Derek Craig Zoladz is an artist working in the medium of sound. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1979. His musical studies began on the alto saxophone around the age of 10, playing in the school band as well as performing solo and in saxophone quartets at the Ohio Music Education Association competitions.
He began to study the electric guitar around 1994, performing with musicians and classmates from the local area. The electric component of the guitar instigated a burning desire to experiment with signal processing and extended techniques for the instrument. He also investigated the use of computers and MIDI devices in the creation of sound.
In 2002, Derek Craig Zoladz began to study electronic sound synthesis and composition with Rocco Di Pietro at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio. His work presently explores the intersections of the body, culture, and technology; expressing the possibilities and limitations of emergent theoretical concepts applied to experimental musical practice.
He currently attends The Ohio State University in the School of Comparative Studies. He presented his work Love Does Not Exist at Stanford University in September 2006.
Logic Structures I (2006)
This piece explores the assemblage of a compositional machine within the confines of the traditional notational method. The initial process involved finding a suitable text to use as input data. I found a text that repeated a lot of the same words throughout the poem. Since I already understood that I was going to translate the poem into binary digits, by way of the relationship between the characters on the written page and the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) characters of a computer keyboard, I could previsualize a format for composition. These ASCII characters have a specific series of binary digits, which correspond to a specific textual character in the poem. The standardization of the code enabled repetitious series of digits. I was to use these repetitions of digits to create rhythmic coherence in Logic Structures I.
After the poem was translated into a series of binary digits, I needed to configure a thoughtful notational system that would be musical, yet communicate the rigidity of data crunching. I began to prepare a kind of notational software program that would compute the stream of binary digits into pitches and rhythms. This included establishing a pitch ratio, meter, and logic that would determine the when and what of my notational pseudo-software.
I pulled out my orchestral pad and began to sketch a few ideas and rather quickly I had finalized a formula. I was going to use five staves. Staves 1 through 4 would be representational of 4 inputs of a logic operator called an AND gate. Stave 5 would be representational of the output of the AND gate’s logical process.
Each stave was given a single pitch: Staff 1= B, Staff 2= A, Staff 3= F#, Staff 4= G, Staff 5= C#. These pitches would be the only pitches used for the duration of the piece. Each staff was also given a specific timbre (in ascending order of staves): flute, harp, timpani, concert bass drum, and a soft synthesizer sample.
The durations each sound event needed to be standardized as well. I decided that since the poem would only produce binary oppositions, I would let a 1= a quarter note and a 0= a quarter rest. The organization of the staves, pitch classes, timbre, and durations would provide the structural framework for Logic Structures I.
Once the framework was solidified, I decided to pipe the binary digits from the poem into this computational paper machine in a 4-bit parallel stream of information. This 4-bit stream would generate the rhythmic structure as well as the sounding pitch for every sound event. A perceptive listener can then audibly hear, by differences in pitch and timbre, the on (sound) and off (silence) triggers of the AND gate as the piece develops.
Love Does Not Exist (2003)
I became highly energized by the explorations of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s text pieces, which seemed to deal with innate resonance’s contained within the body and soul of an individual. The piece also exposed the individual to his/her own personal historical narrative. I also wanted to explore the spatial aspects of the presentation of sound and how loudspeaker arrangement could affect the overall experience of listening. I then came in contact with an excerpt from Heidegger, Habermas and the Mobile Phone that I felt compelled to use as a concept:
“In Heideggar’s approach [to communication], you could not look at communication in terms of an individual speaker wanting control. If there is a key individual in his definition, it’s the hearer, not the speaker at all. Communication is all about the hearer’s understanding. And what Heidegger means is that the hearer should have an experience of the subject being discussed which amounts to a sharing with the speaker.” (Myerson 22)
I also felt the desire to explore new instrumentation, as this would give me the opportunity to experiment with new sounds. Markus Popp’s, under the moniker Oval, mechanical sample and splice device helped me to see the type of sound I wanted to use to create a new work on the experience known as love.
I decided to use a Behringer mixing board with the auxiliary sends routed back into the inserts of two adjacent channels on the board. The input gain controls on these channels were turned up as high as they would go. This process would amplify the internal noise of the boards’ own electronic nervous system to an audible volume. Manual control of the equalization, auxiliary mix, and volume faders would be used to generate the frequency and noise elements I would use as source material in the composition of sounds in the piece later to be titled Love Does Not Exist. This sound material was finalized in a rudimentary digital audio editing program on my home computer entitled Magix Audio Studio and burnt to compact disc for presentation.
Now to incorporate the aforementioned aspects of space and communication, I devised a schema for presentation. The audience would be arranged in two parallel lines and facing each other. The speakers that were to project the audible material would be arranged so the left channel speaker would be placed at the end of one side of the parallel lines and angled appropriately to direct the sound flow between the audience members who were now facing each other. The right channel speaker would be placed on the opposite end of the parallel lines and angled to project it’s sound towards the left channel speaker at the opposing end of the parallel lines. The idea was to have the sound resonate and reverberate between the individual audience members, who were now participant’s in the work itself.
The audience members were then instructed to pair up and look each other in the eyes when the sound became audible. This was to incorporate the ethereal sense of connection that I witnessed in a Richard Linklater film Waking Life, in which two of the animated characters participated in what was termed a “holy moment”. The holy moment seemed to transmit an unspoken dialogue between the characters and conjured up a deep awareness of being in the participants.
The sound material was then presented at a minimal volume, barely audible, but not a struggle to hear. I found this to pull the ears attention to the sounds instead of the speaker’s vibrations pounding a listener unconscious. This was keeping track with communication of being taking precedence over the power of the speaker’s intentions. I found this work to be quite a successful amalgamation of information and concepts I had acquired recently.