Monday
Sep302019

World Voices Musics - in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Sonic Gallery!

A new piece to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sonic Gallery website.  Sonic Gallery is the brainchild of, and run by Le Tuan Hung as part of the work of the Australia-Asia Foundation, which aims to encourage collaborative work between Australian and Asian musicians.  Many thanks to Le for his wonderful support over the years, and for this commission, which I had a lot of fun in making.

https://sonicgallery.org/2019/09/29/world-voices-musics/

This piece was commissioned by Le Tuan Hung and the Australia-Asia Foundation for the 15th Anniversary of Sonic Gallery. When he asked for the piece, Le wanted a variety of Asian sound sources to appear in the piece. (The purpose of Sonic Gallery is to highlight work that explores crossovers between Asian and Australian musical sources.) He specifically asked for some samples from the UVI World Suite, which is a sample set with a very wide assortment of sampled instruments and phrases from all over the world. Around this time, I also noticed that there were a number of iPad apps which featured sounds of some, or many, instruments from different countries as well. What finally got me going on the piece was noticing a little “drum machine” app from UVI called Beathawk, which could play a fairly large subset of the phrases from the UVI World Suite library. Beathawk was also an app in what is called the AUv3 format, which means that you can have more than one of them operating at a time. For this piece, I made 2 tracks where in
each I had three instances of Beathawk, each with 16 different sampled phrases in it. This meant that I could have 48 different phrases available at a time. I selected these randomly using a sequencer/control program called Quantum. Doing this twice, with a different collection of samples for each track, gave me two tracks of collaged “world-music”  samples – a total of 96 different samples in all. To this I added sounds from instrument-specific apps, such as Gender (sampled gamelan phrases), iShala (sampled timbura, swarmandal, and tabla phrases), Taqs.im Synthesizer (sampled Arabic drumming phrases) and Streemur, which is an app which will look for random short-wave broadcasts which are also carried over the internet. With that, I recorded speech in about 20 different languages – I think Hungarian was the main language I picked up that day, but there were a wide variety of languages represented. English appears only once, I think, and although for all the other language fragments, I used random processes to determine where they appeared in the piece, I chose to place that one at the end. The careful listener will quickly be able to tell why. The raw tracks for the piece were made entirely on my iPad pro, and were then transferred to my computer for final mixing. (I could have done the mixing on the iPad as well, but I felt much more comfortable with my computer-based mixing program. Why be fetish-isticly pure with your technology if your subject matter is from such a wide variety of sources?)

Knowing that using a wide variety of samples from many world cultures, and short-wave broadcast fragments of many different languages could be seen to be at least a “nod” in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s direction, I decided to amplify the reference even more by having the Beathawk tracks occasionally ring-modulated in the Elastic FX app. (In Stockhausen’s “Telemusik” he frequently has one sample ring-modulating another, or has a sample ring-modulated by an oscillator. This has the effect of producing distortions and transpositions of the samples, widening the timbral
palette even further.) The end result, though, doesn’t sound much like Stockhausen’s music – this piece has a thick texture that Stockhausen usually avoids. And I think I’m much more aware of the humorous side of the semiotics of the different sounds I’m using – that is, I don’t think I’m here doing a hymn of praise to technologically mediated multi-cultural activity (as Stockhausen does in “Telemusik”) (and obviously, there's nothing wrong with doing that), but rather, having fun with the cultural combinations that result from my randomly assembled thick mix. So for example, a Chinese er-hu tune backed up by a Cuban piano riff mixed with a couple of Hungarian sports broadcasters seems not so much “Global-Village-y” as either just plain funny, or, if you happen to live in, for example, Melbourne (and especially being a frequent user of the public transport system here), normal. And the pace of change here is pretty relentless -if we are, for example, living in a metaphor of a number of world-radio stations being accessed at once, then the tuning dials are moving awfully fast, in a continuous manner. This is now not so much amazing as it is simply the world we live in. Listening to the piece now, several weeks after completing it, I’m actually impressed by the transparency of the mix. What had seemed really intense and dense to me when I was composing it, now sounds quite genial and relaxed. I hope you enjoy listening to my algorithmically assembled juxtapositions of fragments from around the world as much as I did in making them.

Music and texts © by Warren Burt 2019

An Australia Asia Foundation’s commission for the 15th Anniversary of Sonic Gallery (2004-2019)

Monday
Sep302019

Three New Articles in Soundbytes Music Magazine

The September Soundbytes magazine is now out at soundbytesmag.net and I have three articles in it.

First is a review of some very high quality pro-audio plugins from Fab Filter and Eventide, both leaders in the field of pro-audio, which are now available for the iPad:

Then there is a short review of Full Bucket Music's free polyphonic modular VSTi synthesizer, ModulAir, which is a very nicely designed small analog synthesizer.

And finally, there is an article in which I discuss electronic modifications of orchestral instrumental sounds, focusing on Stockhausen's Mixtur, and concluding with a review of Spitfire Audio's very complex and useful Kepler Orchestra sample library.  Kepler is designed to make both polyrhythmic sample playback and electronically modified orchestral samples much easier to both play and realize.

