Day 1: 25/04/1997
14:30 Phipps Recital Hall Workshop with Michel Pascal
19:30 St Paul’s Hall Concert #1

Day 2: 26/04/1997
10:30 Phipps Recital Hall Lecture with Joseph Hyde
13:15 St Paul’s Hall Concert #2
15:00 Phipps Recital Hall Forum: Interactive Instruments
19:30 St Paul’s Hall Concert #3


Concert #1

Jo Thomas – Overture
In this work I wanted to prove to my fellow instrumental composers that music produced with the sophistication of computer processing need not lose the agility and versatility of pitch and dynamic range. This work was set as a challenge to myself. The challenge to achieve a work of substance and form. To explore a large range of frequencies and dynamics within a very short space of time. Enjoy!

Mark Bokowiec – Zero in the Bone
Zero in the Bone, written for Barrie Webb, is a continuation of my research into the design of ‘Virtual Instruments’ and interactive performance spaces. The aim of the piece was to create a completely new instrument and performance environment taking as a starting point the dynamics and character of the trombone.

Various proximity sensors are employed; capacitive, inductive, infrared and ultrasonic. These sensors are built into the performance space so that the instrumentalist can affect various sound tran sforma tion parameters by using a customised trombone slide. The control voltages from the sensors are connected to 2 multichannel analogue to midi convertors.

The midi controller information is fed to the digital sound processors via a midi controlled router which in turn is controlled by the host computer. The computer is used to store and sequence the necessary program change information to the sound processors and router, and also to store pre-composed electroacoustic soundfiles – used as carrier information for the vocoder patches used in the piece. High brightness LEDs mounted in the sensor elements and a visible laser assist the performer to establish physical orientation within the performance space.

Brian Jones – Element
When composing this piece, my intentions were to use as few samples as possible. All the sampled sounds that can be heard have been manipulated in the Macintosh computer.

The composition itself is in four sections, each section being united by a pentatonic scale. This can be heard most clearly in the first section of the piece, as it is sounded on a wind chime type bell. This bell is then stretched and the pitch changed to lead the listener into other familiar sampled sounds.

The inspiration for the composition is based upon a film I recently saw, in which a shipwrecked couple are left stranded on an island and struggle against the elements and the ocean.

John Cage – Variations IV
Variations IV is a bridge between two of the cycles of works which Cage produced in the ’50s and early ’60s. The ‘Variations’ pieces are some of Cage’s mostly challenging indeterminate scores – not so much notations as instruments on how to make a performance using complex chance operations- and were used by Cage and David Tudor as the basis for their duo work in which they pioneered the medium of live electronic music. (It was a performance of Variations I in Darmstadt in 1958, for example, which is credited in all the modern music histories as being the moment when the serialist composers of the European avant- garde were irrevocably blown off course.) But the title page of Variations IV also identifies it as the third part of a cycle of works whose other parts are the ‘silent’ piece 4’33” and the single action piece 0’00”, Cage at his most conceptual.

The score of Variations IV provides nothing more than instruments for locating sounds within a space, sounds which tonight will be performed by members of the University’s 21st Century Music Ensemble: lsabel Bowler, Christopher Fox, John Hodgson, Neil Stemp, John Warhurst and Michael Wolters.

Ruth Thomas – Doors 97
This piece was written using sounds recorded entirely from doors – door slams, creaky doors and keys in locks. Most of these samples are treated with an effects processor and then played at varying speeds.

Doors 97 is a piece which experiments and explores the endless possibilities of a sampler and effects processor. It is a collage in arch form. The first section only uses the sample of a key in a lock, effected and slowed down. The second section introduces more samples followed by a granular texture. From this a rhythm is created and a “melodious” door becomes the focal point! The piece ends with a busy granular texture, a rising chordal passage and then the low first sound again.

Robert Duncan Scorah – The Wings of Isis
The piece is a duet for flute and Yamaha SY99 synthesiser. The ‘frequency modulation’ generated electronic voices are meant to extend the timbral and harmonic characteristics already inherent in the flute and voice part, throwing up a kind of ‘etheric double’ or dreamworld counterpart. The piece moves from a meditative and introspective opening section, including vocalised sounds by the flautist, through a more turbulent central episode to a melodic and sometimes almost sentimental ending.

Luc Ferrari – Presque rien No 1
In previous Electric Springs we have always placed new work alongside ‘classics’ from the tape music repertoire, Varese in 1995 and Bruno Maderna in 1996, and this year the classics are two works by the French composer, Luc Ferrari. Ferrari was born in 1929 and has been associated with the ‘musique concrete’ movement since the 1950s, composing numerous tape works as well as music for acoustic instruments.

