2019 has been a very ‘electronic’ year for me. It started with me attending a concert featuring a piece called Stretches for Gametrak controller and Max MSP electronic software. It was composed and performed by my good friend Poumpak Charuprakorn, one of last year’s CoDI Electronics composers. I was amazed by his use of Max MSP, and it really encouraged me to pick up again the tutorial documents for this software, which had been in my ‘to-read’ folder for-ever (!).
Within a month, I was able to understand the potential of Max in helping me realise randomisation of sounds, which has been an important concept in my acoustic compositions. Its ability to react to all kinds of information also opens up new possibilities in ‘dramatising’ the performance with either planned or improvised sounds, actions, and visual materials. In August, I composed my first piece incorporating Max. The piece, named Dream Nostalgic, is scored for solo double bass to improvise and react to the electronic sonic materials.
After writing Dream Nostalgic, I started planning another piece, seeking a deeper connection between Max and notated acoustic music. And I was so fortunate to be selected by the CoDI Sound project which allows me to realise this piece. For this project, I am planning to use electronics as the sixth 'player', the sound of which will be triggered all by the keyboard. I have designed more than 10 specific sounds and sonic events. And the challenge of having many digital devices is that one needs to find a way for the computer to understand instructions within the fewest logical steps possible; Otherwise, a super complicated patch will drain the CPU very quickly.
The second workshop we had was very useful regarding this challenge, as I was able to test my patches and to see whether there is a way to achieve the same outcome with less complicated design, or simply go for acoustic solutions. Also, it was such a pleasure to work with Professor Andrew Lewis on the day. He is such a knowledgable man and has solved many of my programming issues. After the workshop, I have updated my patch so that different sections can be switched on and off during the performance. In this way, CPU usage will not go over the top even if the design is slightly more complicated.
Of course, by the end of the day, I do not want my piece to be overwhelmed by electronic sounds. I tend to think electronic sounds in a spectral way. Similar to other composers doing this project, I am looking for my own method to make a perfect blend between acoustic sounds and the electronic ones. I am also interested in experimenting with the possibility to include vocalisation and some simple actions in the piece, as long as they will not confuse the performers. Having said that, the UPROAR ensemble has been absolutely amazing in realising some of my non-straightforward instructions. For example, I implanted a surprising vocalisation part, which was realised almost perfectly during the first go in the workshop.
It may be a good time now to share a piece that has really inspired me for this project. It is Lotófagos written by Beat Furrer, whom I was fortunate enough to meet in Greece this June.
As I have become more confident with the electronic side of the new piece, I am now working on the acoustic part to make the ‘conversation’ convincing. I am really looking forward to the concert in February 2020 — and I really hope the weather will be as nice as last time, when I was able to enjoy a great walk around the lovely city of Bangor!