Read a review of this CD here - http://www.computermusicjournal.org/reviews/30-3/barrett-doornbusch.html
Paul Doornbusch is a composer and performer of contemporary music, often fusing electroacoustic and computer music with instrumental music. His compositional concerns involve new forms for music appropriate for contemporary culture and these are expressed in his Continuity series of pieces which examine degrees of (overlapping) continuity and fragmentation. This is allegorical with much of a person's perception and a contemporary understanding of the universe and physics. He works mostly as an algorithmic composer, but occasionally in recent years he has engaged in peripheral areas such as the Place-Hampi project with Jeffrey Shaw. As an algorithmic composer, Doornbusch has identified and examined in detail the mapping stage of the process where structural data becomes musical parameters. He began his studies in Melbourne, Australia, but moved to Europe and continued his studies at the Sonology Institute of the Royal Conservatory of Holland. After completing studies in Holland he remained there working for a number of years, before returning to Australia to head a project at The University of Melbourne to reconstruct the music played by Australia's first computer, CSIRAC, now recognised as the first computer to play music.
CD LINER NOTES:
The Continuity series
The word Continuity in the title of each piece in this series emphasises both an overarching theme and an organising principle of the work as a whole - the continuity and fragmentation of musical space. This expresses the opposed duality of continuous and fragmented that occurs often, from our perception of time to the physics duality of light, which exhibits both wave-like (continuous) and particle-like (fragmented) behaviour. Given this commonality between the pieces, they are individual in their instrumentation and in the detail of their approach. They have the intention of defining and developing an original musical discourse where the continuous and fragmented become juxtaposed and the music is transformed through shades from one point to another at different rates and in different ways. Here, there is no polyphony in the traditional sense of harmony, but there is polyphony of gesture and movement as elements unfold in several dimensions simultaneously. The Continuities also investigate specific technical aspects of the performance techniques of both instrumental and electronic parts. In each of them, demands are placed on the performer to disassociate some elements of their performance behaviour from others, adding to the fragmentation, and these are transformed musically back together, forming a unity that is, from time to time, more and less continuous. This conflict, the juxtaposition of opposites, gives rise to tensions in each piece, which become evident in the virtuosity of the performers.
“Music is a way, and means, of thinking and a way of saying what I think – a form of philosophy in some ways I suppose. Music tells us who we are and it can change us. I cannot imagine the person I would be if I had not heard, for example, electronic music. To me, the most powerful music moves me to a new understanding, it’s something that I could not imagine.”
Continuity 3 (percussion and computer)
Continuity 3 uses, as its instrumentation, a china cymbal; a flat, circular, metal plate; and a tam-tam. This gives an idea of the direction of the piece. The china cymbal has harmonics that are fragmented and unrelated to its fundamental note, the metal plate has a pure pitch and the tam-tam can vary its overtone structure completely depending on how it is struck, where it is struck and what it is struck with. The china cymbal can also vary its timbre depending on what beaters are used and how close to the centre or edge it is struck. The computer processes these sounds in real time, transforming each instrument as it plays. The electronic transformations range from spectral resynthesis with modifications, to pitch shifting, ring modulation, spatialisation and various modulations. The performer has the challenge of hearing the instruments change from second to second, recognising the transformations occurring and playing with those changes in the same way as they would play with any instrument.
What does “continuous” mean when dealing with percussion? It could be a long sustaining sound, but it could also be something repeated quickly enough - the opening of Continuity 3 uses both of these approaches in juxtaposition, while the electronics part variously moves around and somewhat fragments the sounds. The instrumental part gradually becomes more fragmented, but in the rhythms and also in the sounds. The notation specifies not only when and how, but also where each note must be played on the instrument, controlling the variations in timbre and overtones produced. As the instrumental part moves to and fro between the fragmentation and continuous aspects of musical space, the electronics come into, and out of, phase with this, sometimes accentuating the fragmentation and at other times not. The piece settles for a while on the tam-tam, which becomes scraped and “sings” a long note and has some of its harmonics picked out for intense examination and transformation. The piece picks up energy again, becoming increasingly fragmented, and ultimately becomes a continuous roll on the cymbal with the sound fragmented by the electronics.
“The metal plate in this recording is an old computer disk from the first computer of the Sonology Institute, a Digital PDP15 I think. I’m very thankful to Jo Scherpinesse of the Netherland’s Koninklijk Conservatorium who very generously supplied the historic disk. It has a beautiful sound and I promised him I’d write it into a piece one day. Tim, the percussionist, was initially sceptical but he loved it the first time he played it, hitting the instruments and having different sounds come from the speakers. We ended up recording it on Saturday the 22nd of December. We had the building’s air conditioning, fridges and fluorescent lights turned off – it was the quietest place I could find so that we could capture the dynamic range of the piece. But this recorded music (all of the pieces actually) is a poor simulacrum of how it should be heard – it is much better heard in a concert environment where people are able to sit and experience it first hand and appreciate it.”
