Sound Symposium XIV

Joseph Malloch and Fernando Rocha and their Sound Symposium workshopI have spent the last week in St. John’s Newfoundland attending Sound Symposium XIV, where Brazilian percussionist Fernando Rocha and I presented a concert Tuesday night and ran a workshop the next morning. Both were billed as “Electronic Music for Percussion and New Digital Musical Instruments,” and both were very well received by the audience 🙂

Above is a shot of us at the workshop – Fernando is holding the new and improved tenor T-Stick he played in the concert, and I am probably talking about touch sensing judging from my hands:

I’ve copied the program notes from the concert below:

Duo improvisation for pandeiro and laptop (2008), Fernando Rocha and Joseph Malloch.
The pandeiro is a very typical Brazilian tambourine. In this improvisation the rhythm and sounds produced by the pandeiro interact with the electronic part created by the laptop in a structured duo improvisation.

Anamorfoses (2008), Sérgio Friere (Brazil, b.1962).
Anamorfoses is a work for vibraphone, tuned gongs, and live electronics. The initial idea for this piece was to explore some of the most perceptible acoustic characteristics of the vibraphone (clear attack and pitch, long resonance with relatively simple harmonic spectra) in a wider timbral context. Therefore, different electro-acoustic processes are used to manipulate and expand the sound palette of the instrument. During the first section, the duration of some notes and chords are artificially extended, creating resonances that are mixed with the natural resonance of the instrument. In the second section, some notes played on the vibraphone are modulated by the frequency of other notes previously played. The result is a much more inharmonic sound spectrum, closer to the sonority of the gongs. Finally, in the last section, the phrases are split into small parts that are looped randomly. This creates a constantly mutable polyphony between the phrase that is played in the actual moment, and the one that was played just before. The term ‘anamorfose’ (‘anamorphose’) refers to distortions in the image produced by curved mirrors. It was used by Pierre Schaeffer to describe some characteristics of the musical listening.

Solo for T-Stick (2008), Fernando Rocha and Joseph Malloch.
The T-Stick, a gestural musical controller designed and built by Joseph Malloch, grew out of a collaborative project undertaken by Joseph Malloch and D. Andrew Stewart, partially funded by a CIRMMT student award, and also out of collaboration with performers as part of the McGill Digital Orchestra project. The first prototype was completed in 2006. The T-Stick can sense where and how much of it is touched, as well as tapping, twisting, tilting, squeezing, and shaking. The output of the sensors is sent over USB to Max/MSP software, which processes the data and maps it to sound synthesis parameters. The T-Stick is intended to be an “expert” musical interface: engaging to new users, allowing virtuosic playing, and “worth practicing” in that practice time results in increased skill.

Wooden Stars (2006 – rev. 2008), Geof Holbrook (Canada, b.1978)
Wooden Stars is a short study for solo percussion and computer that explores ideas from an earlier acoustic work within an electronic medium. In Smaller Knives (2004) for mixed quintet, the ensemble carries out an ‘infinite deceleration,’ in which the act of slowing down is treated as equivalent to ‘zooming in.’ In Wooden Stars, the zoom lens is erratic, with the music speeding up and slowing down and therefore alternately revealing and obscuring detail.” (Holbrook)

Improvisation for Hyper-Kalimba (2008), Fernando Rocha
The hyper-kalimba is a work in progress undertaken by Fernando Rocha and Joseph Malloch, with the support of the IDMIL (the “Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory”), directed by Prof. Marcelo Wanderley. It consists of a kalimba, a traditional African thumb piano, augmented by the use of sensors which control parameters of the sound processing. The improvisation to be performed today is an exploration of some of these new possibilities. It also highlights some traditional characteristics of the kalimba and its repertoire: its melodic aspect and the use of ostinato, here transformed by electronic treatments.