Archive for February, 2008

Evelyn Glennie’s music challenges the listener to ask where music comes from: Is it more than simply a translation from score to instrument to audience? How can a musician who has almost no hearing play with such sensitivity and compassion?

The Grammy-winning percussionist and composer became almost completely deaf by the age of 12, but her hearing loss brought her a deeper understanding of and connection to the music she loves. She’s the subject of the documentary Touch the Sound, which explores this unconventional and intriguing approach to percussion.

Along with her vibrant solo career, Glennie has collaborated with musicians ranging from classical orchestras to Björk. Her career has taken her to hundreds of concert stages around the world, and she’s recorded a dozen albums, winning a Grammy for her recording of Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and another for her 2002 collaboration with Bela Fleck.

“Evelyn Glennie is simply a phenomenon of a performer.”

New York Times

Alas, WordPress does not allow you to embed certain videos so below is a link instead:

Very interesting talk which helps to reinforce how to listen

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SARC computer lab meeting tomorrow (Friday 29th) 11 a.m for Group 4 . Queens Email behaving strangely so on the off chance that anyone reads this in time…

 Topic is Plagiarism and Imitation within Music.

 Claire Leonard, Asleigh Kilgore, Ian Jordan, Steven Lunn, David Mailey. Go team etc.

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Hi guys, I have been told to inform the world of what the illustrious Group 2 will be addressing at the Seminar Presentation this coming Monday.

We will be talking about the human voice, and its application in the performance of music. The various members of the group will discuss different aspects the voice’s use, and what impact it has on the listener. It will no doubt be a thoroughly interesting presentation!

The group consists of the awesome combination of 5 experts in this field: John Close, Philip Crane, John D’Arcy, Shannon Doherty and Paul Elliott.

Book your tickets early as you won’t want to miss this one!

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The first piece from the Duo Contour begins with percussion and trumpet playing the same rhythm, which is to feature prominently throughout the piece (crotchet -double quaver – crotchet – double quaver) – trumpet playing in 4ths. Ascending and descending arpeggio movement and repeated phrasing fuse live sound with electronics. At the arrival of staggered entries, the piece becomes polyphonic. This is the result of scored cues with Max/Msp through additional electronic sax, trumpet and vibraphone/marimba mimicking the live performers. Even when the performers stop, the disjointed polyphonic electronic movement continues. The two live performers play a descending chromatic scale. Live trumpet plays a sustained clear note, joined by vibraphone. This eventually blurs into one constant ‘noise’ as the electronics disintegrate. A mute is then used on trumpet, and this is joined by tuba played through electronics. A live cymbal hit marks the return to the 1st section and main motif. This motif is then performed by live trumpet and electronic trumpet at a strange interval (possibly 6th/7th s?) The main motif is then played in a jazzy, swung style. Mute is then used on trumpet for the jazzy finale of this piece as electronics fade out.

Rather then personal opinion expressed alone the performers were critically evaluated on points such as ombochure and technique in the first half of the workshop. The first singing performer sang a wordless piece in which she made the decision to set the music to an ‘ ooo’ sound. She was challenged to change this to an ‘ahh’ sound which was clearer and which I found more enjoyable to listen to. The piece was described as having more ‘shadow and light’ than it had previously – simply just by changing word setting. The trumpet and piccolo trumpet performances were giving appropriate pointers in both playing technique, (such as a reduction in vibrato to draw more attention to vibrato when it is used) and in performance in front of an audience. The flamenco guitarist was complemented on his sensitive playing technique that drew attention to the resonance of the guitar strings.

In general, the positive approach of Max/Msp from a live performance point of view was interesting. The programme was described as being “programming for non-programmers” and the ‘learning curve’ difficulty was a topic that was addressed more than once. This proved a relief that even among established electro-acoustic composers, they still had moments of programming confusion and frustration, such as triggers not playing and even down to cable lengths affecting live performance. The more complicated the patch, the more likely it is that there will be errors in performance but a musical idea that exists in the mind will not become a tangible creative goal until it is audible. It is therefore worth the risk to take, but not to rely so heavily on a particular set patch that a programmatic error cannot be recovered.


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I was pleasantly surprised with the Duo Contour performance. Prior to the event I was expecting a performance based more around fixed media, so it was made all the more interesting through the interaction between the trumpet and percussion (along with the composers of the respective pieces sitting at the sound desk operating the electronic components).

