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Blurred musical lines through vague tonality dissonance and ethereal timbre


blurred musical lines through vague tonality dissonance and ethereal timbre

Musical Timbre | The Voice as Instrument | MEET THE PERFORMERS: 1 | Melody: Musical Line For example, a triad built on the first tone of a scale. Yet whiie Debussy certainly obscures functional tonality. he does not entirely abandon it either. Al1 in this music is indeterminate, vague. fleeting. Various “sensory dissonance” curves for pairs of sine waves. Line spectra of two different timbres on a violin A-string. HE WILL BE IN A BETTER PLACE LYRICS

His relations to others are generous and intense. He is constantly interrupting speeches as well as speakers. Conscious of the boundaries that can be crossed in reforming an art, which is also a mode of communication, he will take to heart, and to mind, the need to keep musical language in an evolutionary perpetual motion, provided that this movement corresponds to his milieu.

The composerpedagogue founds a school, of course, even at times against his will. The genius. Enough said. He is flagrant, dazzling, universal. Clearly, each category of listener establishes a rapport with the environment, while each category of composer establishes a rapport with the Other. The question I posed in the Prelude — which music for which public?

The obvious crisis of communication in contemporary music derives from a dual movement inside this framework. I would answer that, in every period, learned music, which is elaborated, required a minimum of effort in order to be approached, understood, felt, lived and enjoyed. Where the upheavals of the avant-garde differ is in the fact that the great majority of music lovers won over by learned music, and thus convinced of the efforts required for appreciating the new music, have massively given up on mustering the necessary effort of multiple hearings, in a patient and trusting spirit; and this lapse has always occurred for the same reason: in what they are hearing today they recognize no continuity with what they were listening to yesterday.

The most brilliant defenders of the contemporary cause have in fact wearied of their favorite excuse, which is the necessary time that must be devoted to the novelty for it to become incorporated into day-to-day life. Arguing that Beethoven and Stravinsky were not understood in the beginning, they plead with us for ten or twenty years of patience.

This argument is now more than a half-century old and contemporary music still has the same problem being accepted. We are indeed confronted by a labyrinth which we shall have to decide to enter, seeking one by one the meaning of concepts such as music, musical language, sign, code, pleasure, inspiration, style, modernism… To do so, and this is typical of labyrinths, will require us to accept the confrontation with strange objects, strongly scented with archaism, since no journey into the heart of music can fail to proceed by way of archetypes.

Less often a word appears, coined by a thinker, to fill the vast gaps in our dictionary that keep us from contact with the Eternal. This is the case with the Numinous. Invented by German philosopher Rudolf Otto,7 but employed especially by Carl Gustav Jung, this term designates everything that allows our mind, through any of the senses — but usually through sight and hearing — to grasp the mystery of our condition: our confrontation with the Universe, its Infinity and its Eternity.

To any of us who might consider ourselves great, it indicates our true dimension. It generously shows the direction, the path to follow, in its pursuit. Above all, and this may be its most precious attribute, it silences in us the hubbub of parasitical emotions and thoughts; it connects us to our essential Being. We have all verified its existence, because all of us have been confronted by the Numinous.

We may have had this experience while stretched out on the ground in a silent place, gazing up at the stars. Or while seated looking out to sea on a beach or an isolated rock. Or, most typically, by contemplating those human works whose function it is to deliberately provoke the Numinous. By this I mean such stoneworks as the pyramids and cathedrals, and also music, through which the revelation of the Numinous, or of grandeur, includes the participation of the body and the emotions.

Therefore music has the unique power of connecting us to the Numinous, not just of allowing us to contemplate it. Most likely our species became human and began to walk upright at the point when the first contemplation of the Numinous awoke in us the first inkling of something that transcends us, that dominates the image we had of ourselves, something that makes us eager to climb higher. Inversely, it is also conceivable that the Adamic or prehuman stage, as well as animal consciousness in general, amounts to a perfect homology with the Numinous.

Who can prove that the bird singing atop a great tree, intoxicated with the infinite echo of its own 7 Otto Rudolph, Das Heilige , The Idea of the Holy, translated by John W. Harvey Oxford: Oxford University Press, Chaslin Music in Every Sense 25 song across the forest, is anything other than the permanent experience of the Numinous, since in human beings it became an intellectual state only later? When you are lost in contemplation of the Milky Way, face to face with the Immensity, are you thinking of Good and Evil?

Inversely, when your mind is harassed, tormented by considerations of good and evil, is your consciousness connected with the Grandeur? Evil is forgetting, as some have claimed. This is true if we think of forgetting a sense of proportion, of course, or forgetting Grandeur.

There has never been more than a tiny minority of people who, lowering their eyes from the starry dome overhead, have vowed to rule their lives and to align their aims with this grandeur, which, in turn, never loses sight of us. So the ultimate aim of music, which I said above tends to magnify the creator and the listener, finds its privileged mode of expression in the Numinous. The Numinous is a symbolic mode, and as such it brings us a message of which we subjectively decipher only part, but of which we feel the infinite possibilities.

Music too is like this. I wanted to introduce this notion because I will be illustrating it later and because Jung explicitly makes it a key to his quest — the same Jung who interrogates venerable Alchemy, aware of the depth of its roots in the structure of our culture and of our common psyche, to which he gives the appealing title the collective unconscious. It is not our business here to dash off a half-chapter on the history and aims of alchemy. I will just recall, in passing, a few facts: that alchemy is the ancestor of chemistry,9 that its aim is not to produce gold as a source of wealth or an elixir of eternal youth, that highly reputable figures in science and philosophy took an interest in it,10 testified to its results,11 or used the profound trace of its message in our culture in their quest for our essential nature.