Continuity 2 (recorder quartet and electronics)
The recorder notation of Continuity 2 borrows heavily from Berio’s Gesti – the fingering and the embouchure and breath are separated in such a way to create a great discontinuity and schism for the performers’ technique and the sonic result. This is most evident in the opening of the recorder part. The overall shape was based on graphs of various chaotic functions - bifurcation functions, for example, and their mirror image. Doornbusch liked the way these illustrated processes of nature, which cause things to come together and fly apart. The piece is concerned with the way the continuous can become the fragmented, how one can lead to another, and how our perception of continuity and fragmentation can change depending on how we choose to relate to something. For example, continuous polished surfaces may look very discontinuous and irregular under intense magnification.
The opening of this piece is dramatic and piercing. A high pitched tone, which is a middle G of the bass recorder electronically transposed four octaves higher. This is slowly, electronically transformed into the tearing of corrugated cardboard (a transformation from continuous to fragmented). Then the four bass recorders enter, taking up the fragmentation and moving it between them as the electronic part returns, initially continuous, but this also soon fragments into a frenzy of activity
The electronic part is made with 3 main sound sources; recorder samples (continuous - a sustained G in middle of treble staff, played on bass recorder sounding 8ve lower), samples of scraping/tearing corrugated cardboard (discontinuous), and about 40 streams of dynamic-stochastic synthesis sounds that often have varying parameters, moving from the very unstable and discontinuous to more stable and continuous, and back. As the piece progresses these sounds slowly become more continuous, although there are many energetic disturbances and interruptions, until they come together on the recorder sample (this time not transposed, but stretched). The recorders slowly settle on this G, although this continuity is disturbed by some energetic electronic interruptions. The recorders are stimulated by this disruption and begin to deviate, ultimately moving through multiple octaves of smooth glissando (with circular breathing), until they excite the material again into a frenzy of activity where the piece explodes again into a state of complete fragmentation.
“The Malle Symen quartet who performed this piece were superb, and Ina helped me enormously! Especially with the recorder notation, mechanics and technique. I wrote the most difficult parts for them – recorder destroying parts – and they played it with more energy and precision than I could have hoped for. Like all of the recordings here, this was done in one whole take, I think this recording was the second of three that we did.”
ACT 5 (bassoon and electronics)
ACT 5 takes its name from the software used to create it – Algorithmic Composition Toolbox and it is the fifth piece made with this tool. The main concept of the piece is the struggle to gain height and the attendant metaphors this evokes. ACT5 is in four sections of increasing pitch range and rate of pitch change. The four sections are punctuated with interruptions. These three interruptions are percussion instruments, which are suspended above the stage behind the performer, falling to the stage. The staging had the performer at the front, to the right was suspended some pots and pans several meters above the stage, to the left was an old glockenspiel and several meters behind the performer was a tympani. The suspended instruments thus making a triangle, with the ropes holding them looped to hooks near them on the stage. It is a requirement of the performer that they put down their instrument and sprint across the stage to a rope that holds one of the instruments aloft, release it, sprint back to the playing position and continue. This is an athletic performance. Not only does the music take the listener into the body of the instrument, the intimacy of sound that is usually the province of the performer, but the listener is also exposed to the breathing and strenuous effort that this piece requires. ACT 5 must be performed on a large stage (the premiere was on a stage 12m by 18m). The suspended instruments can be anything deemed suitable, on the recording there was a collection of half a dozen pots and pans, an old xylophone, and lastly an old timpani. In line with this piece’s struggle to gain altitude (like getting out of bed, an improvement in ‘quality’, and so on) and it's athletic nature, it is required that the performer wear clothing similar to a dancer. On the premiere the performer was dressed in a singlet and boxer shorts, it made for a memorable performance. No instruments were seriously injured in the performance of this piece.
“I had seen a wonderful piece by William Forsythe and the Frankfurt Ballet which gave me the idea that I wanted to see the performer’s muscles when they were playing the piece, as part of the theme is the physicality of playing. You should have seen Hamish’s face when I told him he had to play it in his underwear. But he was fearless and, hesitating for only a second, said he had some appropriate shorts to wear. The premiere was spectacular, the stage was bathed in a cool blue light, the hanging instruments had spots on them and they sparkled. People chuckled at first but then they were drawn into the intensity of the piece. After the first items fell to the floor at the first interruption all eyes locked onto the tympani dangling meters above the floor – the suspense was palpable and Hamish’s playing was magnificent.”
