Sunday, October 22, 2006

Godot Podcast #1

I've been neglecting Sonic Event for nearly a month now, but for good reason. I've been working feverishly on composing music for a production of "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett. This production, directed by Kate Sinnett, opened on the campus of St Cloud State University in Minnesota and featured women cast in the lead roles as well as comprising nearly all of the crew.

I've decided to document some of my compositional process in a series of Podcasts. You'll see the Podcast in the player on the sidebar.

The first episode describes the process that I used to create many of the sounds heard in the underscoring - pitch tracking. Based on recorded voice, I created software (using CSound) to analyze the pitch and amplitude content of the file and then recreate, using a timbre chosen by me, a "melody" of the predominant pitch material of the voice matched with the amplitude envelope. In the case heard in the Podcast, I divded the octave into 50 equal parts, so there are lots of microtones. I won't go into more detail (for that you'll just have to listen!).

I hope you enjoy this and please comment!


Blogger Mike Boyd said...

This was a very interesting listen. I was particularly struck by how you "excerpted" a technique that I think you utilized during a short segment of 'Play I-III.' Compared with the rather short amount of time alotted to this type of tracking in your Stein setting, this seemed much more expansive. I would be interested to hear more on how you conceived of the global design of this section (and accomplished the expansion that more fully explores this idea).

I am also interested in your division of the octave. There is a Stockhausen piece, 'Studie I,' that uses a 25-part equal division of the octave. I listened to it today and can hear some resemblance I think (I'll listen some more over the coming days). It's also interesting that, when compared with an equal-tempered quarter-tone division of the octave, the 25 (and thus 50) seem similar but slightly skewed - a very interesting way to approach what was originally diatonic material.

Waiting to hear more (and also with the acting)!

10/23/2006 7:22 PM  
Blogger Kristian Twombly said...

Ah, wish I had some with the speaking parts as well...I'm glad that you enjoyed this first bit. Other than sometimes inviting guests into a composition lesson, how often do we as composers get to speak, in depth, regarding our compositions? As I'm sure you noticed, I just barely scratched the surface on what was going on in that short example. I glossed over the aesthetic reasons for using that technique (beyond an attempt to make the voice unrecognizable), I briefly mentioned why I chose to use that particular technique in that location (in other words, coordination with the text), I didn't go into how/why I time stretched certain parts of it...but a lot of that can get too technical. I hope that I relayed the essence of what my thoughts were going into the composition of that one cue. Hopefully I'll soon post another cue (or two).

10/24/2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Kristian Twombly said...

Ah, forgot to mention the part about the 50 divisions of the octave.

I tried many different options and settled on 50 mainly because I wanted to heighten the deviation from the typical 12 part division. This meant more microtones - and also in performance, the juxtaposition of Sheena's live performance and this version was more apparent than a "corrected" version. All in all, it seemed to me to be more unsettling, even though choosing such small increments is actually more realistic than the 12 part division.

10/24/2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger Mike Boyd said...

I thought that very large octave division was quite effective. Particularly by itself (I would imagine, as you mention, that it is more noticiable with the live performer) it evokes the original probably through contour and occasional similarities while clearly creating a distorted palimpsest of the original that begins to take on its own characteristics.

10/26/2006 1:20 PM  

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