The SEAMUS Electroacoustic Miniatures series is an annual album release of fixed-media works addressing a specific theme. The theme for 2012 is Re-Caged.
Re-Caged: At a time when monoculture seeks to overturn all history of diversity, John Cage's 100th birthday serves as a reminder that it is the spirit of mavericks, not conformism, that changes the world.
The 2012 adjudication committee included Keith Kirchoff (chair), Steven Ricks and Paul Rudy. The members of the committee devised the theme, evaluated the submissions, and each included their own realization of the theme. Submissions were evaluated based on the following criteria: adherence to the theme, creative and coherent exploration of thematic possibilities, musicality, and technical quality.
The composers whose works were selected for release this year are:
Michael Boyd, Nicholas Cline, Robert Fleisher, Benjamin Fuhrman, Larry Gaab, Todd Kitchen, Charles Norman Mason, Andrea Mazzariello, Lawrence Moore, John Nichols, Benjamin O'Brien, Michael James Olson, Maggi Payne, Sever Tipei, Chester Udell, Jeremy Van Buskirk, and Michael Wittgraf.
Founded in 1984, The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) is a non-profit national organization of composers, performers, and teachers of electro-acoustic music representing every part of the country and virtually every musical style. Electro-Acoustic music is a term used to describe those musics which are dependent on electronic technology for their creation and/or performance. Through its journal, newsletter, national meetings, and its national archive at the University of Texas, SEAMUS seeks to increase communication among the diverse constituency of this relatively new music medium.
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Composer biographies and program notes
Pianist and composer Keith Kirchoff has performed throughout all of North America and much of Europe. A strong advocate for modern music, Kirchoff has premiered over 100 new works and commissioned over two dozen compositions. As part of his commitment to fostering new audiences for contemporary music, Kirchoff has appeared at colleges and universities across the country as a lecture-recitalist. Kirchoff has won awards from the Steinway Society, MetLife Meet the Composer, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and was named the 2011 Distinguished Scholar by the SMSA. Specializing on works which combine interactive electro-acoustics with solo piano, Kirchoff's Electro-Acoustic Piano Tour has been presented in five countries, and the first album in the Electro-Acoustic Piano series was released in 2011 on Thinking outLOUD Records. He has also recorded on the New World, Zerx, and SEAMUS labels.
A433 is a work that honors the memory of John Cage.
Ambient Variation (2012)
Ambient Variation takes the subtractive approach that Cage used at times when composing variations and explores its possibilities in electronic music. In this case, the “theme” is – in keeping with Cage's interests in both ambient sounds and the city of New York – a field recording from Central Park. Filtering, wave shaping, and phase cancellation are among the methods employed to remove certain materials. Then, as in Cage's subtractive variations, the remaining material is expanded upon in a variety of ways. The aforementioned subtraction and expansion was achieved by use of an analogue synthesizer and software processing. Additionally, some sounds related to those found in the recordings are “grafted” into the variations at times and interact with the original materials.
Todd Kitchen has studied composition at Brigham Young University with Neil Thornock, Christian Asplund, and Steven Ricks. He is currently a senior, working as the teaching assistant for the BYU Electronic Music Studio, and plans on graduate studies in composition upon finishing at BYU. When he's not composing, you may find Todd playing the euphonium and trombone, collecting romantic period orchestral recordings, riding one of his bikes, or reading 20th century Latin American literature.
Six4 for Eight Spaces (2012)
Benjamin O’Brien composes and performs acoustic and electro-acoustic music. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Music Composition at the University of Florida. He holds an MA in Music Composition from Mills College and a BA in Mathematics from the University of Virginia. Benjamin has studied composition, theory, and performance with John Bischoff, Ted Coffey, Fred Frith, Paul Koonce, Roscoe Mitchell, Paul Richards, and James Paul Sain. His compositions have been performed at international conferences including ICMC, Electroacoustic Music Studies Network Conference, Linux Audio Conference, Colloqui di Informatica Musicale, and Musica Viva.