For modern physics, transmutation is possible, but unthinkable with only the tools of the alchemist. The last alchemist who reportedly performed a transmutation before witnesses was Fulcanelli in the early twentieth century. In alchemy, the route is more important than the result, which is sometimes viewed as allegorical.

Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, vol. Chaslin Music in Every Sense 26 the world and of what links each element of this world with all others. The alchemist is thus the doctor of the mind and of matter, correcting both to attain Gold, or fulfillment.

But in fifteen years devoted to this venerable ancestor of the sciences, what I have found most comforting are the solid foundations on which it rests and above all the confirmations, by the discoveries of the most recent work in physics, of notions that, just a few decades ago, were consigned to the realm of extravagant fantasy. Thus, each of the premises of alchemy leads naturally to modern chemistry, while its fundamental principles turn up in the most adventurous and most recent scientific thought.

Alchemy is especially relevant to this study, since it has more than one analogy with music and draws on a source common to both domains: Pythagoras, of course, that fervent disciple of the art of Hermes, an art whose secrets he had the opportunity to acquire during his apprenticeship of many years in Egypt.

He also invented the musical scale that bears his name. Even earlier, the two fields share a common tradition, the same quest for principles and causes. Finally, to conclude this introduction, let it be noted that Music and Alchemy emerge from the same mould, from the same mental format, and that they are closely linked in their theoretical and practical modes to the bond that humans establish with Nature. This dual analogy is traditionally illustrated by a cross with arms of 13 The resemblance between atomic structure and the planetary system is an example of this analogy between infinitely great and infinitely small.

Chaslin Music in Every Sense 27 equal size, an important alchemical symbol, which in the Art of Hermes is imbued with numerous other meanings. Derived from this double analogy are the four elements — fire, air, water, earth — along with the three principles — sulphur, mercury and salt. It is important to repeat that the theory of the four elements is not a fantasy of eccentric souls in conical hats, but instead has held a place in the basic principles of science and philosophy from the Greeks down to, and including, Newton.

The Chinese saw fit to add wood as one more element. For Democritus or Aristotle, who developed the atomist theory after Leucippus and based only on their rationalist intuition, the four elements were an apodictic certainty. The metamorphoses of H2O, namely ice, snow, water and steam, are considered from the alchemical viewpoint as a change in proportions of a single substance, which incorporates more fire and less earth as the material becomes heated.

Modern physics would tell us that the bath is hot through the effect of the energy transmitted to the water, energy that could derive from a windmill moved by the action of the wind, the consequence of the heating of masses of air by solar radiation.

Indirectly, the hot bath thus transmits to us an energy from a star and, going back farther yet, from the Big Bang. Alchemy says nothing different, but says it through allegory. It may seem arbitrary to match up in this way the components of music and the traditional elements. I should point out therefore that I am taking the viewpoint of the alchemist here, not the musician. For the alchemist, association by similarity, or by natural affinity, is the very basis of the work.

To establish pairs, I will make use of a byword of the Hermetists: solve et coagula, dissolve and coagulate. For the alchemist, the densest matter contains subtle elements that must be liberated, and the ethereal substance must be condensed to be worked upon more easily. But water in fire? Chaslin Music in Every Sense 28 Thus it is quite obvious that melody possesses the virtues of air, as the first means of expression in music. Melody was transmitted first of all by song or by rudimentary wind instruments, thus by a bodily experiment with air.

Harmony, which we could consider the vertical condensation of melody, is thicker; it solidifies the melody by augmenting the number of voices; it will be close to water, the element of union and mixture par excellence, just as harmony, as the basis of the chord, unites several melodies on a perpendicular plane.

Rhythm has a telluric or earthly quality; it has become commonplace to state that when the task is to evoke an earthquake, from Rameau to Stravinsky, you will use percussion and its rhythmic fortes. Less anecdotally, it must be stated that rhythm, for its interpreter and its listener alike, invokes a relationship that is a true state of domination. We have all experienced forcefully rhythmic music that makes us tap our foot unconsciously, even with music of inferior quality, provided its pulse is strong and regular.

Appealing to rhythm means laying down an anchor, seeking bedrock, a pulse in the deepest recesses of the person, a link that can only be with the earth. With timbre we come to the most elusive of the elements, the one that lends color and temperament to sound, in other words fire. Changing the orchestration of a work means changing the regimen of its fire. Wagner, who added unprecedented numbers of brass instruments to his orchestra, understood this well. For the alchemist, the proportions among the four elements determine the qualities and appearance of everything.

What about music? Are there always four elements in every form of music? Some might protest that monophonic types of music, the bare a cappella chant, are void of melody, or in other words, of water. This is not true, because every natural sound produces a series of harmonies based on the basic sound, harmonies that are difficult to identify for an unpracticed ear but yet confer on the instrument or the voice its specificity, its timbre.

The element of harmony cannot therefore be dissociated from any sound, just as in water vapor the element of earth, tenuous in the extreme, will be seen by the Hermetist in, for instance, the materialization of the veil of mist on the mirror. In nature, it is sufficient for the elements to be present for them to be made manifest. Since it is the aim of music to be listened to, it is also necessary for the elements to be perceived and recognized in order for the listener to have the sensation of listening to music, not some chaotic clump of sounds.

There is of course the extreme case of pure sound, produced by synthesizer, but its poverty makes it intolerable to the ear for more than a few seconds. The Western ear, trained for several centuries to recognize emotion as a function of harmonic color, often perceives the learned contrivances of contemporary music as symbols of chaos, anxiety or aggressivity.

As for rhythm: to be perceived as such, a rhythm needs, first, a minimum of stability, which is expressed through a perceptible tempo for a minimum duration, and second, repetition, conjoined or disjointed, of a minimum of rhythmic cells. Stravinsky, who launched a veritable revolution in rhythm by giving it primordial importance in his musical fabric, understood this better than anyone. In fact, the relationship he sustained with rhythm was nothing less than carnal. Rhythm, like sound itself, had to pass first of all through the body, and therefore, as Ernest Ansermet reported, Stravinsky owned a set of drums on which he tried out his musical ideas.