Presque rien is a series of three works for tape of which this, the first, was made in 1970. As its subtitle (‘day-break by the sea’) implies, Presque rien no 1 is a collage of sounds collected on the Adriatic coast of former Yogoslavia. ‘Presque rien’ translates as ‘almost nothing’ and a first reaction to the work maybe to question what right these sounds, to which ‘almost nothing’ seems to have been done, have to be regarded as ‘music’. Listen more closely, however, and the subtlety of Ferrari’s craft becomes apparent: events are cunningly elided, correspondences are suggested, perspectives disorientatingly altered.

Tom Johnson, in that wonderful collection of his writings, The Voice of New Music, sums up the allure of Ferrari’s work:

At first it didn’t seem to me as if much was happening compositionally, but gradually realized I was actually hearing a whole lot of scene and cast changes. lt was just that the composer had blended separate takes so seamlessly that everything flowed together.

Joseph Hyde – GoldGlow
(reconstructed reality)
GoldGlow concerns the contrast between the outer world perceived by the senses and the inner world of the imagination and emotions. It concerns a particular winter numbness, when the ego seems to retreat into itself, and the mind to take on an internal life of its own, sometimes with little connection to external reality.

Two layers of sound make up the fabric of the music. On the surface is an outer layer of virtually untreated environmental sounds, all recorded on December afternoon in Bourges and presented in almost the order in which they were recorded. These sounds are thus very specifically linked to a particular place and time. Beneath is a glowing core of sounds, deliberately chosen to have as little direct resonance of a particular time or place as possible.


Concert #2

Vinko Globokar – Correspondances
Vinko Globokar was well known for his double passion both for improvisation and for a strict mastery of musical notation and structure. In Correspondences, the musical discourse establishes a continuity between those two disciplines in an unusual manner. The score begins with extremely precise notation at the heart of which modes of music reaction penetrate little by little and in which the interpreter is allowed greater and greater freedom to play “with”, to develop, to play “against”, to limit, to take the lead or to accompany, getting closer and closer to the absolute moment of the opening of a final page which finishes with the possiblity of improvising endlessly in complete freedom.

Michel Pascal – Liens
for trombone and digital treatments
Liens is intended to celebrate the union of air and machine, of that which is ageless and that which is very recent. (“Liens..lianes..lieux..lies” writes the composer – words united in French by poetic alliteration meaning “bond..liana (tropical creeper)..places..things joined together”). A union in search of an imaginary place, neither completey acoustic (real?) nor completely electronic (virtual?). United by the notation, the instrument and the numerical process both follow the same paths as they twist, slide, vibrate and interlace with each other. Fictional spaces where the trombone unfolds, swells, twists and turns, and doubles back on itself, to discover strange hybrid extensions, new instrumental resonances, like hidden memories of metal, water, or stretched strings, or the actual sound hiddden in very ancient rocks. Old lianas arise from cases made of nickel.

Pascal Gobin – Nouvelles Etudes
New Studies for electric guitar and synthesiser with electronic keyboard, trombone and double bass obligato
This piece is based on some work which began in 1991 and which was carried on as a rather special kind of personal journal in which, seen from the outside, each new version takes the place of the previous one. In fact, is my intention to imagine this work like living material (for example, a high quality wine) which will improve with age . Each “new version” is the visible manifestation of a working process rather than a complete work. But all this apart, it is certainly better to listen first and talk after. That is to say that my intentions as composer in writing these lines are directed more towards one moment in time (the concert) than towards an object (the work) both from the point of view of the sound itself (envisage, in the continuity and complexity of the living moment, as the opposite of an object) and by rapport to that unique tension of the concert situation. This is one of the reasons why, since I care about true radicalisation, I have chosen an ensemble of instruments performing live.

Michel Pascal – Between
There could be a common theme, in the jazz sense – the music is “in the groove”. In any case, a feeling, a colour, a way of experiencing music before thinking about it. It could be like a music of fusion and exchange between several languages. You could play with the personality of the instrument strongly, even very strongly, but blend completely withthe composer’s discourse. There could be a grid, through which the improvisator would play as much as the composer. In any case, there would have to be “emotion”, something simple, something direct, between all the music which I love – something which crosses over, something which unites. The combined sensuality, of the “adventurers of the studio” who plunge most deeply into the night of sound and of those who are standing on their feet on the stage, pricks you to the marrow by some kind of miraculous instrumental alchemy.