Six4 for Eight Spaces explores my interests in indeterminacy, computer music, and acoustics. It shares themes related to John Cage’s Number Pieces. Upon executing an algorithm designed in SuperCollider, a number of iterations are calculated from the summation of six die values. Per iteration, the sum of virtually flipping three coins determines a type of playback synthesizer. The probabilities of six die determine: a random sample from one of the libraries; playback duration; envelope shape for playback; number of playback repetitions; frame to begin playback; and wait time between iterations. Audio is then ported to Paul Koonce’s PVC where impulse response convolution is applied. Eight different spatial renderings of the work are created, and intuitively mixed.
Headbanger is inspired by the following John Cage quote:
"I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said, 'You'll come to a wall you won't be able to get through.' So I said, 'I'll beat my head against that wall.' "
Considering Cage’s influence on electroacoustic music, I felt it would be appropriate to make a reference to his first electroacoustic composition. Headbanger concludes with an allusion to the constant note record heard at the beginning of Imaginary Landscape No.1 (1939).
John S. Nichols III is pursuing his Doctorate in Composition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His electroacoustic compositions have been selected for performance at the 11th Annual CSUF New Music Festival in California (2011), SEAMUS (2011 & 2012), TES (2012), and ICMC (2012). He was a finalist in the Morton Gould ASCAP Young Composer Competition (2011) and was awarded a Special Mention in the Métamorphoses Acousmatic Composition Competition (2012). Recently, his proposal for a multi-movement piano and electroacoustic composition was selected as the winner of UIUC’s Fourteenth Annual 21st Century Piano Commission Competition.
CAGE V (2012)
Reflecting John Cage's interest in sounds in themselves, CAGE V has a rather sparse texture. Similar to his Number Pieces, attacks and durations are selected by chance within defined ranges. There are five layers or “performers”, each of them characterized by a particular range of durations, a distinct set of A, C, E, G pitches (or their alterations: A#, Eb, etc.) spread over a wide gamut, by different degrees of FM and AM, and by their placement in the stereo field or by reverberation. At the same time, keeping with the idea of simplicity, all sounds have exactly the same spectrum controlled by the same envelopes. CAGE V was produced with DISSCO, software for composition and additive sound synthesis developed at UIUC Computer Music Project and Argonne National Laboratory.
Sever Tipei was born in 1943 in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to the United States in 1972. He holds degrees in composition and piano performance from the University of Michigan and the Bucharest Conservatory. He has been teaching since 1978 at the University of Illinois School of Music where he also manages the University of Illinois Computer Music Project. Tipei was also a computational scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory between 1993 and 2003 where he pursued the idea of scientific sonification.
Sever Tipei regards the computer as a collaborator whose skills and abilities complement those of the human artist. He sees the composition of music both as an experimental and a speculative endeavor that delivers a particular world view.
Jeremy Van Buskirk
The Noise He Used In Order To Paint (2012)
The Noise He Used In Order To Paint is an acousmatic re-envisioning of John Cage's ...But what about the noise. . . for 3-10 percussionists. Performers choose two percussion instruments each and Cage asks for water, paper, and other sounds to be used as well. This sound world was my inspiration.
I relied heavily on parameter randomization to honor the indeterminate nature of Cage's work. I also could not resist a tip of my cap to another of my favorite pieces.
The title of my piece is derived from Cage's much longer full title - But what about the noise of crumpling paper which he used to do in order to paint the series of "Papiers froisses" or tearing up paper to make "Papiers dechires?" Arp was stimulated by water (sea, lake, and flowing waters like rivers), forests.
Jeremy Van Buskirk is the director of the Longy Computer Music Studio at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. His music has been programmed by organizations such as Alea III, Lorelei Ensemble, The Fourth Wall Ensemble, Vento Chairo, EMM, 60x60, Soundcrawl Nashville, SEAMUS, and ICMC. His CD For the Love of Laughter is available on Tell-Tale Music Media.
Michael James Olson
Before Reminiscence (2012)
Michael James Olson is a composer and media artist currently residing in Indiana. His work focuses on the intersections of traditional instrumentation with video, interactive electronics, and multi-channel audio. His works have been performed at festivals and venues such as ICMC, EMM, NYCEMF, SEAMUS, IIT Technology Festival (Mumbai), Noisefloor Festival (UK), and the International Saxophone Symposium. Michael holds a M.M. from Georgia Southern University where he studied composition with John Thompson, and is presently a doctoral student at Ball State University where he studies composition with Michael Pounds and Keith Kothman.
