When first approaching the challenge of writing for the combination of electronics and acoustic instruments, my main consideration was to create some kind of tangible correlation between the two forces. At this point, I have created a large amount of music for acoustic instruments and also a number of electronic pieces with or without performers. However, I have hardly had any experience of using both instruments and electronics together and finding a good reason for there to be both on stage at once has proved to be my biggest challenge.
My original idea was to delve into using artificial intelligence as part of the composition process. I wanted to delve into this in a number of ways, first using a machine learning algorithm to process the live performance and sort the sounds produced by the musicians in order of pitch, then to use material derived from converting audio files to MIDI data to create pitch material for each performer and finally to use live video to recreate a kind of 'Frankenstein's Monster' by mapping the pitch data from each instrument to various different 'limbs' while also using the same data to trigger various sound samples.
However, when it came to our second session, the patch in Max-MSP that I was using to process the incoming audio from the musicians was not working correctly. An unfortunate reality with creating electronic music is that just because the technology might have worked with one set of equipment doesn't mean that it will work with another, especially when it is a complex as what I was attempting to do. On the plus side, it was lucky that these problems happened in a workshop rather than on the day of the concert!
As a result of these issues, I decided to start again from the ground up with a completely new idea. In addition to the technical issues, I realised that my idea would probably work better with a smaller ensemble anyway so I will be able to re-use some of my material at a later date.
My new idea is quite the deviation from my original idea, centering around the unfortunate and rather absurd death of French/Italian baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully following a conducting accident. In 17th century France, it was part of the performance practice to conduct by hitting a large wooden staff on the ground in certain occasions. Unfortunately, during a performance of his piece Te Deum, Lully accidentally injured his foot with an errant strike of his staff, leading to infection.
I will be looking to pair the work of Lully with the more contemporary performance practice of sampler and ensemble taking some inspiration from pieces such as Johannes Kreidler's Shutter Piece and Jessie Marino's Ritual I :: Commitment :: BiiM which take existing material and present them in a new light.
As I now approach the final stage of writing the piece, I am looking forward to working with UPROAR again for the final workshop days in February!