New Voice: Sam Salem

Sam Salem

Website | Soundcloud

Sam Salem (b. 1982) currently resides in Manchester (UK), where he completed a MUSM in Electroacoustic Music Composition in 2007 and a PhD in Composition in 2011 at the University of Manchester.

Sam’s work is focused upon the sounds of urban environments: each of his pieces focuses upon a specific geographical location. His music aspires to illuminate and explore the hidden musicality and beauty of his geographical subjects, as well as his own relationship to his environment as both a source of inspiration and musical material.

He has undertaken a number of creation residencies at institutions around the world, including Ems (Stockholm, 2013-14), La Muse En Circuit (Paris, 2012-2013), Technische Universität (Berlin, 2012), STEIM (Amsterdam, 2011-12) and Musique et Recherches (Ohain, 2011). He has also been nominated and awarded in a number of international composition competitions, including: Concours Luc Ferrari (2012, Winner), Luigi Russolo Competition (2012, Audience Award), Metamorphoses (2012, Nomination), Competition Destellos (2012, Nomination), Joensuu Soundscape Composition Contest (2011, Third Prize), 11th Musica Viva Composition Competition (2010, First Prize ex-aequo) and Musica Nova (2010, Honorary Mention).

Sam is co-director of the Distractfold Ensemble, and currently teaches at Canterbury Christ Church University. 

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

As a child, I was fascinated by a micro-cassette Dictaphone. It belonged to my dad, and I remember frequently hearing the sound of his dictation. Of course, his (tape) voice was always entirely incomprehensible to me, and I used to smuggle the mysterious object out of his desk drawer… I would record household sounds, my own voice, my sisters, and the cat, before stealthily returning the recorder. 

I really have no idea what his secretary must have thought. To my dad’s credit, I don’t think that he has ever asked me about it. Is it possible that no one ever noticed the difference? That both of our voices were incomprehensible (and indistinguishable from each other) to whoever had the task of eventually decoding them? 

I also remember: my mother’s voice drifting up to my bedroom, as she sang to herself… and crying as a baby (my parent’s harried faces / the knowledge that I didn’t really need to cry).

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

Having grown up in a small and somewhat grim city, I really had no clue as to the existence of  electroacoustic or contemporary instrumental music as either a genre or an activity until quite late on. When I eventually discovered electroacoustic composition in my early twenties, I knew immediately that it was what I wanted to do. 

As a boy, I was very influenced by the surge of (predominately) British electronica in the mid to late ‘90s, particularly the Warp label artists and their ilk. To my ears, they sounded very much as if they had arrived, fully formed, from a parallel universe. 

To return to the question, and thinking about the kind of music I write these days, I would say (in no order of preference) that I am, or was recently, influenced by: 

Hildegarde Westerkamp, Eliane Radigue, Luc Ferrari, Bernard Parmegianni, Scott Walker, David Berezan, John Chowning, John Cage, John Wall, Jon Hopkins. All the Johns. 

Having said that, I am probably most influenced by the work of my peers: I sincerely believe that there is more good music being produced now than at any other point in history.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

My working process can be pretty… complicated! The process is a loop, an act of sculpture: gathering and shaping materials, reflecting, adjusting. I write as much as possible, as frequently as possible, and compose continuously, from piece to piece. 

My compositional process can be both time and labor intensive. For example, my most recent work, The Fall, took around two and a half years to complete. Of course, every piece is different, and I think my preferred gestation period is around 3-4 months… but there was something about The Fall… it was an adversarial presence in my life for a little while! 

My process begins with recording. I travel to a location and make field recordings for a week or two (or preferably 3 or 4). This first step is already very important to me, along with the idea that the location should be unfamiliar. 

I travel with no preconceived notions of what I’ll find. I drift around, following my ears. It’s a way for me to be in the moment, concentrating on the present. This always results in the capture of something that seems rare or serendipitous, and gives me the sense that life is surprising, if I remember to pay attention. I love this part of the process: listening, in silent reverie. 