Scholars who have made cerebral analyses of his rhythmic structures ought to remember this, or risk remaining limited to painful numeric studies. As for Messiaen, whose rhythms are of a complexity matched only by their clarity and naturalness, who was better at turning this teaching to good account? Too complex a rhythm, that is, one that is constantly changing tempo and character, is no longer perceived as anything but an aleatory series of events.

Now rhythm is certainly the most unifying element in the process of listening. Chaslin Music in Every Sense 30 Timbre is essentially the only one of the four elements that has gained from a growing sophistication. We could even say that the unprecedented enrichment of orchestration, for more than a century now, is the single greatest advance in the music of our time.

The more complex the combinations become, the more magnified music becomes as a result. Berlioz may have been the first to launch this dizzying pursuit of delight, this dazzling timbre. Thus, nearly all the music of Bach can be played on practically any instrument.

But as we approach the twenty-first century, orchestration evolves; from a simple accessory, which can be changed as easily as a wig, it becomes a fundamental element of the musical language. To anticipate later chapters, timbre has become an emotional signifier, bearer of a perceptible message from the composer. Part of the musical output of the second half of the twentieth century can be considered a failure, from the viewpoint of communication and thus of transmission to the listener; it is nevertheless a fabulous catalogue of orchestral inventions, which composers of the twenty-first century, reconciled to their responsibilities, will know how to exploit.

The Three Principles To reiterate, the three traditional principles of alchemy are sulphur, mercury and salt. Unlike the four elements, which are qualities that allow an entity to be broken down into its parts and described, the three principles are functions. The three principles are also much easier to apprehend by our logical, materialist minds; we need only compare them to an egg. Sulphur, which corresponds to the element that is fertile, active, warm, is similar to the egg yolk.

It contains the seed, the life principle that is ready to develop. Mercury, the nourishing element, passive, cold, a welcoming matrix within which sulphur can grow, is analogous to the white of an egg. So it is only natural that the three principles should be aligned analogously with music: Chaslin Music in Every Sense 31 Inspiration, the principle of fertility. Style, the pervading milieu, congenial to Inspiration. Form, within which the first two principles are crystallized and conjoined.

Inspiration Inspiration was struck from the vocabulary — and from the preoccupations — of composers when they shifted allegiance toward another Muse: Science. While the new era depended on a geometry or a mathematics of a basically simple form to produce its masterworks, it was now unthinkable to do as composers of the tonal period had done: cling to an old, faded chimera.

As will be discussed later, the term designates in particular a force of synthesis, a spirit of synthesis, oddly rather neglected in our time, when people are fonder of engaging in analysis, even or especially during the act of elaboration. It feels as though the first section, with all its chaotic energy, maintained a spatial balance as if by chance.

Performance Environment - Space Lines is a fixed media stereo piece designed for live diffusion around surround sound set-up. The sounds move around the listener but no alterations to the acoustics of the venue are required. I started the piece with a recognisable sounding object, whose bouncing gesture frequently reoccurred throughout the first section, morphing into its own non-living agent. At the end of the first section, the sound has been altered quite drastically and yet we are still able to hear the energy of the bouncing ball.

This chaotic energy influences this section as it is paced quite fast with many sound objects coming in and out. The energy is not from the human agent who dropped the ball, but from the ball itself due to the influence of gravity. It is as if the addition of gravity gives the ball the power it needs to be its own agent - the energy to act upon the glass and create the sound material with which the piece is made.

Coming to this unconventional view of agency made me realise the flaw in agency being tied to intentionality. In an artform that samples sound from the real world and twists it into other unnatural forms, it challenges whether the standard conception of agency - or any main theories, for that matter - are indeed true.

Through novel approaches, I enjoy playing with what an agent can be. In section 2. This is not to say, however, that there are not more types of agency to be uncovered or changed. Sounds of the Silent City For Sounds of the Silent City, I wanted to compose a creative sonification of Aberdeen City, exploring not just the sound marks of the city but also the atmosphere. As there is no singular location that on its own would encapsulate Aberdeen, I decided that this piece would take the listener on a journey through different parts of the city.

We start on the train bringing us into the station. We hear the sounds of the beach we are passing as well as the mechanical clinks and whirring of the train engine Once in the city, we are bombarded with sounds of inner city life - bus breaks, seagulls, crowds of people giving us a snapshot of what to expect in Aberdeen. This section becomes quite intense before distilling down into the recognisable sounds of traffic After another climax we transition into a calm and serene ticking clock This section forms a retreat from the chaos of the city whilst also nodding towards the quartz that gives granite its sparkle.

From here, the engine of Aberdeen starts up again and we travel out to the far more relaxing location of the beach, sounds of the waves bookending our journey. Within this basic frame, I allowed myself freedom over processes and choice of sounds. Due to this freedom, I noticed my tendency to include many rhythmic phrases within my work.

I tried to assume the perspective of a newcomer travelling to the city, imagining a journey up the North coast by train into the city centre and out towards the beach. Rather than creating a pure soundscape of the locations, I wanted to instil the feel of Aberdeen upon the piece. The train journey up the coast is reliably relaxing - the sparkling North sea is on your right and seas of endless green fields are on your left.

The train station is in the centre of the city. A five-minute walk is all it takes to arrive at the busiest point - Union Street. Visiting any city centre for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Everything familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time, you try to make sense of the place as quickly as possible, orienting yourself to where you think you want to go.

Sounds of the Silent City attempts to use soundmarks of Aberdeen in such a way as to convey these feelings of tranquillity, excitement, and intimidation, capturing the essence of a place. While Sounds of the Silent City is specific to Aberdeen, it is likely that listeners with experience of other seaside cities might relate the piece to other locations instead due to similarities found across coastal city soundscapes.