Before Reminiscence explores a Cageian conception of time. Throughout, layers of sonic events are organized either through indeterminacy or strict methodical control. As these layers alternately combine and diverge, they ebb and flow over a vast sonic landscape.
Stove Coil 1 (2011)
In homage to John Cage, Stove Coil 1 engages with indeterminacy and spectrally "prepared" stovetop coil. A single sample of my electric stovetop coil heating up and cooling back down was recorded. The heating and cooling of the metal coils produce an aleatoric aggregate of pops as they flex that vary in density and timbre. As an alternative look at Cage’s prepared piano (where foreign objects inserted into piano strings serve as transforms for each string’s spectrum) the stovetop coil is “spectrally” prepared when it is used to drive spectral impulses of a kalimba and a temple gong. The harmonic reconstruction of the kalimba and the temple gong evolves in complexity, pitch range, and density over the duration of the piece. To me, the work operates on several levels: aleatoric, surreal, and spectral.
From the ancient cypress swamps of Wewahitchka, Florida, Chet Udell serves as instructor of music technology at the University of Oregon. He received his Ph.D. in Composition with focus in electrical engineering from the University of Florida. His creative interests encompass electroacoustic and acoustic music composition, designing new wireless gestural control interfaces for musical instruments, using mobile performance technologies, and constructing autonomous robotic musical agents (robots).
“...try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.” “...I love the activity of sound.” These two quotes of John Cage inform the entirety of Attenuatus, whose title is the Latin word for “attenuate”. Sudden maximum attenuation of sound in the work results not in silence, but in new sounds, or at least new perspectives on existing sounds. Sudden silence creates activity, not silence. All sound sources save one are derived from acoustic feedback, which, in effect, is sound actively listening to itself. The non-feedback sound is only heard when a feedback partner is heard. Attenuatus is a 2 minute, 24 second fixed stereo audio media work.
Michael Wittgraf has degrees in both music composition and mathematics. His music has won the University of Minnesota Swan Sesquicentennial Commissioning Project, twice received special distinction in the ASCAP/Nissim Foundation Composition Contest, and has been a finalist a number of other competitions. Recordings of his work can be found on the Eroica, New Ariel, and SEAMUS labels. His music has been performed in North America, Europe, and Australia. He is currently Professor of Music and Department Chair at the University of North Dakota, USA.
Charles Norman Mason
Starlings Uncaged (2006)
Starlings uncaged was derived from a collaboration between photographer Richard Barnes and video artist Alex Schrader. Its subject matter was the beautiful formations of flocks of starlings as observed in winter at EUR in Rome. Thelink to Cage is that it was meant to be played over loudspeakers in a courtyard that was populated by starlings. The result was a beautiful duet between the prearranged sounds and the live natural sounds of the starlings. It has been presented at a number of art galleries in Rome, Seattle, Miami, and at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. When it was presented at Yerba Buena a baby seagull flew down into the courtyard and joined in the performance while its parents flew frantically overhead.
This recording is only the determinant portion, but the listener is encouraged to play the piece outside where other starlings (or seagulls) will be able to participate.
Charles Norman Mason has received many awards including the Rome Prize, a Bourges honorable mention, and the American Composers Orchestra “Playing it Unsafe” commission prize. Mason is Chair of the Composition department at the Frost School of Music (University of Miami). His website is www.charlesnormanmason.com
Satsang: begging unison (2012)
"Colors can make us blind! Music can make us deaf...” Lao Tzu
A sound is not a symbol of life; it is life, it is the coming of understanding…it is the teacher. The sounds of the times are not complex interpretations; they are the earliest appearance of what is. Listen carefully and you will hear everything – even before it happens. It is not divination, it is hearing. It is not even peering into the future; it is peering into a unified and complete present.
paul rudy is curators' professor at the Conservatory in Kansas City and shamanic sound alchemist.
Tinnitus Study (2012)
Benjamin R. Fuhrman is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from Lansing, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor’s in violin performance at Hope College, and a Master’s and Doctorate in music composition from Michigan State University, and has served as the composer in residence at ART342 in Fort Collins, Colorado. His principle teachers include Sunny Cirlin, Mihai Craioveanu, Mark Sullivan, and Ricardo Lorenz. He has received numerous commissions,band has had pieces premiered and performed throughout the world.