I also contributed to a discussion between San Francisco based composer Jerry Gerber and Soundbytes editor Dave Baer.  This discussion centered around the idea of virtuoso realization of orchestral music using instrumental samples.  

ENJOY!

 

Monday
Sep302019

Two Works by Catherine Schieve performed at TENOR 2019 Conference

Catherine Schieve was one of the keynote speakers at the TENOR 2019 conference on music notations and music technologies held in late July 2019 at Monash University.  As part of this conference, two pieces by her were played: Ink Jungle, performed by members of the Decibel Ensemble, and Repentistas, performed by Catherine and Louise Devenish and myself. Here are videos of the events - complete for Ink Jungle, and a 1 minute excerpt from Repentistas.

Catherine Schieve's graphic score Ink Jungle performed by members of Decibel - Lindsay Vickery, clarinet; Louise Devenish, percussion; Aaron Wyatt, violin; and Tristen Parr, cello.  Performed at the Performing Arts Centre, Monash University, July 23, 2019.  Video by Warren Burt.  Ink Jungle is a 3 meter by 3 meter canvas mounted and displayed in a free standing manner in the performance space.  Players read the various symbols and gestures on the score in specific ways, following instructions from the composer. This was the opening event in TENOR 2019, an international conference on music notations and music technologies that was held at Monash University Department of Music this year. Catherine was one of the keynote speakers at this conference.

 

Repentistas are the troubadours of north-eastern Brazil.  They play slack-tuned guitars with highly ornate rhyming lyrics in a very rough voice style.  Repentistas by Catherine Schieve is a work in homage to these musicians.  The work, in this outing, was for toy piano (played by Louise Devenish), viola (played by Warren Burt) and electronics (performed by Catherine Schieve).  The original version of the work was for the reconstructed Grainger-Cross Electric Eye Tone Tool (a light controlled synthesizer based on plans by Percy Grainger and Burnett Cross); stringed instrument, toy piano and organ.  The large (1 meter by 2 meter) original graphic score for the light-controlled synthesizer was photographed and used in the iPad app Virtual ANS.  The organ part was transcribed into another score for another iPad, also with Virtual ANS on it.  The toy piano part remained the same, and the viola was used in this version as the stringed instrument.  The viola part is a large spiral shape (about 1 meter by 1 meter) which indicates bowing, dynamics and timbre, but not exact pitch or rhythm.  The toy piano evokes the slack-guitar strumming style of Repentista guitars.  The electronics are played live, and the interaction with them provides much of the sound material of the piece.  It is an essential part of the piece that none of the performers are experts on the instruments that they are playing. The entire piece is about 10-12 minutes long.  This is a one-minute excerpt from the piece, taken by our colleague Nic Lam, during Catherine Schieve's keynote talk at the TENOR 2019 conference at Monash University in July 2019.  Thanks to Nic for giving us a copy of his video.  Editing by Warren Burt.

 

Thursday
Jul182019

Latest treats reviewed in Soundbytes!

Four reviews in the July issue of Soundbytes: 

Pictured above is Factory, a lovely new softsynth from Sugar Bytes, now also available for iPads (iOS 11+).  It's a lovely machine - very powerful, with lots of modulation possibilities.

And then Arturia has made an update of the classic EMS Synthi AKS.  Likewise, very powerful.  Everything old is suddenly new again! (And I'm very grateful to have lived long enough to see the "screen-i-zation" of so many favorite synths from the 60s and 70s making them available once again.

Here's a lovely new iPad or iPhone sequencer.  It's AUv3 format, which means that with the right host software (Audiobus, AUM, apeMatrix, Cubasis2) you can run multiple instances of it.  Lots of fun ways to play with control on this one.

And last but not least, here's a review of a new sample set from UVI - 10 vintage "piano modules" from the 80s and 90s.  Still sounding great (in fact probably better than ever thanks to UVI's meticulous sampling), and still extremely useful. And the price is a real bargain.

Enjoy!

 

Sunday
Jun302019

New Robert Erickson Album on New World offers old and new treats!

 

New World Records has brought out a new CD of 3 late pieces and one earlier piece by Robert Erickson (1917-1997), one of the heroes of West Coast Experimental Music.  If you don't know is music, this album is a very good place to start.  If you DO know his music, this album will give you wonderful new insights into his composing, his consumate musicality, and his unceasingly questing musical intellect.  Erickson's late pieces are, to quote Ronald Robboy, sui generis.  It's true - there's nothing quite like them in all of Western contemporary music.  And the earlier piece, the Duo, from 1957, is thrilling.  I haven't heard a straight-out 50s modernist piece before like this that pulled me along with such vigor and elan.  The performers, led by Charles Curtis and Anthony Burr are uniformly excellent.  HIGHLY recommended.  You can find out more, and buy it on-line as CD or download from http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=95449.  I was lucky enough to be able to study with Bob during my time at UCSD, and I was honored when New World asked me to write the liner notes for the CD.  Even without buying the CD, you can download the liner notes from http://www.newworldrecords.org/uploads/filemtuUc.pdf.  One friend, on reading the notes, said that they now wanted to hear the pieces.  I was very complimented by that.  If you do download the liner notes, I hope that you, too, will be intrigued enough to buy the album.  I think you'll be glad you did.