I’ve recorded in New York, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and most recently Stockholm, and written self-contained pieces using the materials gathered at each location. This is also very important to me: the idea that a location delineates the musical vocabulary of a piece. The challenge, and excitement, comes from finding (and exposing) the piece within my recorded materials. All these fragments of locations / strangers / events are also fragments of the past. There’s something very beautiful about exploring these fragments, which feel very distant in the studio and inhabited by ghosts… 

Next, I edit and catalogue my materials. I’m very interested in extracting information from my recordings (beyond the anecdotal!). I use digital analysis to extract spectral information, which I often re-synthesize into textural material using digital or analogue re-synthesis. I also like to work with the “behavioral” information within recordings… I annotate shapes, transients, rhythms etc., abstracting the form of a particular sound and recreating it using different materials. I then go on to create sketches, which develop into larger passages and… well, I loop around in the process for around for 3-6 months, until a piece pops out. 

To answer your original question, I do use a computer! I also use field recorders, microphones, analogue filters, effects and synthesizers, and a range of software. The contrast between working inside and outside the studio is important and very necessary to my compositional practice. 

Electroacoustic music is a technologically facilitated medium, but I’m not really too interested in exploring purely technical ideas. I love the possibilities that technology affords, and I believe in craft and skill, but I am not an engineer or technical researcher. However, I would like to push the electroacoustic medium, and the use of field recorded sound, to its limits (and then perhaps a touch further).

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip.

The piece that I would like to present is the first movement of The Fall, which is titled Too late, too far. It was constructed entirely from recordings of Amsterdam. The program note and link are below. I hope that you enjoy it. 

Too late, too far (2014) 

“I like it, for it is double. It is here and elsewhere.” Albert Camus, The Fall 

Too late, too far is part of a larger work entitled The Fall, composed between 2012 and 2014. The compositional process began during a residency at STEIM in December 2011: Amsterdam was the source from which I collected the materials for this piece. 

I think now of the unwitting owners of actions contained herein: the cyclists and joggers of Vondelpark, the man on a bridge who offered a bike for a cigarette, the swans calling across the Red Light District, the choir of Sint-Nicolassbasiliek, and the countless others, long since dispersed but not forgotten: shouting, singing, laughing, swearing, clapping. I think also of the creaks and rhythms of rocking boats, of passing trams, the ubiquitous bells and horns, the rain, wind and lapping water, and the 5:00 AM fireworks on New Year’s Day. I consider these materials as fragments of sound, but also, now, as fragments of time. Sometimes their shimmering light is obscured, sometimes it is revealed. 

This work, “peopled by bad dreams” (and the occasional good one), balances somewhere between loss and hope: after more than two years of work, this is its final character. 

Too late, too far was premiered during the Distractfold Ensemble showcase at the 47th International Summer Course for New Music, Darmstadt, 12th August 2014.

Composer Profile: Pietro Riparbelli

Pietro Riparbelli

Pietro Riparbelli

Website | Bandcamp

Pietro Riparbelli is a philosopher, composer and sound-multimedia artist based in Livorno (Tuscany).

He studies the phenomenology of perception with particular reference to the dichotomy between the visible and the invisible closely connected to his conceptual address of the sonic landscape.

His compositions have been published by Touch (UK), Radical Matters Ed/Label (IT), Important (US), Actual Noise/20buckspin (US), Boring Machines (IT), Utech (US), Cold Spring (UK), Gruenrekorder (DE).

Riparbelli’s performances and installations have been presented at D’Amelio Terras contemporary art gallery (NY), Equinox Festival (London), Nuit Blanche (Paris), Magazzino d’arte moderna (Rome), Palazzo delle Papesse (Siena), Flora (Florence), Fundació Tàpies (Barcelona), Base progetti per l’arte (Florence), Auditorium Parco della Musica (Rome).