Analysis Digital Environment - Objects The piece opens with an instantly recognisable soundscape of a beach and slowly transitions into a mechanical whirring sound as we are taken from our idyllic coastal setting and whisked away to the busy city. We hear snapshots of commonplace sounds such as heels on the pavement, bus brakes, and seagulls as if overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city we are glancing around trying to take in everything The sounds continue to take us on a journey through the city with pedestrian crossings and voices until we reach a moment of stillness presided over by the ticking of a clock The clock sounds transition into a harsh glass-like tapping which becomes out of sync and eventually launches us back into that city soundscape once more When the piece makes its return to the beach, we feel differently about it, having since experienced the hectic city.

In contrast to Lines, there is very little in the way of unrecognisable material. In many instances, the sounds are either unrecognisable because they are out of context - the extractor fan as we leave the beach scene - or the manipulations are only minor, and the listener is still able to identify the source.

Digital Environment - Place Two places are apparent in this piece - the beach and the city. These two very different locations are both parts of the typical Aberdeen soundscape. The samples of the beach are left almost untouched.

In contrast, the city sounds are sculpted to portray the business and the relentlessness of the city centre. Using the same beach sounds to bookend the piece allows the listener to have two different experiences of the same material. Like palette cleansers, the gentle sound of lapping waves gives the listener an opportunity to become relaxed both before the piece starts up and as it is finishing. Initially, it establishes a location and calm atmosphere, though, in the end, the natural beach soundscape functions as a contrast against the engine of the city and is not dissimilar to changing into your pajamas after a busy day.

Digital Environment - Space As is typical of a city centre soundscape, many sections in this piece are dense and noisey. The sound, like an impenetrable wall, fills out the auditory plane in all directions. Through sometimes quite extreme equalisation techniques, there are instances when sounds are brought up close or taken far away , , , , mimicking the ebb and flow of the waves at the beach where we started this journey.

At other moments, the emptiness of the soundscape provides a refuge, though maybe some listeners will feel unsettled by this space and Performance Environment - Space Sounds of the Silent City is a stereo piece for diffusion over multiple pairs of loudspeakers; a performance medium, which was selected so that the bombarding sounds of the city soundscape can surround the listener.

This is intended for an indoor performance with no alterations to the performance environment. Rather, through meditating on the specific aspects of space, objects, agency, and place, I noticed a tendency that also comes through in other works of mine. This is the tendency to use rhythmic phrases. In Sounds of the Silent City, I use such phrases to mimic the sound of a train, the concept of progressing onwards, and to build suspense.

I had not noticed this tendency before conducting this analysis and I believe that S. I also began to realise the limitations of acousmatic music, primarily, the limitations of its performance. Whilst the presence and ordering of S. I believe this to be one of the reasons why I like to jump between genres.

I deeply enjoy being creative and innovative not just with sound itself, but also with the visual aspects of a performance. Therefore, acousmatic and electroacoustic music bring restrictions to my creative practice that I do not always want. Bearing Zero Due to the nature of live-coding, the compositional process for Bearing Zero was different from my two previous fixed-media pieces.

TidalCycles works by continually looping patterns of samples, which the performer edits live. When using TidalCycles, I often like to work with a handful of similar sound layers, all of which combine to create a complex texture. I also make a note of the sound transformations I would like to make during the performance. Many live coders such as Alex McClean will perform fully improvised sets, however, I prefer to have a piece in mind and will write myself instructions for the live performance.

As such, it is similar to following a score. During a live coding performance, the performer is typically in front of the audience typing the code, which is being projected for the audience to see. I have done many live coding performances in the past and many non-coders have commented to me that they enjoy watching the code being typed as, even if they do not understand it exactly, they can loosely relate the code to changes in the sound.

This meant keeping the processes as transparent as possible to allow some of the mystery of the code to dissolve. I chose to use the samples of an instrument as my main sound source. Having unearthed a guzheng from the University's storage cupboards recently, I was eager to sample it and use it in a piece.

I was aware that few people in my western audience would be able to identify the exact instrument, however, its melodic quality and identifiable plucked nature would be enough of a sonic cue to identify it as some harp-like instrument. Again, after using S. I also noticed a focus on the restriction of objects as, whilst, I had not consciously decided to use only two types of samples, I had subconsciously decided that the piece did not need more.

Many elements of an instrumental performance are present such as a live performer, the sound of an instrument, and the performative agency behind the plucking action. However, in Bearing Zero there is no physical instrument and the performer is not plucking anything. Instead, they are typing on a laptop. The code is displayed on the screen so that the process of composition can be as transparent as possible.

Although it is not always the case, the code and the resulting change in sound are often harmonious. This synergy allows the audience to relate what the performer is typing to what is happening in the music. Humans develop schemas when we perceive the same cause and effect multiple times. Therefore, if the audience consistently perceives a fragment of code having the same impact on samples repeatedly, they will develop a sense of expectation.

Whenever this code is evaluated, they will expect similar results each time. Bearing Zero uses this to its advantage, using four layers of very similar sound. Each layer - one at a time - undergoes the same manipulations, and the audience learns what to expect as the manipulations systematically occur. This gradual process allows the piece to build from very simple to very complex over its fifteen-minute duration.

As the samples I use are of individual string plucks, the piece begins by sounding as if it could be a recording of someone performing rather than just one sample after another As the texture starts to build, the music oversteps the boundaries of human performance The sense of performative agency starts to fade, and the beautiful sound of the Chinese harp becomes almost mechanical. If the listener had any perception of a performative agent remaining, the introduction of reversed samples seeks to change that Halfway through the piece, the samples gradually change to a synthesised sound This shift moves the live coder more in line what you would expect a laptop musician to sound like in an attempt to heal the cognitive dissonance between the real-world agent and the perceived digital agent.

