Recently went into a short discussion about program notes of contemporary, abstract acoustic pieces (electroacoustic pieces utilizing real-life sound sources will inevitably evoke a different set of expectations and images, not everyone is a fan of, or is capable of extensive reduced listening as advocated by the like of Pierre Shaeffer). Although I admit that most of my program notes, or even titles, only occurred to me as usable after the fact (double bar per se), and sometimes I have to actively search for them; they are not completely irrelevant in that they could usually quite accurately (well... or vaguely) convey the images I "saw" during my compositional process. Coming up with a paragraph of descriptive ideas could certainly enhance the effect of the overall image I try to convey in my music. That being said, I think titles and program notes are parts of the compositional process--writing them are certainly as painful as writing notes.
I just think it is ironic that I get most performances from pieces that I have spent least time on; not that they don't represent me--I am as proud about them as I am with the other pieces, but it just makes me think if I can really justify myself spending so much time on one piece. Sometimes, I do need to think less and just write with impulse.
It is exciting that I will have three world premieres in three days, on December. One of them is yet to be written!
Two weeks ago, I was able to co-compose a piece of music for cello and live electronics (Max 6) in merely hour and a half, and the piece lasts for five minutes (quasi-improvisatory). This makes me wonder, do I over-think most of the time when I compose? I often spend hours just to come up with materials for three to five measures, let alone polish and fit them into the large scheme. Should I think less and just let the music flow, or should I take an entirely new direction regarding my composition process all together?
Here I am again, in the midst of a fall semester--there is usually no time for an afterthought. Regarding my own composition, I saw a dramatic change in my approach, and somehow I became more "productive," or perhaps I should say, I could stretch my composition process for a long period of constant composing time. This "new" method produced pieces including Icebergs, ...and see it vanish, Anemoi and etc. I am very anxious to hear the results. Icebergs will be recorded by eighth blackbird on November 7th!
This semester, I also began as the studio manager of the IMPACT center; my duties include setting up concerts, maintaining the studios and such. Even more demanding is teaching the electronic music class, but I really enjoy every minute of it--getting to share something I love and designing this entire class is more than fun.
Usually, I really want a performance of my music. I understand I will get one performance of a piece and that's it, I'll still write a piece for anyone who asks me to. I care less now--I'll write whatever I want to write, if it doesn't get performed, it doesn't. Life is too short to worry about stuff like this--I enjoy composing, and that's the end of it.
It feels like I have been composing a lot this semester, but I actually haven't written that much. My bass trombone quartet commission is coming very slowly. I have this urge to finish it ASAP--don't know whether it's a good thing or not. Perhaps I am just anxious about commissions, that I want to see a finished product as quick as possible. I am, however, very satisfied with my recent completed piece Katachi IV for alto saxophone and live electronics. I can see my style slowly changing and evolving. Honestly, I would have never imagined it be like this, say, five years ago. I am excited, and anxious to see what's next.
More travels are ahead of me: Bowling Green, Hong Kong, Iowa... as much as I love traveling, I am broke.
Still contemplating on my idea of starting the ALEA series. Perhaps I should just embed this idea into my Katachi IV, which will be a commission for saxophone and live electronics. It might be hard to justify having the live electronics completely aleatoric, but I'm sure that makes it very comfortable for the performer. The patch would be very easy to make basing on all these templates that I have developed lately. I just need to map out the range of the effects and their relative amplitudes to the raw input level.
I have also been toying with this idea of compiling my patches into applications and make them available for download. Max/MSP, however, did not like this idea and crashed my laptop, so that I could NEVER use the program again... There, perhaps, is a better way to do it. But isn't it awesome that others can make cool sounds with my patches?
Non-electronically, I am working on a commission for flute, cello, bass trombone and percussion , very slowly. Originally intended as a collection of five pieces, I might cut some and just make each one longer.