He works with performances, sound installations and recorded works and in the last three years he has been collaborating through selected projects with Massimo Bartolini, Nico Vascellari, Philippe Petit, Fabrizio Modenese Palumbo, Influx, Francisco Lopez, L’Acephale, Christina Kubisch, Seth Cluett, Burial Hex, Yannick Franck and others.

He is a curator/executive producer of the independent music label Radical Matters – Editions Label with the new series “Metasound”.

He is the co-founder of the techno/ambient project “Zone Démersale” with the producer Michele Ferretti.

pietro_riparbelli01

THE QUESTIONS 

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

When I was young, I listened to bands like Venom and Bathory, all the early black metal bands. Then I modified my listening, and I started enjoying bands like Joy Division. Psychedelic music also – for example, the early Pink Floyd albums were very important in the formation of my own music. At a certain point I began to study and listen to classical music and minimalist music with particular attention to authors like Le Monte Young and Steve Reich that even now carry on to influence my point of view regarding the composition. 

As far as art related to the sound goes, the most important artist for me is Bill Viola, the American video artist. I think he has a similar outlook to me – he portrays spiritual themes in his installations.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work? Has this changed over time?

I think one of the most important composers for me has been Edgard Varèse because his music has focused on the matter of sound, on timbre and musical space. These elements I think have been important in later electronic and ambient music. I still remember the first time I listened to “Désert”: I remained completely astonished.  I think Varese has been able to create a new musical vision describing himself as “a worker in rhythms, frequencies and intensities”.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process? What other technology, if any, do you use? 

I work mainly with shortwave radio receivers, field recordings and vintage synthesizers; it depends on the project I’ve to realize.  I have always been fascinated by radio and by the old short wave receivers of the ‘60s and ‘70s and especially by the fact that they can transmit and receive information thanks to radio signals refracted in the ionosphere for thousands of kilometres with the minimum effort of amplification. 

Radio waves are all around and travel through us, but we only perceive them through the use of decoding devices.

The most interesting aspect of the way I use radio in my work is to search for a lack of information through frequencies; this lack of info then becomes sound and therefore it becomes a different kind of information.  When I started working with radio receivers I was shocked by the number of sonic possibilities they could offer me as an artist. The sounds produced by a short wave radio receiver are thrilling and comparable to those of a synthesizer. 

What I find fascinating is the possibility of the existence of other dimensions that can overlap radio waves and the so called phenomena of “residual waves”, often beyond the reach of our senses and of our technological means. These waves can remain inside a specific place for many years situating themselves at a level of reality where time and space no longer exist; probably at a quantum level. Residual waves can manifest themselves through certain specific phenomena which can be perceived subjectively or captured by a specific equipment. 

Instead I think field recordings is a great method to reach a great depth within ourselves because it puts you in front of the real world of sound and you are obliged to penetrate this world to achieve the complexities of the sound itself and the vibrations. I find it very exciting composing pieces only with the sound of the world without any musical instrument. What I am trying to accomplish is maintaining the connection between the place of the recording and the composition. 

For me, electronics are only a conduit. I use computers only for recording and assembling music, not often for composing. I prefer analogue electronics, because analogue allows you to modify the sound to reflect your inner state. 

I see my music as a flow even though is not so easy for me, describing my art and the process that leads to it. Many artists are able to talk about their works, describing a lot of personal choices. When I’m composing I always try to reach a trance-like state so I can describe only the root that leads me towards the realization of the work.  I perceive music essentially as states of consciousness that are not divided from the life.

pietro_riparbelli03

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip.