Programme Note Bearing Zero is a live coding piece for one performer. There are two main types of samples used in this piece: a selection of single guzheng notes and a synthesised pitched sound. The piece builds methodically from a simplistic beginning of guzheng plucks, establishing a mental image of a performative agent. There are four layers of sound, all playing the same pattern of notes but at different speeds. As the layers of sound grow in complexity, the idea that a human could perform this music begins to fade.

The process for developing the piece is very methodical. At any given point, all code is visible so that the audience can easily see changes to the patterns of the sound. Each layer is manipulated in the same way, one after the other, allowing for transparency of process. With TidalCycles being one of the more unambiguous live coding languages in terms of syntax, the audience might find themselves able to predict the changes to the sound before the performer evaluates the code.

The first significant sound alteration happens at where the guzheng samples start to play in reverse. This process happens slowly over the next three to five minutes until the piece decrescendos into the calm middle section. The reversed samples give an ethereal atmosphere. At this point, the samples slowly switch over to the synthesised tones, and the piece fizzles out over the remaining four to six minutes. Analysis Digital Environment - Agency In addition to the visible performative agent, an implied agent is present in the guzheng samples.

This implied agent is an exciting aspect to discuss in this piece. At a basic level, we can imagine a human plucking the instrument when the samples were recorded. Even though it may be evident to the listener that the performer is calling samples of single guzheng notes, musical structures and phrases are still present in the composition. This recognition of phrases combined with our experience of live musical performances can easily lead to an implied agent - that of the guzheng performer skilfully playing the piece as it sounds to the audience.

Of course, this performer does not exist. However, because that kind of performance is arguably the norm for instrumental music, it is effortless to reimagine this as an instrumental performance given how the piece sounds. As the piece progresses in complexity, it gradually becomes harder to imagine that a single instrumentalist would be able to perform this piece.

This stage in the piece is where the composition sonically begins to separate from our previous experiences of instrumental music. Bringing in altered sounds of reversed and bit-crushed notes creates further separation until the end of the piece where all notion of an instrumentalist has gone.

In the closing section of the piece , the guzheng samples are swapped for synthesised notes, putting the sonic material of Bearing Zero more in line with what the audience might expect from a laptop performer. This attempts to heal the cognitive dissonance between the visuals of the performative agent at the laptop and the sounds of an implied performer.

Even if the listener is not familiar with the main sounding object Guzheng , it is still highly likely that they have some experience of the sound of other plucked stringed instruments and will be able to place these sounds in the same category. As the piece progresses, the guzheng samples gradually change. Changes include slowing down and speeding up sample playback speeds, altering the pitch of the samples, chopping the samples into small fragments, reversing the samples, cutting off higher frequencies, and finally degrading the samples until nothing remains.

Digital Environment - Space There is very little in the way of spatial manipulation in this piece. Whilst this was not a conscious decision, keeping the sound mostly stationary adheres to the norm of guzheng performances as the performer is unable to move around the venue. Once many changes to the sound have been made, Bearing Zero uses the cutoff effect, which cuts all frequencies above a certain threshold The value of the threshold is automated to change over time between the stated minimum and maximum values.

In the first layer, these values are Hz and Hz respectively. The speed at which the sound layers are changing their threshold values varies from layer to layer. This gives the impression of all layers taking turns to come into the foreground and then fade into the background.

Performance Environment - Agency The performative agent is evident. The performer sits in front of their laptop in the stage area and their actions are made visible to the audience through a mirrored projection of the laptop screen. The performer's actions, depending on the familiarity of the listener to TidalCycles, can range from being very clear to very unclear - such is the nature of live coding performances.

Performance Environment - Space While the acoustics of the space will be different for each venue, they will remain constant for the duration of the piece. No special measures have been taken to alter the physical listening environment during the performance. The performative agent is placed between the front stereo pair as we orientate ourselves towards the performer, directing our sense of front, back, left, and right.

There is first the live performer at the laptop and then the imagined guzheng player. Then perhaps an image of several guzheng players before the sounds change and these implied agents fade. At the end, the abstract nature of the synthesised sound attempts to bring the sound world more in line with what we would expect from a laptop performance. This heals the cognitive dissonance between the visual of a live laptop performer and the audio of the implied guzheng performer.

The images were fixed to the idea of gradually becoming more specific to a singular location. NASA had recently released a huge bank of copyright-free sounds, which was perfect to take inspiration from as I wanted the audio to reflect the spaces we were traveling through. The audio was not high quality, so I took a selection of sounds as inspiration and through various audio manipulation techniques, tried to emulate them.

It was not my intention to replicate them exactly, but rather to use them as a starting point and see where my ear took me. The resulting sounds in my piece range from being incredibly similar to the NASA sounds to being nothing alike. For 57N, I first drew the S. The main point of interest is the presence of place and a performative agent, which both exist in the performance and digital environments simultaneously.

I identified several ways to do this, most of which involved having a live performer who also featured on screen and using footage of the venue in the video itself. However, these ideas lacked the temporal specificity I needed for the concept I wanted to explore. I noted that I should treat the exact time to which I was referring in the same way as the location. This is because the properties of a location can change over time, therefore, it is important to specify the time and date in the piece.

The best way to proceed was for the piece to reference the time and location of its performance. To start the concert, the performer welcomes the audience by announcing the exact time and coordinates of the venue. This introduction is recorded and edited into the piece itself, which is performed towards the end of the concert and begins with visuals of deep space. In the recording submitted in my portfolio, we gradually begin to get more specific, moving into the Milky Way , to planet Earth , to the U.

