Forum Posts

joss-smith
Dec 12, 2019
In BLOGS
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!
Composing with instruments and electronics - the process so far content media
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joss-smith
Mar 14, 2019
In BLOGS
Throughout my meetings with Mark Bowden, we have been discussing a wide variety of issues pertaining to being a composer. At the heart of this were the various projects that I would like to work on moving forward. I realised during a year where I took a break from education that to be a composer requires one to have projects to work on even when there are no deadlines to act as an ‘inspiration’. Therefore, I should push towards creating my own projects and not be afraid to search for funding and jump into any possibility that arises. My current state as a composer is that of being reactive: working on projects organised by others. While this is a great state to be in, I can’t plan for this always being the case. Therefore, I have been setting my sights towards a large-scale project in the future. During my first two meetings with Mark, we discussed how I might go about this project. This included discussing potential platforms for the project to be performed, funding bodies that I could apply to and who I could ask to perform. While this project is in its very early stages of planning, Ensemble X.y. has expressed an interest in performing. Another topic that we discussed was what I might do following the completion of my Master’s degree. Currently, I am studying in Aarhus, Denmark and am considering staying there for another two years to pursue a postgraduate diploma. One huge benefit of this course is that it concludes with a large-scale project that I must organise alone. Another option would be to pursue a PhD. As a professor at Royal Holloway, Mark had some great insight around what I need to consider when looking for an institution. Originally, I was thinking of studying at a Conservatoire but I have reconsidered this following our discussions. We also discussed what options there are available as a composer in terms of employment prospects. While this may seem like a somewhat boring topic, it is very important in terms of how I can fund my future projects! This was one of the major reasons for reconsidering where I may study for a PhD: Whether one studies at a university or conservatoire at PhD is much less important compared to Bachelor and Master level education and is much more dependent on which supervisor you would like to work with. Furthermore, universities give provisions for allowing students to teach which are seen as a great boon over a conservatoire student. Working as a lecturer would be one of my ideal positions in the future so going for a university course would likely be more valuable. Another avenue that is attractive to me is to work within event planning and curation for contemporary music festivals. As part of my course in Aarhus, we have just had a four-day contemporary music festival; Panorama festival which is run entirely by students. While the festival is essentially collaborative, I had the role of being the first point of call for everyone and was therefore incredibly busy. Despite being a very stressful week with lots of problems that had to be sorted out on the fly, the festival was a great success! All the concerts went well and without any serious technical failures. I am still riding the high of pulling it off and enjoyed the experience immensely and would therefore be very happy to find myself within a curation and organisation role. For our last meeting, I was able to sit in on a rehearsal of Mark’s music theatre piece The Mare’s Tale prior to a performance in Cardiff at the end of February. It is always interesting to sit in on a rehearsal, both to see how the performers response to performing contemporary music and also to see how the composer interacts with the musicians. As The Mare’s Tale is propelled forwards by an actor’s dialogue, this makes the rehearsal somewhat different. The actor, Eric Roberts recounts a narrative inspired by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ memories of seeing a Mari Lwyd procession. In this regard, the music must follow the narrative set up by the text. The title is a reference to Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, a work that also has narration. As my own idea for a project will have some theatrical elements, it was great to see a different approach to how to combine the two mediums. I look forward to my final meeting later this month!
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