For sure, Three Days of Silence is not only linked to the Cathedrals project but it is an in depth elaboration of the same. It is complicated to educate oneself to the art of hearing, since western culture is so focused on seeing and anything that is visual and doesn’t place the same importance on sound, contrary to what happens in far eastern culture. A sanctuary is a privileged space for this kind of exercise and I can guarantee that spending hours immersed in the silence of such places trying to hear every single variation of the sonic landscape is a mind blowing experience that often makes one perceive silence as anything but silent. As for the monks, I can only say that they are extraordinary people and that they understood immediately what I was attempting to do and were very curious about my work. Naturally, I try to be as discreet as possible during my recording sessions so as not to disrupt their contemplative dimension and the energy released through the act of worship. Often, my recordings inside cathedrals are taken in a furtive manner, almost as if I was trying to steal those sounds without being noticed. This sometimes affects the quality of the recordings, but it guarantees their natural and spontaneous character. 

I have always been fascinated by sacred places and by the atmosphere of contemplative peace and I have always listened to and recorded their acoustic environments. At some point I felt the need to transform this passion of mine into a proper project directly linked to my activity as a sound researcher. That’s how I started Cathedrals, which is a sort of sound archive collecting material from cathedrals, churches, and other sacred places. This material will be used in other projects such as sound installations or recordings. A first step was the 4 Churches album published by Mike Harding on Touch as a web edition with field recordings from the churches of Saint Germain de Pres, Notre Dame de Paris, the Duomo of Orvieto and the Basilica of Assisi. I subsequently opened up the project to all interested sound artists and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the level of attention it got. I received many contributions by artists the world over. I consider Cathedrals as a psycho geographic itinerary and at the same time as a linear and collaborative artwork, and not therefore as a simple sound archive since it is something which can develop towards other fields connected to art and the phenomenology of perception. It investigates two different topics. The first one is linked to the historical dimension of cathedrals over time, and especially to their function, as places for aggregation, dialogue and meditation. Cathedrals were sculpted books: they harboured biblical scenes or episodes of local history aiming at educating the faithful and divulging large narratives through a language of symbols. In fact, the architectural criteria for the construction of large cathedrals were linked to symbols and to precise geometric and mathematical calculations. “Divine proportions” were researched, which according to Leonardo Fibonacci (1175-1235) and other mathematicians over the centuries equalled the golden ratio. Cathedrals were conceived as “spaces for sound”, with organs constructed in situ and optimal acoustics devised for chanting.

New Voice: Jeremy Wexler

Jeremy Wexler

Jeremy Wexler

Website | Soundcloud

Jeremy Wexler (b. 1991) is a composer, percussionist, and teacher from Levittown, New York. His compositional language explores the physics of sound-phenomena, microtonality, and irregular metric and formal organization. Jeremy’s compositions have been heard on Composers Circle, Kinetics Internet Radio from Los Angeles, Incipitsify, the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy in Virginia, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and State University of New York at Purchase College.

In addition to composing, Jeremy is a percussionist for Elijah & the Moon, a rock band based out of Woodstock, NY, at such nationally known venues as Mountain Jam, the National Underground, Bethlehem Musikfest, and Opus 40 (Saugerties). Elijah & the Moon has performed at concerts and festivals with such notable artists as The Allman Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers, to name a few. Recently, Jeremy gave an improvised percussion performance at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in collaboration with installation artist Brian Cook.

Jeremy received his Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Purchase College, where he is now pursuing a Master of Music degree in composition; he currently instructs composition and musicianship as a graduate assistant. He studied composition under Huang Ruo and Du Yun, conducting with Ransom Wilson, contemporary music practice with Tara H. O’Connor, Dominic Donato, and Calvin Wiersma, and percussion with Ralph Sorrentino, David Nelson, Christopher Hale, and Phil Weiss. Masterclasses with Pauline Oliveros, Jason Eckardt, Alvin Lucier, and Samuel Zyman.

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

When I was around four years old I found a pair of drumsticks in my parents’ closet. My dad taught me what they were and how to hold them, and I began playing drums on every surface in our house. When I was six, my parents took me for my first formal drum lessons at a local music store on Long Island (side note: the store was formerly owned by the family of master illusionist Criss Angel, of Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak”). Fortunately, my teacher Phil Weiss strongly emphasized the importance of reading music. By the time I was in third or fourth grade, I would sit at my desk with staff paper and a pencil and scribble out long phrases of drum beats and rhythms. These awesome beats were my first compositions. Even at this young age, it was very clear to me what I should be doing with my career— composing and performing music. 