I then show footage of Union Street and of walking up and into the Butchart Centre This footage of the venue should be taken just before the concert is about to start. We then are taken inside the venue, along the corridor and into the concert hall where we would see the audience as they were just moments before the event began The piece ends with a video of the exact introduction that the performer gave at the start of the evening, where they state the geographical location and time A geographic location can change drastically over time; therefore, when we want to be site-specific, the more precise the location and time that we are referencing, the more specific the resulting piece will be.

In an attempt to be ultra site-specific, I devised 57N to reference the exact location and time as its performance. The piece starts in deep space and gradually zooms in on a location on planet Earth. To reflect this journey, the sound begins abstract and with the impression of vastness. The inspiration for the audio was taken from audio files from deep space released by NASA.

The agency that exists purely in the digital environment refers to the people in the video who we see walking around Aberdeen. These people are contributing to the soundscape by driving cars, activating pedestrian crossings, and walking on the pavements - a collective agency. This does not encompass any audience members or performers as they are accounted for in the agency that lies between the digital and performance environments.

Digital Environment - Objects 57N initially attempts to replicate sounds found in deep space. The inspiration for these comes from sounds released by NASA. As the piece progresses, we begin to hear the sounds of Earth. This first takes the form of radio static before using field recordings of Aberdeen city centre Gradually, the city soundscape becomes clearer and we can hear the sounds of seagulls and pedestrian crossings As we approach the Butchart centre, the traffic sounds quieten and the atmospheric sounds of space re-emerge Once in the hall, we see and hear the audience as they were before the event began.

As the camera moves around to show the front of the hall, the performer introduces the event, stating the exact time, date, and location. Digital and Performance Environments - Place Initially, the locational aspects of this piece are only evident in the video as the soundscape of space is not one that many people have experienced for themselves.

However, when the camera zooms in, and we draw closer to the surface of the Earth, we begin to hear urban sounds. Due to the generality of this soundscape, it is unlikely that a new listener would be able to identify it as the sound of Aberdeen. However, once the video focuses on the North-East of Scotland, it becomes apparent that the field recording is taken in Aberdeen.

So far the sense of place is only felt in the digital environment. However, at the end of the piece, we hear the sound of the venue, just as it was before the event. The audience members will all recognise the location as well as being able to attach a sense of temporality to this moment. Digital Environment - Space I used reverberation to exaggerate the vastness of the Universe at the start of the piece.

The sounds themselves were designed to give a sense of excessive space. It also represents the audience members who were visible and influencing the sound during the recording. Both exist in the performance and digital environment visually as well as sonically, and, while the audience are not explicitly providing information about the time, date, and location, this information is implicit as the audience will recognise this as the beginning of the concert.

Performance Environment - Space 57N is an audiovisual work with stereo sound. Unlike many of my previous works, it was not essential to immerse the audience in the sound, therefore fixed stereo audio without diffusion was appropriate. It was important for the physical space of the performance to change as little as possible between the event starting and 57N finishing.

This continuity is vital in order for the piece to reference its performance as strictly as possible. This middle ground between severe restrictions and free reign helped to direct my composition whilst allowing my voice as a composer to shine through. In Habit Space My second audio-visual piece was a collaboration with visual artist, Amy Barnett.

We decided to take the listener on a journey into the rocks and, therefore, took audio samples from her sculptures. I then used these as the material with which to make the audio. Barnett created the video portion first before I added the sound. I wanted to avoid simply micky-mousing the audio to fit how the handler is using the rocks while also keeping the audio relevant to the visuals.

I tried to maintain the natural texture of the rock sounds and the hints to gestures that made them. Similarly to 57N, I designed the diagram before I created the piece. As a test of the S. Having focused on agency and place, I felt that I should explore space in the same way.

In Habit Space provided the perfect opportunity to do so. Her sculptures are formed using very fast, unnatural methods that produce natural-looking rocks. We looked into Schumann frequencies - the resonating frequency of the earth usually 7. We also considered inhabitation - how living organisms exist on the surface as well as inside the rocks.

As we cannot physically travel into the centre of these rocks to hear it for ourselves, we wanted to give this impression of internal habitation to the listener. Programme Note Working in collaboration with visual artist Amy Barnett, I created a representative journey through the connection we have to the natural environment. In Habit Space is an audiovisual piece that questions the nature of time in the process of natural and man-made creation, as well as the dual occupancy of space - possible habitation versus impossible habitation.

But these rocks no longer sounded like rocks: some sounded like running water, others sounded like scraping and bubbling. The accompanying visuals demonstrate each sculpture being caressed, touched, rubbed as an intimate experience in video representation. This harmonises with the sound surrounding the audience, making the composition a visually and aurally immersive experience.

Analysis Digital Environment - Agency In the digital environment we have multiple layers of agency. This creates a strange dissonance with the sound as it is clear that the two are related but not directly so. We can think of this as a displaced agency as we could easily believe the person in the video also created the sonic material and the effect of their actions is simply being experienced at different times sonically and visually.

Digital Environment - Objects There are three types of sounds used in this piece. The location of this recording is not significant, therefore I have not included the aspect of place in the S. This serene soundscape begins to distort as interference from digital devices starts to disrupt the tranquility onwards. Over time, the soundscape degrades, seemingly going out of sync with itself This is a reflection of the negative impact humans are having on the natural world.

The third type of sound material is the recording of the rocks themselves. This forms the majority of the piece onwards. Through the various handling methods we employed, the raw sound recordings gathered from the rocks were all very interesting. Some samples are like a dry scraping while others sound more like water bubbling Initially, we begin out-with the rock, hearing its surroundings.

Then, as we delve deeper beneath the surface, the sound becomes denser. All of the rock recordings were taken with contact microphones in order to capture as much detail as possible. This performance method was selected for the three-dimensional opportunities it affords the sound - allowing the sound to envelop the listener and add to the feeling of immersion within the rock. No further alterations were made to the performance environment. Sometimes, having a clear agent does not yield the most interesting results.