First of all there will be a double bass with 3 pedals linked to a little sound transformation system, which allows the performer to play, to interpret, to modify his part at any moment as he hears it. A double bassist equally virtuosic with his feet. There will also be a signal processor fed in advance with the same sounds as the double bass, making it shine out in front and beyond the gestura! capacities of a single soloist, but always preserving a trace of itself in the sound from the loudspeakers. It will be a true duo, without recorded tape, without electronics and above all between you and us. The space of a moment, this moment… Between.

Joseph Hyde – Vox Mecanix
My aim was to fashion a piece exclusively from vocal sounds, but to try to ignore entirely such things as words and sentences. Instead I decided to concentrate on ways in which the human voice communicates without recourse to the intricacies of language. I wanted to dig down to the deepest level and lay bare a universal language of squeaks and grunts, which might communicate emotion in the most direct manner, with as few civilising niceties as possible!

In this endeavour, I had two primary influences. The first was that of various Dada writers/performers, in particular Kurt Schwitters. Some of the vocal patterns that I used as my source material were based on quotations from Schwitters’ Ursonate, which was a particularly strong influence.

The second was that of early animated cartoons, such as those of Tex Avery. I wanted to make something that had the same kind of manic and visceral energy as an Avery cartoon, the crude caricature and capricious, free-form narrative, and, of course, the humor.

In the composition of the piece, I also concentrated very much on abstract ‘musical’ parameters, in particular rhythm. In this, I was also inspired by the rhythmic patterning of Ursonate, but took such patterning a stage further using basic Stravinsky-esque cell techniques.

Barrie Webb – Second Skin
for didgeridoo, clapsticks and sampler
Second Skin, my second work for didgeridoo, was the result of a commission from dancer Suzie Ater for a work featuring slide projection, dance and music, built around the subject of skin. For the original choreographed version, Suzie wore body paints of typically aboriginal colouring – her “second skin”, close-ups of which were photographed for the slides which formed the backdrop to her choreography. It was first performed in this form in London on 4 and 5 March 1988 and received its world premiere as a concert piece in Milan on 28 March the same year. It has since received numerous performances in both forms, and was recently recorded for release on CD.

Like Aleheringa (1985/6) and Tilpulun (1996), Second Skin uses elements traditionally associated with didgeridoo playing – circular breathing, changing overtones, pulsating rhythms and also features simultaneous singing and playing. The central section features a build up of clapstick rhythms, eventually halted by a call using the overblown notes of the didgeridoo. This version of Second Skin was specially prepared for Studio Instrumental during 1996.

Kees Van Unen – Ab Rae
Ab Rae was written especially for last year’s Rainbow across Europe festival. Studio Instrumental is able to produce any electrical musical process live on stage, and they have much experience in improvised music. Both elements play a vital role in the piece. The score is written as a map, showing directions, lengths, groups of notes to improvise with, although a choice has been made about what sounds to be used. Ab Rae is an adventure, and to have written a piece for, and performed by, Studio Instrumental has been a privilegel


Concert #3

John Cage – Music for Carillon 3
The carillon is a collection of bells, often in a bell-tower, sounded either from a keyboard by a player or mechanically (Bradford Town Hall has a good local example of a keyboard-operated carillon). Between 1952 and 1967 John Cage wrote five scores for such an instrument. Each score prescribes an instrument of either 2, 3 or 4 octaves but the notations are often indeterminate, some specifying exact pitches, others just the relative distribution of pitches, none using conventional rhythmic notations.

The versions of Music for Carillon 3 which we will hear tonight is realisation of one of these indeterminate notations, which Cage made with the pianist David Tudor in 1961. Our Electric Spring version is a new electroacoustic realisation made by Ruth Thomas, using bell sounds designed by Rob Scorah. As well as opening tonight’s concert Music for Carillon 3 will also be used to summon you into the concert hall after the interval.

Stace Constantinou – Magic Lantern
My composition owes much to a variety of performance art pieces with which I was involved. They were all either created, directed, choreographed or conceived by Julie Wilson-Bokowiec and facilitated in me a broadening of the aesthetic mind. Magic Lantern paraphrases a film script written by Julie, entitled Magic Lantern Show. Sometimes my piece relates directly to the text, and sometimes it relates in the form of electroactoustic word painting. I feel, however, that Magic Lantern documents in general terms my experience both as an audience and participate to the ritualistic, burlesque, and mystically shaded area of occidential secular spiritualism.