From the time I was six years old until I was 17 years old, the only musical language I could deal with was exclusively rhythmic and had no pitch— I did not learn a thing about pitch or music theory until I was an upperclassman in high school. But I picked up these subjects relatively quickly, and I began composing my first pieces involving pitch as a freshman in college. I learned how to hear the complex overtones that resulted from striking cymbals and drumheads. Even though I didn’t completely understand what I was hearing at the time, I was intuitively able to determine if drums sounded “in tune” or “out of tune.” This was my experience with pitch. As I studied more music and practiced my ear training skills, I learned more about how to analyze what I was hearing. I strongly believe that delaying traditional music theory and classical percussion instruction until my late teens has had a positive and unique impact on my current musical interests.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

Yes, definitely. As a drum set player, my roots revolve around rock, metal, jazz, and pop. But as I got older, I began to seek more experimental music. I became more interested in noise and dissonance. I sought unusual and challenging things. The first composers I became interested in (in no particular order) were Steve Reich, La Monte Young, Palestrina, and John Cage. 

After that, I purchased a massive compilation album called “The Early Gurus of Electronic Music” and my favorite pieces were Ussachevsky’s “Wireless Fantasy”, Riley’s “Poppy Nogood”, Xenakis’ “Hibiki-Hana-Ma”, Hassell’s “Before and After Charm”, and Lucier’s “Music on a Long Thin Wire”. I was excited by these new types of sound worlds, and I started trying to emulate these composers through computer music. Over time, I discovered music by composers who are associated with the very things that I was obsessed with as a young pitchless drummer: overtones, complex rhythms, unusual tuning systems, and noise. Some of these composers include James Tenney, Gérard Grisey, Beat Furrer, and Georg Friedrich Haas.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I do not have a strict composing schedule that I obey, but I definitely compose something every day. I used to write pieces with pencil and staff paper, but I have since switched to computer notation software. I find that the computer is much quicker and more practical, however sometimes it takes some time to figure out how to trick the software into notating what you want it to notate. Despite primarily composing with a computer, I still strongly advocate going back to paper and pencil once in a while.

Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip.

Here is a piece titled Music for Soprano and Ensemble.  The instrumentation consists of Soprano, Flute/Alto Flute, Bb Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Oboe, Trumpet, Trombone, Piano, Violin, ‘Cello, and Contrabass. The text is a poem by Allen Ginsberg – one of my favorite poets. The form of my composition is dictated by the text’s format. The first two-thirds of the poem consist of many short, fragmented stanzas. The lines of text in the last third of the poem are more unified and not broken up into as many stanzas. There is an emotional distinction here that I explore in my music using timbre and allowing time to pass in different ways.

Composer Profile: Gráinne Mulvey

Gráinne Mulvey

Gráinne Mulvey

Website 

Gráinne Mulvey’s music has been performed and broadcast across the globe. She has been the recipient of many awards, commissions and honours, including the “RTE Young musician of the Future Competition”, Ireland (Composers Class) in 1994, the Macaulay Fellowship (Arts Council Of Ireland), Arklow Music Festival, New Music for Sligo in 1999 and St. John’s University Memorial Award, Newfoundland in 2003.  She has received commissions from the Concorde Ensemble, the ACME Ensemble, Chicago, RTE NSOI, Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra and The Northern Sinfonia. Her orchestral work has also been performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Hradec Králové Philharmonic and the Orchestre De Lorraine. She has represented Ireland twice at the ISCM World Music Days in 2008, and 2009 and at the International Rostrum of Composers in 1994 and 2006. Soloists such as Joe O’Farrell (flute), Elizabeth Hilliard (soprano), David Bremner, (Organist & pianist), Martin Johnson (cello), Annette Cleary (cello), Therese Fahy (pianist), Slawomir  Zubrzycki (pianist),  Matthew Schellhorn, (pianist) Paul Roe (clarinettist), Dermot Dunne (accordionist) and Mary Dullea (pianist) have also championed her music regularly. 

