Music for Electric Guitar and Computer
I have structured this work as a series of movements, exploring different relationships between a solo instrumentalist and digital sound processing. The first, A Bit of Chamber Music, comprises an unrestricted dialogue, where the laptop player and the electric guitarist must determine their individual involvement through active listening. No disruptions also uses listening as a guide for interaction between electronics and guitar. Here, the guitarist is asked to mimic what is being played by the laptop, but there are no specific instructions describing how to develop the dialogue. In singsongy the guitarist is meant to ‘be in the background’ more so than in No disruptions. singsongy is based on ever increasing reverb and an expansion of the ‘weight’ of the sound material. In eight the dialogue between the players is ambiguous; the instructions ask the players to alternate ‘taking the lead’ in performance. The perceived blend and complementing of timbres heard in this track between the players is indeterminate, but occurs as a result of ‘on the spot’ listening. In five the dialogue between players is characterized by interruption; the instruction given is ‘each player should make an attempt to interrupt one another in order to push the performance forward’. My aim in these pieces is to allow for spontaneous individual exploration, and to encourage the players to develop relationships intuitively. In contrast, To Fennesz explores dialogue drawn from a score which functions as a map. Before playing, the performers should discuss how the map will be navigated. One could argue of course that all scores need some discussion before playing, but this work in the set is different to the others in that it contains more specific musical changes throughout its duration.
The score details an arrangement of these changes, suggesting a contrast of behaviour between the two players, where their instructions are realized in performance in order to maintain consistency. It was my goal that a seamless and effortless consistency could be heard as the performance unfolded. The use of presets were introduced in the score to promote this sense of continuous flow during performance. Presets are used to recall musical states in the patch. In Generative Music and Laptop Performance, Nicolas Collins describes the preset as how ‘one may wish to engineer a return to some effective material to which the audience responded’. In my patch, specific combinations of filters, playback techniques, and spectral processing can be brought back for the laptop player to perform with.
In my work Staticmass, a more simplified approach was used for guiding the interaction between electric guitar and laptop players. The laptop and guitar are asked to perform at a congruent level of intensity with each other. The instructions call for a start with great force and to proceed dissipating together slowly. It is not clear who is supposed to lead the rate of dissipation. This movement demonstrates a limited form of interaction, but still allows the players to produce almost any type of musical figuration individually. Ultimately this series of works invites the performer to participate in developing the music.
An important aspect of these pieces is my collaborative relationship with one particular guitarist, Olivier Jambois. He is highly adaptable in his electric guitar playing, and has great technical ability based in improvisatory practice with other players. My aim was to create a performance building on that relationship, creating a dialogue that would exploit Olivier’s particular strengths. The piece then represents a number of strategies for shaping our behavioural relationship in performance. These strategies are described in the scores, using text instructions along with graphic indications. The goal of the score is to remind both players to perform with various degrees of freedom of tempo and expressive form. The frequent openness of the text aims to promote subjective listening for the individual performers. The aim is that the piece encourages unexpected musical contrasts and dialogues between the players. Reliance on another player’s approach to their instrument in order to design sound for live electronic performance is another aspect of composition found in here, integrating improvisation. The personal encounter, then, coupled with the textural element of noise as a core musical feature, are the key materials upon which my work is built.