Christopher Fox – stone.wind.rain.sun
for four trombones
stone.wind.rain.sun for four trombones was written in 1989 and is the first of a sequence of four works with that title (the subsequent pieces in the sequence are scored respectively for saxophone quartet, amplified alto flute and two clarinets). All four works are attempts to ‘read’ through the upland landscape of the north of England, from the air above down into the rock, although each, as it were, finds its own particular level. I always thought of the trombone stone.wind.rain.sun as being an exploration of the internal space of the landscape, alternately dense and cavernous, a musical geology in which gradual erosion is probably the most characteristic process…

stone.wind.rain.sun can be played either as a trombone quartet – it was premiered in that format by the Netherlands Trombone Quartet in Amsterdam in 1992 – or, as tonight, in a version for live and pre-recorded trombones, ideally four Barrie Webbs. It lasts about 10 minutes.

Jo Thomas – African Violet
Dedicated to a Political Prisoner

Vulnerable,
Yet strong
in the faith of humanity:

The cry of the yellow within.

I blossom, I die
Condemned for the right
To live:

The cry of the yellow within.

Confined to this cell
The body of many,
The mind of insanity:

The cry of the yellow? Creator of rights?

Nothingness
speaks out
To nothingness

Alison McNeil

I chose to base my work on the poem above, African Violet. With this work I intended to draw from the solitude and reflection portrayed in the poem, starting in a prison cell, expanding into the outside world and then returning to the cell.

The solitude is represented with silence and the starkness of the sounds. I interpreted reflection with nature and recordings of important political figures of this century. These people are Louis Farrakhan, John F Kennedy, Ian Paisley and Adolf Hitler. Whatever their political stance there is no denying that all these men spoke with incredible power and also with amazing musicality. I have tried to reflect these attributes by either using very little manipulation or interweaving my sounds within their voices.

As three of the recordings in this work are from an age where the phrase ‘digital recording’ did not exist I felt it would be an exciting challenge to go back to analogue techniques when developing my sound worlds. This proved to be a profitable and enriching experience.

Luc Ferrari – unheimlich schön
unheimlich schön was created in the studios of South-West German Radio in 1971 and is, like Presque rien (heard in last night’s concert), a work whose expressive attaction owes much to the microphone’s capacity to take us close to sounds and invest these isolated aural images with an intensity which is never far from the erotic. ‘Unheimlich schön’ means something like ‘uncannily beautiful’ – Ferrari’s note on the music says only that it is like ‘the breathing of a young girl who is thinking about something else’.

Some people will find unheimlich schön reminiscent of the early tape works of Steve Reich, especially Come Out. But unheimlich schön is a very different kind of piece, far less strident, much more ambivalent; it gives us more space in which to think and whenever there is space to think there is also time to be disturbed …

Michael Clarke – Tim(br)E
for 8-channel tape
Tim(br)E, as its title implies, plays with the ambiguity that can be created between pitch and pulse (timbre and time) using computer generated or processed sounds. Sounds that begin as timbres dissolve into pulses and vice versa. Our normal perceptual distinction between pitch and rhythm becomes blurred. For much of the work, eight streams of sound, each heard on one of the eight loudspeakers, interleave in a complex counterpoint. Recognisable timbres emerge from and dissolve into this rich texture creating a musical structure that, hopefully, speaks for itself.

Joseph Hyde – Songlines
a non-narrative narrative

  1. lost for words
  2. found objects
  3. seachange

Songlines are ancient paths through the Australian landscape. The paths are not marked; navigation is achieved through knowledge of aborigina l songs that describe the la ndscape through which the paths travel.

Songlines has nothing to do with Australian culture and landscape, rather it is an abstract construction that mirrors the phenomenon described above. The ‘landscape’ is in this case a large gathering of texts, primarily folk myths from a variety of cultures. Texts were deliberately chosen that had points in common, allowing a ‘path’ to be laid through them, travelling not only linearly – along a particular text; but also laterally – crossing between texts by means of these common points.

Songlines is not the landscape or the path, but rather a ‘song’ describing them. Only the faintest traces of the texts themselves can be perceived, but they are present throughout as the inspiration behind the surface manifestation of the piece. The attraction of such a method of working is that the paths could be travelled any number of times, in any number of ways. This made it ideal for an open-ended project that could be open to input from a number of collaborators. Thus far, two manifestations exist, an acousmatic sound-only version, and a version incorporating computer graphics, video and dance.