The first piece was jazzy introduction to the duo’s style of performance, beginning with Miles Davis style melodies on the trumpet. The Drums played typically syncopated jazz rhythms, though it was interesting to watch the drummer studiously follow the sheet music – a more classic approach to performance, obviously necessary due to the complicated structure of this piece.

The electronic side of the performance became clear when we started to hear the trumpet parts echoed at various points in the surround sound scape. This then turned into a fanfare canon of sorts, as the trumpet melodies became transposed – transforming the texture into that of a full brass band. The deep tuba-like tones (which would appear later) greatly widened the tonal spectrum and made the listening experience really satisfying. We found out later that the trumpet player triggered these harmonies himself via a footpedal.

The piece was developed by the use of antiphony between the trumpet and the newly introduced vibraphone. There was also a section where the trumpet played long, sustained notes – a good contrast with the very rhythmically active introductory section. Finally I will mention the use of the mute on the trumpet near the end of the piece. This was a really interesting feature, as it blurred the line between the use of electronics and classic techniques to alter live sound. Inititally I had my eyes closed and was under the impress that the trumpet was being treated by a High-Pass Equalizer on the computer program. I then visually acknowledged that the trumpet player was using a mute afterall. this was an amusin twist to my listening experience. Nevertheless, the trumpet sounded great with the mute, I had forgotten how cool the timbre becomes when a mute is used.

After the concert we watched the performance workshop. I have attended a lot of workshops like this as a part of the Performance module. This time, it was 3rd year students performing for the Duo Contour and Franziska Schroeder. Understanding the inability to provide thorough analysis and criticism due to time constraints, I still felt that the performers did not receive that much guidance as to how to improve their performances. The main incidence of this was the guitarist, where little was said as to how he could advance his technique – though this was mainly due to the room’s lack of expertise in the Spanish guitar domain.

The most effective criticisms came from Stephen (trumpet player in Duo Contour) when trumpet students performed. He advised Dervla, a trumpet student, to play with “softer dynamics” ad that notes should be “supported with more air”. She performed a solo trumpet piece, and Stephen commented that “we can take more time when unaccompanied”. By this he meant “we can give the accelerando more space”. He also showed Dervla a technique of practicing without the trumpet, strictly pronouncing the words “kitty-kat”.

Another performer later played piccollo trumpet. Stephen offered the encouragement of “nice sound” and gave the rest of the room his insight into the technique of trumpet and Cornet players. He, like the piccollo trumpet performer, learnt to play on the cornet – where players add vibrato naturally. Trumpet players do not add this vibrato, so he advised the student to “play more straight” for new timbral possibilities. He ended with the advice that the student could play louder to provide more dynamic space for the quieter passages.

The second workshop involved the composers of the various pieces which the duo performed earlier in the afternoon. The discussion focused mainly of the use of Max/MSP within each of the pieces. Each composer addressed the use of the application within their piece. The area I found most interesting was the way in which the various composers ‘triggered’ the use of Max to affect the trumpet part.

One composer (as mentioned earlier) adopted a footpedal approach, where Stephen manually hit the switch when he reached certain parts of the score. However, the composer noted that sometimes the performers were plagued with technical difficulties, and the footswitch did not send the signal to the laptop. The composer then had to trigger it himself in order for the Max/MSP patch to function properly. Another composers approach was to script the triggers in Max/MSP itself for various time points in the piece. This involved the performers both watching clocks and making sure they played specific phrases at their time cues so that the program would deal with the phrases in the composer’s desired way.

The discussion was interesting, as all the composers had an interest in the functionality of Max/MSP – one even brought along a score for us to look at which included Max trigger notation! The discussion ended with the drummer of Duo Contour admitting that he had rarely been given the opportunity to trigger effects in Max/MSP in his percussion part, much to the surprise of some students who used Max/MSP. So I guess we all have to compose a piece for Duo Contour where the drummer gets to hit lots of Max triggers eh??

Maybe not…

Thanks for trudging through this, I didn’t think it would be this long!


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Seminar Presentations

We will start with the seminar presentations next week (3rd March). Please see groups below and confirm topic by Thursday 28th February with Orestis.

Seminar Presentation – 35%
Due: Weeks of 3rd and 10th of March
20 minute group presentation
Archived knowledge base in blog (10%) – create 1 post per topic/presentation and clearly identify its authors.
All students need to present and to contribute to the knowledge base.


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