Exsact-0 (2018) offers the saxophonist a way to situate themselves within the total configuration between the live performance with their instrument and the electronic sounds managed by the Max patch I have designed. In Exsact-0, the score is meant to provide a player a ‘way into’ managing his/her interaction with a laptop. I began developing this work, starting with my personal encounter with saxophonist Tommy Davis; he was interested in performing with a controller, alongside his horn. This work could be viewed as a process-composition, where Tommy moves through a set of ordered presets, while referring to notation which guides his performance (score example below).
Initially, the ‘score’ was meant to encourage Tommy to rely on a personal approach to his instrument. I also intended for a musical result which demonstrated a dialogue between laptop and saxophonist. Again, this formula arises due to the more fixed aspects stemming from my Max patch, coupled with an ‘open’, or seemingly improvised performance. Another way to view my strategy which uses the laptop to ‘colour’ the saxophone, would be to characterise it similarly to one of John Cage’s approaches (1961, p.18), as ‘a freely moving continuity within a strict division of parts, the sounds, their combinations and succession being either logically related or arbitrarily chosen.’ In my work, ‘strict division’ relates to both my design/programming of the patch used, coupled with the score’s arrangement of sonic events. Within the patch, banks of sounds have been loosely organised, where the player is given the responsibility to randomly select sounds which he/she must play alongside of; my ‘sound combinations’ stem from a range of mixtures between live and sampled material.
There is also the issue of learnability – John Croft (2007) explains this as a condition for instrumentality, where the relationship between the player and the computer should mirror the player’s relationship with their instrument. The aim here, is to highlight the ‘live’ aspect in ‘live electronics’, intended to further distinguish this compositional approach from an ‘instrument-and-tape’ paradigm. In this instance, Tommy has performed and recorded my work, developing a personal approach to interacting with the electronic sounds, drawing from his own distinctive performance. It is important to note as well, I am not interested in strict control of the musical results in Exsact-0. What is vital, is for the player to become familiar with the electroacoustic sound world generated by my patch, and decide how he/she might interpret the score while preparing their performance. Therefore, although the score and Max patch might seem to encourage a ‘throw caution to the wind’ attitude, I am attempting to draw from Tommy’s creative approach to the sax, while experimenting with a sequence of sonic mixtures provided by the laptop.
Below are some audio examples of how dialogue developed within Tommy’s performance system:
Exsact-0 is still a work in progress; I intend to re-design the Max patch, further supporting the notion of continuity between Tommy and the laptop.
Cage, John., 1961. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Croft, John., 2007. Thesis on Liveness. Organised Sound, 12 (1). pp.59-66.