I recently suffered through one of the worst allergy seasons ever. In addition to the standard sinus congestion, it got so bad that I temporarily lost all hearing in my right ear except for a persistent high-pitched whine. Borrowing from the lessons of Cage’s 4’33,” I designed this study as a miniature depiction of that experience, presenting the listener with my experience of tinnitus shaped silence and sound.
Do it again! (2012)
More than a penchant for novelty, Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano (1948) represents the composer’s ability to discover new sounds in unlikely places. Toy pianos have a distinctive sound; widely spaced overtones and the clicking of plastic hammers and keys contribute to its appeal. All of the sounds in Do it again! were derived from the toy piano, including the bass tones – produced by plucking its metal rods – which conclude the piece. The title of the piece comes from the short essay by Walter Benjamin, “Toys and Play.”
...the great law that presides over the rules and rhythms of the entire world of play: the law of repetition. We know that for a child repetition is the soul of play, that nothing gives him/her greater pleasure than to “Do it again!”
Nicholas Cline is a composer of acoustic, electroacoustic, and film music. His compositions have been performed in the US, Italy, Ireland, and screened at festivals around the world. He previously studied at Columbia College Chicago and is currently pursuing a M.M. in Composition at Indiana University. His principle teachers include Aaron Travers, Don Freund, Jeffery Hass, John Gibson, Ilya Levinson, and Sebastian Huydts.
Out Of The Time (2012)
"Out Of The Time", was composed in the spirit of John Cage. Underemphasis. Background becomes foreground. Primitive incorporeal markings within an enveloping temporal current. Time speaks with an unknown vocabulary.
Larry Matthew Gaab (b. 1950) creates music in his studio in Chico, California. His body of works are for tape alone and for mixed acoustic and electronic instruments. The pieces utilize improvisation, composition, and computer generation. His work have been selected for electroacoustic festivals and concerts in the United States and in Europe.
invasion/symbiosis (III) (2012)
invasion/symbiosis (III), the third in a series of compositions that explores concepts of place and home, is an opportunity to Create A Gem of an Electro-acoustic work. One begins realizing this work by recording sounds in and around his/her home including, but not limited to, automobile traffic, “nature,” and mushrooms cooking (individuals that do not eat or cook mushrooms are strongly discouraged from creating realizations of this piece). Nearly all aspects of how these recordings are edited and arranged are governed by chance operations. The individual realizing the piece is instructed to not modify sounds (instead accept them as they are), and to not fear silence (even when it lasts for an uncomfortable amount of time).
Michael Boyd is a composer, scholar, and experimental improviser who is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Chatham University. Boyd’s music embraces experimental practices such as improvisation, installation, multimedia, and performance art; his composition Bit of nostalgia... can be heard on Navona Records. Boyd also serves as Wilkins Township Commissioner and is working to improve bicycle infrastructure in his community. An active road and mountain biker, he was named Bike Pittsburgh’s 2011 Advocate of the Year.
Curry Chicken and Ramen Noodles (2012)
Lawrence W. Moore is an Electro-Acoustic Composer based in South Florida who teaches at the University of Miami and Miami-Dade College. He has had works presented in the 2011 and 2012 Electro-Acoustic Barn Dance Festivals, the 2011 Transy Studio 300 Festival, the 13th Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology in 2012, the SEAMUS 2011 National Conference, and numerous presentations of the 12 Nights of Electronic Arts and Music in Miami, FL. Curry Chicken and Ramen Noodles was initiates as a field recording of 1 and 1/2 chefs preparing a meal by the same name. The field recording was approximately 17 minutes in length and was broken up into 5 stems of 3 minute recordings and a 6th stem that was less than 3 minutes. In honor of John Cage, the processing and the formal layout of these stems was by the use of tossing coins to divine hexagrams in the fashion of the I Ching. In order to maintain the spirit of Cage, the audio tracks were only processed in a way that enhanced their natural sound rather than in ways that manipulated or changed their inherent characteristics. The resulting meal was very tasty.