G4 is a piece that uses solely ‘dynamic stochastic synthesis’, which was developed by Xenakis and embodied in his GENDYN program of 1991. Monolithic and relentless in nature, G4 also has streams of activity come and go. The sound synthesis technique can be described as a number of points on an XY grid and each of these points does a random walk, based on specified random distributions, in both the X and Y directions and values are linearly interpolated from one point to the next. These values are sent directly to the digital to analog converter of the computer. To account for the random walks going out-of-bounds, barriers are put in place to reflect out of range values back into the defined space. Additional complexity is added to the sound through random modulation of the mirrors and repetition of the frames before another is computed. These parameters, and others, are set to specify the evolution of each voice in the piece. A higher level structure is determined by setting parameters for each voice, such as the density and duration parameters. The program will then generate a structure for all of the specified voices, but the composer can always intervene unconditionally. This is music that can emerge from the minimum number of assumptions and initial conditions, like the big bang. It is perfectly idiomatic computer music.
“Computer music is not emotionless – far from it. It’s full of emotion and expression. It’s violent stuff, often reflecting the violence inherent in the universe – for example, there is no ‘balance of nature’ it’s a daily struggle between opposing forces for supremacy. The computer allows such natural forces to be reflected in the music. This is music that is often abstract in one way, but equally often concrete from the view of physical processes and natural phenomena. Much of it transcends a pedestrian understanding of music. It’s a way of approaching fundamental aesthetic relationships and working with them in new ways.”
“I owe a debt of thanks to Peter Hoffmann, who reconstructed the GENDYN program and allowed me access to it.”
Strepidus Somnus (voices and electronics)
Strepidus Somnus (noisy dreams) is a journey through a vocal and electronic foreign landscape. Scored for four singers (SATB) and short-wave radio based electronics, each section is a transition from one state to another. The vocal sections occur in four languages simultaneously (Dutch, English, German, Portuguese) and they are: 1 - No sound, to some sounds, half vowels, vowels, fricatives, parts of words, whole words parts of sentences, whole sentences; 2 – Conversation to sex; 3 – Grief to singing; 4 – Single notes to melody; 5 - Vocalised noises to conversation; 6 - Interspersed whispered text and laughter, where the text becomes progressively more intelligible but nonsense English. Interwoven with the vocal part, the electronic part is based on and sourced from short-wave radio sounds. It sometimes pre-empts the textures to come and sometimes follows them, excitedly bubbling along with the vocals. Despite the extreme difference between the voices and the electronics, they have equal weight in the piece and where the vocal part moves in its transitions the electronics will change in density and texture, in a form of counterpoint which is in response to, or leading, the vocals. The beginning of each of the whispered sections of text is below:
- waschedge ad fathttcrry he o parer? ter ce ralo ts Rane grsthado wsoing He, Landolf me I’ttt!
- ng side and gethe roof lips. I the went of lying in a Jack-in-the her was voice alled that’s Bill she fanned thing.
- By that the was quite othey’d one of what it it she one outside a came ther up at a, any make it said turned a grow support.
- hat’s that !” “But the chimney, and now about like a Jack-in-the-box, and stop to ready for the began shriek and the trembled
- Alas! it was a bright idea came rattling messages for a Bandy now had lost something, and so indeed, as sure to herself . . . (end) Whenever I eat her without knocking, but nevertheless she cakes, she was it, trotting together.
The piece finishes with laughter, a celebration of the voice and the playfulness of the piece. In performance, the four singers are spread across the front of stage, two metres apart, and they receive directions through hidden earpieces. They wear costumes of black rubber butcher’s aprons, beneath which they appear naked. In bare feet, on a red swatch and bathed in red light they have an unsettling appearance. At times the voices sound surreal and the electronics sound familiar, an unexpected interchange amongst many others.
“Richard Barrett told me I looked like Dr Who in the Tardis when I was running the piece from behind a table filled with electronics and computers. It’s a moderately complex piece to stage; each singer has two different channels of audio into their ears for fold-back and direction. Then there’s the electronics to deal with. But it’s fun to watch because the first time the singers all stop abruptly and start together the audience suddenly says, ‘How on earth did they do that?’ and it’s clear to them that it’s composed, planned and rehearsed and they look a bit bewildered. The singers worked tirelessly to basically remember their parts. It was a great effort and they were dazzlingly good. . . . Aside from this piece working better in concert than as a recording, I think it’s a shame that today’s students of the arts do not study science and mathematics to some degree. And visa-versa. Something went wrong with education somewhere in history because this was not always the case. There is much that engineers or scientists and artists can learn from each other – they are all fundamentally creative fields and there are elements of both here.”
Mastered by Franc Tetaz of Moose Mastering – www.moosemastering.com
Some of these recordings were very ably assisted by Guus Hoevenaars and Wibo Vermuelen.
Jeremy Yuille assisted with the graphic layout.
Special thanks to Paul Berg, and Cort Lippe with Continuity 3, for the neuronal additions that helped make some of this music possible.