it is done it stays there available to use. Lots of tweaking and adjusting but finally had some success. Since running out of time today will post it tomorrow with some instructions on how to do.

Week 9

Working on introduction video and a short composition for Percussion and Conductor.

The following video shows how to control volume, effects and pan with conducting gestures.

A short example from an experimental study for percussion and interactive conductor. Conductor controlling volume, effects, and pan when she/he feels needed or when written in the score.