Commission Music

Commission Music
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Friday, 9 December 2005

Portfolio

Lock Up Your Children” was composed in 2005 in response to the controversy surrounding Buster the Bunny. In one episode of this children’s show, the cartoon rabbit goes to visit a Vermont family headed by two moms. He says hi to the moms once in an extremely brief scene. This caused a controversy as the United States government withdrew funding for the show.

This piece uses clips of the controversy being discussed on Frontline, of Bill O’Reilly and other pundits discussing the controversy, and of Fred Phelps, a radically homophobic preacher. I wrote a SuperCollider library to analyze buffers of spoken text and look for pauses. The program for this piece cut the buffers at pauses and analyzed the later ones to find the dominant frequency, which is played underneath as a gong sound.

This piece has been performed at my thesis concert and at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.

In 5ths” was composed in 2004 and performed that year by the Flux Quartet at a concert at Wesleyan University. The performance notes and score are included here. Terry Riley’s In C largely inspires this composition. I navigate the circle of fifths because of the tension in stacking three fifths on top of each other. The listener wants the 2 to go to a 3, but instead, another fifth is added. Also, fifths in equal temperament are very close to 3/2. Since the Flux Quartet only allocated minimal rehearsal time, I wanted to write something they could play easily that was within a margin of error of just intonation.

Morpheus’ Snare” was created in 2005. In this piece, I have detuned the left and the right channels. As the piece starts, the detuning falls randomly in between 2 Hz and 20Hz. As it progresses, the range narrows until the left and the right always differ by 10Hz. Alpha brain waves are generally around 10Hz. There are rumors that listening to pitches detuned between the left and right ear at 10Hz will make the listener sleepy and cause them to enter an alpha state. All of the tones in this piece are based on the undertone series 19/17, 19/19, 19/21, and 19/23.

This piece was performed at my thesis concert and at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.

Rush to Excuse” was composed in 2004. This piece applies granular synthesis to a 47″ sample of Rush Limbaugh’s radio oratory. There are two processes involved. The first cuts Mr. Limbaugh’s voice into hundreds of samples of equal length. These samples, or grains, are then analyzed to determine the average pitch for each. The second process cuts the same clip into unequal pieces based on silences, or pauses in speech. I mix the output of these processes together, repeating the first process several times with longer and longer grains. Content and pitch material are then juxtaposed.

In the sample used, Mr. Limbaugh excuses torture at American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and mocks the Geneva Convention. He describes a photograph of a naked prisoner being threatened with a dog, and justifies it by claiming there’s no actual assault, the prisoner is merely being frightened. As it happens, a subsequent photograph shows the actual attack. On being apprised of this later in the program, Mr. Limbaugh offered a correction and a weak apology.

This piece was performed at my thesis concert and at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco.

No No Nonette” was created in 2002 for an installation of nine MIDI controlled player toy pianos, created by Trimpin. The installation, Klavier Nonette was in place at Jack Straw Productions’ Media Gallery in Seattle in the early part of 2003.

Breaking Waves”, created in 2001, uses a destructive loop. The original sound is ocean-like noise. I encoded this as an mp3, and then I decoded it back to aiff. Then I re-encoded that aiff to and mp3 and repeated this process several times. Mp3s are supposed to have transparent compression, so the user never hears the lost information. However, after repeated processing, the wave sounds break down.

This piece was released on Ibol Records Random Spheres of Influence compilation in 2001.

Bell Tolls”, composed in 2004, plays triads with a sound that resembles wind chimes. It uses a spatialization algorithm so that each “chime” sounds like it is coming from a different location. It is especially evident if the speakers are places three meters apart. The pitch of each new set of chimes is based on the pitch of the chimes that precede it. The pitches come from a 21-limit tuning table.

This piece was performed at 21 Grand in Oakland and at my thesis concert.

The spatialization code is included here and is online at http://www.celesteh.com/music/wesleyan/Locator.sc [note to blog readers: I finally published my SC libraries to: http://www.celesteh.com/music/wesleyan/]

Airwaves #2”, composed in 2002, was the second piece in a three part series. At that time, I did most of my compositions using a MOTM analog modular synthesizer running a direct line to Protools. The direct line sometimes created a sound that seemed too large. This series was an attempt to create synthesizer tape pieces with more “air” in them.

This piece was played at Woodstockhausen 2002.

Pro Manko de Edzino”, was composed in 2003 for a concert of five-minute piano works at Wesleyan University. Neely Bruce was the performer. Unfortunately, I do not have a good recording of that concert, so only the score is included in the portfolio. [Note I said "good" recording.]

All of the pieces on the CD can also be found online at http://www.berkeleynoise.com/celesteh/podcast/

[Not included but almost: "Phase"]

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2 comments:

Polly Moller said...

Kewl overview!
I gave your CD to Renee Witon who hosts the "Classical Without Walls" show on KUSF. Hopefully by the time you get back, she will have played it. :)

Jean Sirius said...

needs a little copyediting. i'm on it.