I consciously did not want to micky-mouse the audio to the visual. The digital agency of the rock handler is already established in the video, therefore, there is little point in further showing their agency with sound. Because I wanted the sounds in the piece to be clearly of the rocks, the audio offers its own sense of agency.

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Sound is experienced through the body.

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Alas, I saw it in the shoutbox just this evening. My first thought, after seeing the comment, was: So you only use consonance in your music? How boring. These are all tools now a days - and should be regarded as such regardless of whether you work in a tonalist or atonalist how I hate that word aesthetic. For myself: I think it's more important to just compose what you hear and work to expand your own personal language as best you can.

Learn about the other 'tools' at your disposal - they help in realizing your own thoughts and ideas. There are relationships between melody and harmony and the blues; they simply operate according to different rules and conventions than Western European tonality. Tension and resolution are still there, but the concepts of consonance and dissonance are defined differently. The tune is in F blues. When he gets to the C7 chord at , Collins continues to play F.

According to the rules of tonal theory, this is a wrong note. In a jazz context, D and A are consonances as well, and even F-sharp would not raise eyebrows. However, F is an unacceptable avoid note against the E. While the blues scale sounds consonant within the context of blues tonality, microtonal blue notes can create the feeling of tension and instability that we conventionally ascribe to dissonance.

Peter van der Merwe , p. Once again, this idea requires further study. Dominant Seventh Chords in the Blues The blues treats dominant seventh chords in a strikingly different way from common-practice European tonal harmony. In the blues, dominant sevenths can be tonic chords, destinations for harmonic closure. In blues harmonic practice, unresolved tritones can appear over any root, sometimes generating an impetus for motion and sometimes not.

A one-chord blues can be based on a seventh chord over a repeating bass figure, and can easily accommodate extensions beyond the seventh. The addition of the sharp ninth merely adds colour to the tonic in this case, rather than a tension requiring resolution van der Bliek, , p. Did the blues I7 and IV7 derive from the common-practice V7?

Stoia , Benward and Saker and Everett all think so. However, we cannot understand every dominant chord in the blues to be cadential. Blues songs routinely begin and end on I7, with a feeling of resolution that is as satisfying as a perfect authentic cadence is in classical music.

Furthermore, there are many blues songs that never leave I7. Most blues songs use chord progressions, but the chords do not function in the same way that they do in European tonal music. The V7 chord is frequently absent, especially in rural blues Kubik, , p. While their source material of Tin Pan Alley songs was full of cadences, musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie disguised and obscured those cadences by means of tritone substitutions and other reharmonization techniques.

Later jazz musicians abandoned the harmonic skeletons of standards entirely in favor of modes, atonality, and exotic scales. The sole consistent thread through the harmonies in all jazz styles is the blues, not European tonality. Even though so many blues songs eschew V7-I cadences, some theorists continue to insist that blues harmony fundamentally adheres to the norms of tonality.

Everett acknowledges that not all blues songs use structural dominants, which poses a problem for his analysis. I find this unconvincing at best. Modal Mixture Since the blues combines elements of diatonic major and minor tonality, some authors understand it as a kind of modal mixture. Ralph Turek and Daniel McCarthy see blues as arising from the adding of the flat seventh to diatonic chords: The lowered seventh present above each root imparts a dominant seventh quality to each chord.

The blues and its offspring are the only Western vernacular music in which the Mm7 is routinely divorced from its function as a dominant in need of resolution p. By this logic, major blues is merely borrowing elements of parallel minor. Philip Tagg sees blues not as the importing of minor mode materials into major tonality, but rather the reverse. He describes blues tonality as the practice of substituting a major triad for the tonic chord in diatonic minor or Dorian mode.

All of these chords are built from the notes in F Dorian mode. The C7 and F are from parallel F major. While explaining blues as modal mixture is an ingenious solution, this rationale is predicated on the underlying expectation that major and minor are inviolably distinct entities. However, many blues songs defy analysis in this way. Which tonality is being imported in? I do not believe there is any answer except to say that the song is in E blues. Groove Harmony and the Blues If there is a single element unifying all forms of Western popular music, it is underlying groove structure.

Anne Danielsen describes a groove as a short repeating cell with complex internal rhythmic structure and without a larger linear or hierarchical structure. In funk, hip-hop, and dance music, grooves are both the foreground and the background.

Blues tonality pairs well with funk grooves, and Tony Bolden convincingly locates the foundation of funk in the blues. The historical origins of blues tonality are a mystery, as I discuss later, but it may well have emerged hand-in-hand with African-American groove structures generally. Within these loops, the consonance and dissonance are more a matter of metrical placement and emphasis than intervallic content or voice leading.

These loop progressions frequently violate the conventions of Western tonal theory. David Bruce describes repeated dissonance as the basis of most twentieth century popular music. However, this analysis is only valid in the stylistic context of Western European music. Remember that in blues-based grooves, tonic dominant seventh chords are not dissonant, they are consonant. Blues Harmony and the Guitar There is a natural synergy between the blues and the guitar.

This is partially due to simple ergonomics: in standard tuning, the pentatonic and blues scales are easier to visualize and play on the guitar fretboard than the diatonic scales. Adam Neely connects blues tonality explicitly to the ergonomics of the guitar, pointing out that the open strings form an E minor pentatonic scale, and that playing major chords on the open string roots goes a long way toward creating the sound of the blues.

Recall that informally trained guitarists including the author typically learn the pentatonic scales first, and then add pitches to them to form additional scales. This approach is not unique to guitarists. Dan Greenblatt presents a similar method aimed at improvising horn players.

