Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tristram Cary, Max Matthews and Bill Fontana

I was reading up on Max Matthews life and came across this discussion of Tristram Cary. It was interesting to listen back to some of the electronic stuff and realize that this was probably some of the first "electronic music" that I heard and also something that I refer to mentally but have never listened to in a focused manner. (You can listen on his website). Oddly, I took the electronic music for granted in Dr Who, yet it is something that I listened to a great deal of. I suppose that reflects a change in my life habits, now I am much more conscientious of what I listen to and when I was younger, there was a greater need for a frame. Possibly there is a lesson here for me the composer...

In reading about Max Matthews it was great to find some information about his work with Radio Baton. I did not know about this, I will have to see if I can uncover some audio recordings. There is some great documentation about the Radio Baton on the CSound page. What I like best those are these photos of Max.
1967 (note the light pen)



1998 (this is the radio baton)

I can only hope that in 40 years there are a great collection of photos like this floating around on the internet of me.

Finally, I began today by looking at and listening to some of the work of Bill Fontana. I liked what I heard, in particular the Millennium Bridge project was very interesting. I had been thinking about what to do with the large space that is the main hall at the Tate and I like his solution. I think I would take a different approach, yet I find this approach quite poetic. I like the idea of wavefield synthesis that one can move into in order to experience it, then step back and hear the ambient sounds of the space combine with the quiet level sounds of the sound from the wfs material. As far as subject matter, I could imagine using the original machinery (or facsimiles thereof) as sound sources, just as Fontana uses the bridge. The other piece that I was strongly attracted to by Fontana was the Lyon streetcar sounds. I spent a long time thinking about this and listened to it several times. It reminded me of an idea that I had to use the T in Boston for a piece, but this work was very different. What I fixated on was how pleasing it was to have the suggestion of direction/narrative in going from one station to the next on the train. The narrative is arbitrary in a sense, yet it is simple and direct. This appealed to me and I thought for a long while how this instantly made the piece more accessible, without compromising the sounds. (I feel that often sounds are compromised in order to make the accessible and this simply left them intact and used visual material suggest a narrative). This also reminded me of my player piano piece, mysterioso, which I think works better when I show the Max Patch that I built for it, as a grouping of the pattern is visually obvious and this lends seems to make the piece more successful in my mind.

I have somehow fixated recently on the importance of visual and auditory data in "music." It occurs to me that some things are very simply understood visually and other auditorally. There is often a complaint that laptop performances do not have enough visual stimulation. It seems to me that artists (and many do) can very precisely communicate with visual material what sounds is ill equipped to illustrate. The counterpoint when this is done well is fabulous.


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