March 13, 2006

intuitive

I went to a performance of "intuitive music" by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen on Saturday night at Harvard and it totally blew my mind. As I told some friends, it made aven the most experimental Schoenberg seem like Mozart in terms of accessibility, but some of the ideas and sounds and technologies were mind-opening and inspiring in many many ways.

The ensemble from Weimar, Germany consisted of cello, piano, trumpet/flugelhorn and 'live electronics' and have been performing together for 24 years so they know each other pretty well. I have always had a HUGE issue with how live performance of music can incorporate computers/electronics/sequencing etc in a way that it doesn't feel like the real musicians are just playing along with a computer. I have seen and heard many failures to strike a nice balance in this regard, but every once in a while, I'll see a group that is successful, and that is really exciting to me. These guys were probably the most successful of any I have ever seen. Not even for a second did it ever feel like they were playing along with a computer or that there was some pre-determined sequence that they were fitting in with. It always felt like the musicians were in full control and that the microchips and wires in front of the electronics player were no different than the wood and strings in the cellists hands. Quite an accomplishment.

I have been thinking more than normal about this topic recently because I have been working on figuring out how I can perform my music live. I will no doubt rely heavily on computers and other bits of technology, and I have no issue with this, but I have a fear greater than my fear of bivalves that on stage I might come across as 'playing along with' a computer. How freaking LAME!!! But how do I judge myself like I cruelly judge everyone I see? This is hard. I can't be unbiased, clearly, but who can I trust? Do I need to videotape myself and watch it pretending I'm in the audience?

Posted by halsey at 06:25 PM

March 05, 2006

"I have something that would be more interesting for you..."

I laid out a challenge for myself a few months ago, and now I have the results to share with you.

Download: Menya Besatzung Bateau

When my parents were visiting me around Thanksgiving time, I asked my dad to step into the studio and record a short story of something that happened in his life. That's not all that exciting in and of itself, but what makes it more interesting is that I asked him to record the same general story in four different languages. My dad has an incredible skill with languages and speaks German, Russian and French fluently in addition to English. I do not speak any of these languages (unfortunately!), so I set myself up for a situation in which I would be forced to treat my dad's words as nothing more than sounds; rhythmic and melodic. I listened to his voice purely as a musical instrument, with all semantics thrown out the window. It was nothing more than sounds that happened to be coming out of a human being rather than a mechanical or electronic device. I can't even imagine how schizophrenic the results must sound to someone who can understand these languages. I'll apologize in advance.


How did the words lead you to the music?
I will admit that primarily I was influenced by the rhythms of the phrases as opposed to the melodic aspects, but I used both throughout. The main loop was what inspired the primary piano riff and it all sort of took off from there. I wrote several other sections to the song that were more closely based on melodies that I took from the speech, but they got cut because they just weren't musically interesting enough to me. I guess that means that I was a little lenient with my 'assignment', but it's not like I'm in school or anything!

Did you notice any particular differences between the languages?
This is something I thought about a lot while working on this song. The German was not surprisingly filled with more percussive sounds and required a bit more compression due to the volume changes. The French was pretty smooth, I will say, and the Russian was surprisingly more melodic than I had expected.

What's your dad talking about anyway?
Though it was difficult, I didn't let myself listen to the English summarization until after I had completed the song. I won't make you guys wait though:

How does your dad feel about all this adulteration of his voice?
I guess he should know by now that he is in for it every time I record him, but I still feel like I have committed some sort of crime with what I have done to his voice in this song. Hopefully he'll like it regardless!

What on earth does that title mean?
absolutely nothing sensible (apologies to the Russians out there for my phoneticization...Cyrillic characters can cause problems on English language websites)

Can you pitch bend an oboe in real time?
I don't think it would be very easy, but I don't play the oboe, so really I have no idea.

Do people who speak more than one language impress you?
Yes!

Are you a typical American who speaks nothing more than partially broken English?
umm, yeah, I guess that's true...

Posted by halsey at 06:26 PM

"I have something that would be more interesting for you..."

I laid out a challenge for myself a few months ago, and now I have the results to share with you.

Download: Menya Besatzung Bateau

When my parents were visiting me around Thanksgiving time, I asked my dad to step into the studio and record a short story of something that happened in his life. That's not all that exciting in and of itself, but what makes it more interesting is that I asked him to record the same general story in four different languages. My dad has an incredible skill with languages and speaks German, Russian and French fluently in addition to English. I do not speak any of these languages (unfortunately!), so I set myself up for a situation in which I would be forced to treat my dad's words as nothing more than sounds; rhythmic and melodic. I listened to his voice purely as a musical instrument, with all semantics thrown out the window. It was nothing more than sounds that happened to be coming out of a human being rather than a mechanical or electronic device. I can't even imagine how schizophrenic the results must sound to someone who can understand these languages. I'll apologize in advance.


How did the words lead you to the music?
I will admit that primarily I was influenced by the rhythms of the phrases as opposed to the melodic aspects, but I used both throughout. The main loop was what inspired the primary piano riff and it all sort of took off from there. I wrote several other sections to the song that were more closely based on melodies that I took from the speech, but they got cut because they just weren't musically interesting enough to me. I guess that means that I was a little lenient with my 'assignment', but it's not like I'm in school or anything!

Did you notice any particular differences between the languages?
This is something I thought about a lot while working on this song. The German was not surprisingly filled with more percussive sounds and required a bit more compression due to the volume changes. The French was pretty smooth, I will say, and the Russian was surprisingly more melodic than I had expected.

What's your dad talking about anyway?
Though it was difficult, I didn't let myself listen to the English summarization until after I had completed the song. I won't make you guys wait though:

How does your dad feel about all this adulteration of his voice?
I guess he should know by now that he is in for it every time I record him, but I still feel like I have committed some sort of crime with what I have done to his voice in this song. Hopefully he'll like it regardless!

What on earth does that title mean?
absolutely nothing sensible (apologies to the Russians out there for my phoneticization...Cyrillic characters can cause problems on English language websites)

Can you pitch bend an oboe in real time?
I don't think it would be very easy, but I don't play the oboe, so really I have no idea.

Do people who speak more than one language impress you?
Yes!

Are you a typical American who speaks nothing more than partially broken English?
umm, yeah, I guess that's true...

Posted by halsey at 06:26 PM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2006

new stuff

I'm really experimenting in this new song. I actually started it a long time ago; before the food stuff, before the Museum of Science stuff, before the film score - and now I am finally able to get back into it. But those other diversions introduced me to a bunch of new ideas and technologies, so all of a sudden I have tons of different things to play around with. It's proving to be a lot of fun, but it is super easy to get caught up in the novelty of it all at the expense of good song-writing. I'm trying desperately to resist all sorts of technological amusement, but some might happen anyway. In truth, I am actually indulging myself quite fully in hopes that I can get it out of my system and be more tasteful in the actual song. We shall see.
Here's some of the new stuff I'm using/doing:

- Synchronic - cool new Digidesign plug-in instrument
- Reason NN-19 - digital sampler
- FM7 - software synthesizer using FM synthesis (this isn't new, but I haven't used it in a while)
- applying effects to traditional instruments (distorted oboe!)

Well, that makes it sound like this song is going to be a total mess, and perhaps that will be the case. At the very least I hope to learn more about how to use these new toys to my advantage.

Posted by halsey at 12:10 AM