His text begins with major and minor blues, and then adds additional pitches to round out fuller diatonic and modal harmonies. Walter Everett discounts the significance of the blues scale in rock, arguing that it merely decorates major-mode harmonies with minor pentatonic borrowings.

However, while the blues scale may not be a typical feature of rock vocal melodies, it is the bedrock of rock guitar solos. There are many well-known lead guitarists who do not use any other scales. A central stylistic difference between jazz soloists and rock soloists is that jazz soloists will generally follow the chord progression, whereas rock soloists will stick to a single pentatonic or blues scale regardless of the underlying harmony. The song has a ragtime-style chord progression with several secondary dominant chords.

However, lead guitarist Robbie Robertson does not follow the changes at all; he simply plays the tonic blues scale over the entire form. Blues and the Harmonica The harmonica was designed in central Europe in the 19th century to play the popular music of that time and place: waltzes, oom-pah music, and light classical. Blowing into a standard diatonic harmonica produces a major triad repeated in octaves.

Drawing through the harmonica produces a dominant ninth chord, the V7 in the key of the blown triad. By blowing and drawing, players can produce V-I cadences and the accompanying major scale. Sometime between and , Black American musicians discovered an alternative way to play the harmonica. They realized that if they mentally reversed the roles of the blown and drawn notes, then the drawn notes became a tonic V9 chord, and the blown notes became the IV chord of the corresponding Mixolydian mode.

Furthermore, by drawing too hard, it is possible to bend these notes, making them go flat and thereby producing the blues scale and numerous blue notes. The way that blues musicians creatively misappropriated the harmonica is a neat precursor to the way that rock musicians misappropriated the guitar amp, and the way that hip-hop musicians misappropriated the turntable and sampler.

The Blues Song Form Blues as a musical idiom is often equated with the twelve-bar strophic form that shares its name. This scheme is neither necessary nor sufficient for defining music as blues. Blues tonality is a more reliable signifier for bluesiness than the twelve-bar form.

There are many songs using the twelve-bar scheme that do not lie within the blues genre at all. However, most listeners would identify the former as bluegrass and the latter as jazzy rock. Meanwhile, it is possible for a song to not use the twelve-bar scheme and nevertheless feel strongly like the blues. Blues Tonality and Genre Nearly all American popular and vernacular music is informed by blues, but different styles display more or less blues influence.

We can use this fact to help delineate overlapping and vaguely defined genre boundaries. For example, how do we decide that a song is rock, or folk, or country, or country-rock, or folk-rock? We often explain genre in terms of characteristic rhythms and timbres. We can also delineate genres in terms of how much blues harmony they use. Pop and jazz practitioners already do this, intuitively or systematically. In my own life as a guitarist, I have to know how much blues tonality to use in order to sound more like jazz or country or rock.

Blues tonality is an especially useful marker for distinguishing funk from disco. The two genres are difficult to distinguish in any other way. The real distinguishing factor is harmony: funk mainly uses blues tonality, while disco mainly uses diatonic or jazz-based harmony. Both songs have undeniably funky grooves. However, its prechorus, chorus and bridge are either modal or diatonic. It is possible to imbue nearly any piece of music with blues feel by embellishing or replacing its melody and harmony with the blues scale and blues tonality.

The song as written is gospel-inflected pop. Franklin retains the gospel elements, but otherwise her interpretation is a wide stylistic departure. She interprets the melody so freely as to essentially rewrite it, replacing its diatonicism with blues tonality throughout. Franklin also adds additional blues feel via rhythm and pitch play. Blues tonality nearly always goes hand-in-hand with syncopation and swing.

The vocal melody uses diatonic minor for the beginning of the song. Starting at , however, the tonality switches to blues, accompanied by a funkier and more syncopated rhythmic feel. Blues and Rock Rock harmony is mostly diatonic, but it features some characteristic deviations from the conventions of tonal harmony as well. These deviations are mainly due to the influence of the blues. This influence is pervasive; many early rock songs are simply the blues played faster and louder.

The blues influence was felt especially strongly by British rock musicians in the s, and they, in turn, spread awareness of blues to mainstream white American listeners Schwartz, , p. Note that this list uses a very broad stylistic definition of rock. While the flat seventh probably entered rock through a number of vectors, like the Mixolydian mode used in various folk musics, blues is likely the main source.

In rock, the most common chord preceding the tonic is IV, whereas in common-practice music it is V. Again, rock has many streams of influence, and any number of folk musics have contributed to the relaxation of the rule that V must precede I.

Once again, however, blues is likely to have played the strongest role. Blues tonality is not widely discussed in rock theory, but its presence is often implicit. While this is true to an extent, the previous sections detail the many ways that blues tonality differs from European practice.

So where did blues tonality come from? We may never have a single unambiguous answer, but there are several plausible theories. Given the hybrid nature of most American musics, we should expect nothing different for the history of blues tonality.

Philip Tagg is one of many authors who explain the blues scale as an extension of the minor pentatonic scale. These theories are reasonable enough, but they do not explain why such minor sonorities came to be used over major chords in the first place. Ande Jaffe , p.

Characteristic jazz sonorities like 7 9 would then emerge out of superimposition of the flatted diatonic scale notes with the diatonic I, IV and V chords. By this theory, the blues scale originated by stacking minor thirds above and below a central pitch. Van der Merwe supports his theory with the observation that in blues, the minor third interval has a similar function to the leading tone in Western tonal theory.

He points out that the harmonic half diminished chord is the next four-note chord up in the harmonic series from the harmonic dominant seventh chord frequently heard in barbershop quartet harmony. Given that barbershop harmony likely arose in the same African-American communities that birthed the blues, this connection is probably not a coincidence.

Barbershop quartets use the harmonic half diminished seventh chord as a rootless voicing of a dominant ninth chord.

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Harry Partch and his Microtonal Carpentry [Harry Partch, Pt. 1/2]


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