The RTE NSOI has commissioned a cello concerto to be premiered in 2015 and The Dublin International Piano Competition has commissioned a test piece for 2015.  She is also commissioned for other projects during 2015 and 2016. 

Her research interests focus on contemporary composition: acoustic, electro-acoustic real/live electronics and the harmonic series. She is a member of the Association of Irish Composers, Irish Music Rights Organization, the IAWM, Donne In Musica and Aosdána, Ireland’s organization of creative artists. Her music is represented by The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland and soon to be published by BabelScores – Contemporary Music Online. 

THE QUESTIONS 

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer? 

My earliest memory is singing into an old Telefunken microphone at a very early age, in my cot and not being able to stand long. Singing was a huge factor in my life and my father encouraged it, along with listening to early, classical and 20th century music. My mother loved to sing and she had music playing on the record player or the radio all the time My three brothers play guitar and I learned to work out chords of songs by ear so all this probably had a significance in my development as a composer. It wasn’t until second level education that I learned theory and piano and then I knew that music was the career path for me to follow. Much later on during my college years as a third year music undergraduate at Waterford Institute Of Technology, Ireland, I realised that composition was what I wanted to do. 

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time? 

There are lots of composers – too many to mention and I find that I appreciate their work more as time passes. Firstly, there are my great tutors: Professor Nicola LeFanu, Professor Agustin Fernandez, Dr. Eric Sweeney, Professor Farhat, and Professor Boguslaw Schaeffer. 

Next are a list of composers that have been hugely influential: Professor David Lumsdaine, Professor Marek  Choloniewski, Kaija Saariaho,  György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, Gerard Grisey, Daniel Börtz, Magnus Lindberg, Professor Anthony Gilbert, Peter Sculthorpe,  Karlheinz Stockhausen, Joe O’Farrell, Peter Ablinger, Luciano Berio, Brian Ferneyhough, Jean Claude Vivier, Dr. Jane O’Leary, Igor Stravinsky, Rebecca Saunders, Liza Lim, Paul Hayes, Morton Feldman, Witold Lutosławski, Steve Reich, Professor Ben Dwyer, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sungji Hong, Raymond Deane, Martin O’Leary, Siobhan Cleary. David Bremner, Fergal Dowling, Rob Canning, Judith Ring, Luigi Nono, Arne Nordheim, Helmut Lachenmann, John McLachlan, Peter Moran, Bernard Clarke, Hans Abrahamsen, Louis Andriessen, Jim Wilson, John Buckley, Marian Ingoldsby, Rhona Clarke, Roger Doyle, Gordon Delap, Victor Lazzarini, and there are many, many more. 

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use? 

 I usually write three to four days a week unless I have a specific deadline. The rest of my time is taken up with teaching at the Dublin Institute Of Technology’s Conservatory Of Music & Drama where I teach composition at undergraduate and postgraduate level. I have administrative duties also. 

Generally, I use paper and pen to compose, unless I’m writing purely a fixed tape piece or doing a live processing electronic piece with instruments, where I have to use the computer for synthesis. I like the tactility of the blank page, especially if I’m writing just for instruments. I usually put down sketches and fragments of ideas until I sort out the elements that work. Processes change from piece to piece depending on the line up and the external influences, if that is relevant. I like sounds made in the natural world and I am heavily involved in using pre-recorded, or music concrete materials as sources either for direct or indirect use for electronic and acoustic pieces. If I’m writing for instruments only, usually I meet with the player or players involved, to see what other aspects of orchestration can be explored and this always proves to be very fruitful. 

Technology I use: Csound, Audacity, ProTools. I have my scores copied in Finale which frees me up to take on more projects. 

Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip. 