Linguine with White Clam Sauce I. Or, "Manslaughter." (2010)
This piece works with an everyday occurrence--the preparation of a meal--but bends and twists it into a disconcertingly significant act. To make the piece I recorded myself reading aloud from an original short memoir and then chopped up the resulting audio track into small pieces. I used each fragment to trigger a MIDI event and orchestrated all of these events into a tune.
Andrea Mazzariello (b. 1978) is a composer, performer, writer, and teacher. The Berkshire Symphony, So Percussion, NOW Ensemble, and Newspeak, among many others, have performed his compositions. He's active as a solo performer of his own work, for a novel and evolving instrumental setup. In 2011 he completed his Ph.D. in Music Composition at Princeton University. He also holds degrees from the University of Michigan and from Williams College. Currently, Andrea teaches a seminar called Music and Power in the Princeton Writing Program.
POP dips into the world of water and water related sounds (the last sound being the result of a faulty washer in a sink's faucet). Although not directly related to Cage's Water Walk which uses a water pitcher, a goose call, a bottle of wine, a sprinkling can, ice cubes, a seltzer siphon, a bathtub, and other items, it’s a playful look at a small sampling of water sounds I've recorded over the past few years. Although chance operations weren’t used to determine the structure, as all field recordists know, there is considerable chance involved when trying to capture sounds such as these: whether they will be present at all, whether they will be obliterated by extraneous noise, whether it rains, is too windy, etc.
Maggi Payne is Co-director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College. Her works have been presented in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Australasia.
She received Composers and Interdisciplinary Arts Grants from the NEA, and several honorary mentions from Bourges and one from Prix Ars Electronica. Works appear on Innova, Starkland, Lovely Music, Music and Arts, Centaur, Ubuibi, MMC, CRI, Digital Narcis, Frog Peak, Asphodel, Root Strata, and/OAR, Capstone, and Mills College labels.
Loretto Alfresco (1970)
Loretto Alfresco combines two elements that played significant roles in John Cage's creative output: percussion and electro-acoustic music. Created when I was 17, its sound sources include pots, pans, pipes, and other objects played by my childhood friend, Thomas Loretto, under a tree on the small Wisconsin farm owned by my sister. After resting comfortably in my archives for nearly four decades, Loretto Alfresco was premiered in 2009 during the inaugural New York City Electro-Acoustic Music Festival. One day in 1989, my mother, my wife, and I were waiting to enter the blockbuster Picasso-Braque exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. John Cage stood directly in front of us in line. My mother tapped Cage on the shoulder and he turned around to face us. She said: “we're very glad you’re here”—he smiled and said: “thank you.”
Robert Fleisher’s music has been heard in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, the U.K., and throughout the U.S.A. He is the author of Twenty Israeli Composers (1997), and is a contributing composer and essayist in Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21 (2009), inspired by John Cage’s Notations (1969). He currently teaches music theory and composition at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb).
IRRITATING ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, THAT IS TO SAY KEEPING US FROM OSSIFYING. (2012)
Steven Ricks (b. 1969) received his early musical training as a trombonist in Mesa, AZ. He holds degrees in composition from Brigham Young University (BM), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MM), and the University of Utah (PhD), and also received a Certificate in Advanced Musical Studies from King's College London in 2000. A “spotlight” radio interview and article on his music—Latter-Day Synchronisms—was published/produced by Frank Oteri on NewMusicBox and Counterstream Radio of the American Music Center. His May 2008 Bridge Records release Mild Violence has received numerous favorable reviews, including a five-star review in BBC Music Magazine. He has received numerous commissions and awards, including a 2010 Fromm Music Foundation Commission and five Barlow Endowment commissions. His music is performed by leading new music ensembles and performers in the US and abroad. Ricks is currently an Associate Professor in the BYU School of Music where he co-directs the Electronic Music Studio. For more information visit: www.stevericks.com
The title for my work comes from one of Cage's lectures that is collected in the famous anthology Silence. The counting that occurs in my piece reflects an obsession I've had with lists as a possible formal structure in music. The disparate sounds of both found and more conventional musical objects hopefully irritate one in a useful way, and the dominant seventh chord makes an appearance since Cage allows for that in his expansive musical universe.