I think my composition style is constantly evolving. Since the composition of my Apparitions - a fantasy for chamber ensemble (2010-11), I have found a new style to work with. I personally see my Five Songs of the Von Seggerns (2010) as a sum of my early style, which is always harmonically exact, rhythmically defined and structurally strict. This set of songs also serves as a bridge to my more current style, which pays less attention to exactness and allows more aleatoric chance operations; pays more attention to instrumental timbre/color, building up of texture, achieving intensity through density of pitches, emphasizing on different sound properties and acoustic in general. This is fascinating--I can't wait to hear what I will come up with in the future!
There was this classic music technology panic tonight at the performance of my Awakening for trombone and live electronics (2010). Well, first of all, the freeverb~ object was not recognized at all. Then, there was this long sustained tone that wasn't supposed to be there. I was so glad that after two cues of events, it cut off... but nonetheless, I don't think anyone noticed, and that sustained tone actually fit the context. I was so afraid that it wouldn't cut off - in that case, I would have to "X" kill it... Anyways, it was a great concert, with the great trombonist - Kevin Fairbairn!
Having been so inspired, I just finished an electroacoustic piece: Katachi I for fixed media (2011). I have been processing these sounds, and now I finally get to use them! Guess what sounds I used? (Program notes will be posted soon!)
I finished my new interactive piece! I am very satisfied now; hopefully, it will work. My GUI interface is so colorful... it is tentative--subject to change of cos.
The last concert at the Arts Extravaganza made me think a little bit about my electroacoustic music language. I felt my pieces - Three Episodes (2010) were constantly too loud. I usually dither my track and maximize the volume to get the ideal signal-to-noise ratio, but then I had too many climaxes in these pieces, so it constantly stays at the louder range of dynamic level. I think I need many more quiet and concise sections. Anyways, it wasn't too bad because they were just one-minute pieces. I use 24-bit files, and I feel that I should use the advantages of that.
My Compositional Aesthetics
The development of human perception in music greatly interests me. For many centuries, it is the general consensus that music, as an expressive tool, is anything but noise or non-organized sounds. This established notion, however, has been challenged by artists such as John Cage (1912-92) and Pierre Schaeffer (1910-95) over the past few decades. Today, the boundary between music and noise is unclear. The inevitable questions thus arise, “What is Music, how do we perceive something as music?” To seek an answer, and to create a new way of musical expression that responds to humanity’s ever-changing musical perception, I have chosen to become a composer.
To me, producing music is an act through which a composer, or “music-maker,” communicates with a listener, or another "music-maker,” with means that express artistry and emotion. If “noise” is used in ways that serve this purpose, it can be regarded as music. Music is expressive because it subjectively transforms concrete ideas into meanings and emotions, hence enabling communications between two or more individuals and the audience. A composer conveys his ideas through specific notations before a performer analyzes and interprets his intentions. To add yet another layer of interpretation, the audience communicates with the music maker through listening to a work. When a recording is concerned, the audio engineer adds his layer of interpretation through mixing and mastering. It is central to my belief that music making is never a lonely process.
Different factors of time and space also contribute to varying one’s perception in music. Two performances of a same piece can never be identical. This notion relates to my own compositional philosophy: I believe in an ongoing process of composition and evolution in music making. No piece is truly “finished” because it will continue to evolve, through time, into something that is beyond the imagination of our generation. This idea of unpredictability in music has truly inspired and influenced my compositional concepts. I am motivated to immerse myself in an ongoing process of music making that can pertain to everyday life and stimulate human communication. The idea of music serving as a tool of communication is central to my belief, and this can be seen in my previous posts on "Composing."
The distinction between music and noise will continue to blur, as we keep exploring the possibilities of sound as a form of art. I feel, as an artist, responsible to help listeners improve their sense of hearing. Perception needs to be developed by conscious effort, by learning to anticipate, to analyze, as well as to listen. Hearing is something we all do unconsciously, like breathing. Everything we hear as is filtered through our experiences, emotional responses, our prejudices and preferences. I became a composer because I want to be perceptive to listen more attentively to music and sound in general, and be able to interpret music intellectually as well as to express my own emotions. I will continue to be a composer for as long as I can find ways to express myself through this medium, and that someone in this universe can perceive my music, or my noise, as music.
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