Akanos Orchestra 

The Greek word “akanos” means a barb or spine, such as may be found on animals or plants such as a cactus—and of course gives us the name of the acanthus. This piece explores contrasts between steady organic growth and “spiky,” jagged interjections. 

Akanos reflects this idea by the juxtaposition of polar opposites: in the opening bars, extremes of register, dynamics, timbres and tempi are presented in apparent conflict. As the piece develops, it gradually becomes clear that the contrasting characteristics of the initial material are simply different aspects of a fundamental unity: the material is all derived from the harmonic series, the ultimate unifying principle of all music. 

new work : horn trio [2014.25] & clarinet quintet [2014.26]

In the recent works, horn trio and clarinet quintet, I chose to use two chamber ensembles that have been used in the classical tradition, horn, clarinet and piano, and clarinet with string quartet. I added a fixed media track made up of sound from my sample library and Kontakt sequencer.

horn trio [2014.25]

 

clarinet quintet [2014.26]

 

These were realized using the Garritan Personal Orchestra 4; but I hope to have a live recording soon.

Composer Profile: Taylor Deupree

Website Soundcloud 

Technology and imperfection. The raw and the processed. Curator and curated. Solo explorer and gregarious collaborator. The life and work of Taylor Deupree are less a study in contradictions than a portrait of the multidisciplinary artist in a still-young century. 

Deupree is an accomplished sound artist whose recordings, rich with abstract atmospherics, have appeared on numerous record labels, and well as in site-specific installations at such institutions as the ICC (Tokyo, Japan) and the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (Yamaguchi, Japan). He started out, in the 1990s, making new noises that edged outward toward the fringes of techno, and in time he found his own path to follow. His music today emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation. It’s marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence. His passion for the studio as a recording instrument is paramount in his work, but there is no hint of digital idolatry. If anything, his music shows a marked attention to the aesthetics of error and the imperfect beauty of nature, to the short circuits not only in technological systems but in human perception. 

And though there is an aura of insularity to Depuree’s work, he is a prolific collaborator, having collaborated with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Stephan Mathieu, Stephen Vitiello, Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner, Frank Bretschneider, Richard Chartier, Savvas Ysatis, Tetsu Inoue and others. 

Deupree dedicates as much time to other people’s music as he does to his own. In 1997 he founded the record label 12k, which since then has released over 100 recordings by some of the most accomplished musicians and modern sound artists of our time. Many share with Deupree an interest in stark minimalism, but the label has also found room for, located a common ground with, the acoustic avant-garde, the instrumental derivations of post-rock, and the synthetic extremes of techno. 

And collectively, the cover jackets to the 12k album releases have served as an ongoing exhibit of Deupree’s photography, its lo-fi aesthetic, with an emphasis on damage and wear and antiquated tech, closely paralleling his music. (His photos have also graced numerous books, design anthologies, and other recordings and projects.) 

Deupree continues to evolve his sound with an ambition and drive that is masked by his music’s inherent quietude. He approaches each project with an expectation of new directions, new processes, and new junctures. 

taylor_deupree01

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer? 

My first *sound* memory is being very little and lying in my bed and listening to my mom vacuuming downstairs. I could hear the vacuum through the floor and through my bed and I loved that sound. It would put me to sleep. Looking back on this now it’s no different than when I like to sleep to the sound of crickets, or rain, or music. Ambient noise has always been fascinating to me and obviously is something I’m conscious of when I write music. 

Years later, as a young teenager, my best friend at the time introduced me to Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon” album. This was in 1986, not long after the album came out. We were making music together at the time and I’d spend the night at his house. He’d put on “Thursday Afternoon” as we went to sleep and put the CD player on repeat so the album would play all night long and still be playing when we woke up. It was a very strange feeling, sort of warped your sense of time. This was also my introduction to ambient music, and to Eno, and continues to be my biggest influence. 

I still listen to “Thursday Afternoon” this way. 

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time? 

I’m influenced by everything around me, both positively and negatively. As a sound artist and photographer my ears and eyes are always active. Eno’s ambient music from the ‘80s really guided my music, though I didn’t realize it until years after first hearing him. I also realized, after reading books on Eno and learning of his philosophies that I think about a lot of the same things in the same way. I think this is what makes a good influence, someone that you not only learn from but that you discover a similar mindset with. The best influences are not just about taking someone’s ideas, but realizing you share similar ones. 

I’m influenced a lot by the tools and technology I work with and especially by visual artists like Donald Judd or James Turrell and photographers like Michael Kenna and Hiroshi Sugimoto. I find the visual work that these artists create echoes so many of my musical ideas. I like to take inspiration for music from non-musical ideas. Remove that inspiration a few steps and it helps spur creativity as you reassemble the ideas into a different medium. 

My influences were probably quite in flux as I was growing as an artist but have been pretty consistent for the past few years as I’ve become more comfortable with who I am and the work that I do. I’ve found my place, I think, and my own voice. 

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use? 

I don’t have a regular schedule for writing although I’m constantly making sounds and just playing around in the studio. I need to be in a very specific mindset to actually write an album, though, and I tend to write in the winter. There is something about the winter landscape and how the music wraps and warms me that makes me more creative at this time of the year. Once I do get into that mode, however, I will write constantly and work towards finishing. I also have to have an album’s title before I begin writing the album. It helps me focus and gives the album a direction right from the beginning. My albums tend to have loose concepts, so this is an important part of the process. I don’t really actively think of a title either, it usually comes to be serendipitously… and once that happens, I know it’s the right title and the time to start working. 

I use a computer as a multitrack recorder and arranger. I use the software Digital Performer, for many, many, years now. I know it very well and am comfortable using it and it doesn’t get in the way. The computer as recorder definitely doesn’t inhibit my process but I’m careful to keep its role to a minimum. I’m not a big user of software to make sounds but the computer as a mixing tool is very powerful. 

To make my sounds and music I use a lot of hardware synthesizers, both old and new, a modular synthesizer system, as well as a variety of acoustic instruments like guitar, xylophone, various percussion and found objects. I use tape recorders as sound processors and often mix my final mixes to tape, either reel-to-reel or cassette. 

I like my music to be a blend of high tech and low tech where synthesizers and modern technology, which I equate with being “clean” and precise, get roughed up and worn around  the edges by tape, room recording techniques and other older or more organic processes as well as being paired with field recordings and acoustic instruments. I think this combination of instruments creates a richer, deeper palette, a more detailed, engaging sound world. 

taylor_deupree03

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip. 

This year I’ve been making and sharing what I’m calling a Studio Diary. It’s a way for me to exercise my creativity in the studio on a day to day basis and share the experiments with my listeners. The sounds are not supposed to be finished compositions by any means, merely experiments with difference processes and ideas. I’m concentrating mostly on sounds with my modular synthesizer, which is pretty new and constantly a work in progress. It’s such a limitless instrument that I find working with it a little bit every day has been a great learning experience. It’s a lot like learning a language where you have certain “a-ha!” moments and grasp a concept that sticks with you. I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve done so far during the year. It hasn’t been every day… as I anticipated… sometimes life gets in the way, but I do it as much as I can. What will happen with all of these sounds and sketches at the end of the year I have no idea… perhaps I’ll create an album using them all…. or just leave them be and work them in occasionally to new pieces. I’m not too concerned about that yet. Right now it’s all about exploration. You can hear the progress so far and follow along at

new work : piccolo | bass clarinet | horn in f | baritone horn [2014.10]

The work, piccolo | bass clarinet | horn in f | baritone horn [2014.10], utilizes an electric bass sample ostinato throughout, something of a “heartbeat”.  The quartet never plays as an complete ensemble, instead, the work is made up of duos and trios, with variations on similar melodic phrases.

 

I finished this work this year after sketching out the material months earlier, in a vastly different form.