My Music


sketches of pain

SFMoMA - Alexander Calder Lone Yellow, 1961

As discussed in my previous post, Haiku, Mobiles and Earle Brown, the individual recordings that constitute Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku) can be performed as a mobile. So just for fun I encoded mp3 versions of the eleven haiku I recorded and set up players from there here. So you can create your own mobile version of this piece.

Update:
(I’ve moved the players under the fold since they load every time the front page is visited. So open the post to make your own realization of Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku).

 

(more…)

Alexander Calder's Spinner (1966)

As described in these pages the core concerns of the Eleven Clouds project was Post-Tudor Live Electronics, Conceptual Music and Music as Object. Typically most pieces realized two or all three of these notions in one way or another in a way that directly informed what the piece was.  Beyond each of these primary themes there could be numerous subthemes which shaped how the primary concepts was approached or realized. Of the eleven ‘Clouds’ three of them reversed this general form in that a subtheme was the primary driver for the piece and primary concept was somewhat tangential to this in that the expression of the subtheme resulted in an Object and (sometimes) the Conceptual aspect was a component of the interactions with the recipients.

 Calder PieceEarle Brown's Calder Piece

One thing that I share with Earle Brown is a love of the American sculptor Alexander Calder and like him I was inspired by his mobiles as a structure for composition. Earle Brown’s Open Forms directly implement the shifting nature of mobiles and of course his Calder Piece couldn’t be more explicit.

Spontaneous decisions in the performance of a work and the possibility of the composed elements being “mobile” have been of primary interest to me for some time; the former to an extreme degree in Folio (1952), and the latter, most explicitly, in Twenty Five Pages (1953). For me, the concept of the elements being mobile was inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder, in which, similar to this work, there are basic units subject to innumerable different relationships or forms. the concept of the work being conducted and formed spontaneously in performance was originally inspired by the “action-painting” techniques and works of Jackson Pollock in the late 1940s, in which the immediacy and directness of “contact” with the material is of great importance and produces such an intensity in the working and in the result. the performance conditions of these works are similar to a painter working spontaneously with a given palette. – Earle Brown from his Instruction on conducting Open Forms

The primary element of Calder’s mobiles that Earle Brown utilized in his open form scores is the shifting and unfixed nature of mobiles. Most of the open form pieces are traditionally or partially-traditionally notated piece with a mutable structural element that reflects this “innumerably different relationships of forms”. The Calder Piece itself involves an actual mobile which is performed upon (as can be seen in this charming gallery from a performance of the piece) and engages with other aspects of the mobile such as color, construction, material and so on. The Open Form is in my mind an ideal kind of implementation of one’s influences: it captures a genuine aspect of said influence and yet is not so dominated by it that it is of limited utility. That is to say that Open Forms was something that Earle Brown was able to utilize and develop throughout his career as a composer. In that way it is akin to John Cage’s use of the I-Ching to implement his notions of indeterminacy – a deep well that one could mine endlessly.

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku)

Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku)

 

Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku) is a complex web of influences, intentions and methodology.  At the core though is the haiku and the poets to whom this project paid tribute. For the Eleven Clouds project, where a new piece was created each month, I delved into years worth of unrealized ideas, compositions and concepts.  I’d long wanted to do a project where I turned haiku into scores and for this project I finally realized that goal. I created a simple meta-score, that is to say a score for generating scores, that is used in concert with the generated score to create the realization.

Performing Haiku

1) Select a haiku
2) draw lines for each word whose length is determined by syllable count
3) Perform outdoors or bring the outdoors inside
4) Play an event whose duration is determined by length of the line.
5) Pause for a set amount of time between each “word”
6) Between each line pause for 3-6 times the length of (5)
7) Begin and end with a pause the duration of (6) or 2x(6)

I followed this direction using brushed ink on rice paper. For each individual recording I chose to use the prepared wire-strung harp as the instrument. The concept was that each piece was recorded open air, ideally out of doors, utilizing a single preparation. I chose eleven haiku from among my favorite Japanese and American poets and on a long scroll of rice paper brushed out the graphical element of the scores.

9 Haiku score fragment 1

A fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

There was always meant to be Nine Haiku in this release but I recorded eleven for good measure.  For the object that was the result of this process was to be unique; nine individual objects for each of the 9 haiku.  For the construction of each object, I then copied the score onto rice paper which I hand stitched into an envelope utilizing a book binding stitching I had learned in elementary school.  The music was burnt onto square “business card” CD-R’s which were painted white which fit into these envelopes.  The final package was tied off with a red ribbon. The original description of the project:

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku), the October entry in the Eleven Clouds project, are nine (9) individually handcrafted artifacts each one containing a singular piece of music. The culmination of several months of effort that began with a process that turns a haiku into a performable score, the selection of nine haiku (plus two), the creation of each score using brush and ink on rice paper, the recording of the score over a month (specific weather conditions were required), the editing and selection from among the takes of the most representative of each score, the development of the envelopes from rice paper which necessitated that they be bound by hand, the re-painting of the score onto the packaging, the creation of the labels, the preparing and burning of the cd-rs and finally the tying of the ribbon. Each one of this bespoke edition are unique from the score, to the music, to the packaging and each reflects this individuality. The music is a record of the artists explorations of the prepared wire strung with each recording utilizing a single technique, preparation or gesture. The score calls for the pieces to be performed out of doors (or the outdoors brought indoors) which makes for a varied accompaniment that is of course different session to session.

 

9 haiku No.2

This world of dew,
is but a world of dew,
and yet…
— Kobayashi Issa

As with all of the other Eleven Clouds releases the way the release was to be acquired varied. As I’ve explained in previous posts on this project this was part of the exploration of Music as Object and as well as often exploring various conceptual notions. When the conceptual was considered in this aspect of the project it was almost always to make the recipient a collaborator in the process. This was always to a greater or lesser extent and in this case while it was not a major factor (as compared to say 100 Black Kites or aleph) it was certain an important aspect. Again to quote the original press release:

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) is released in an addition of nine (9), each one a unique recording, in handmade packaging featuring the score performed within. In acknowledging the handcrafted aspect of this project these releases will be offered in trade for an item of your own making. Said item could be anything of your own creation that you are willing to mail out in trade: a handwritten poem, short story, a sketch, a piece of music, a fifty-ton cor-ten steel sculpture, a score of your own devising, a DVD, a 17 foot hand knitted scarf, a watercolor, or anything else that you have made yourself. Simply send electronic mail to the address below before November 12th stating your desire to trade for one of these and if one of the first nine to respond, you will be contacted with mailing information. All copies will be mailed out Saturday, November 13th; copies not claimed in trade will be mailed out randomly to previous Eleven Cloud recipients.

Five people engaged in this process sending me such objects as CD-Rs of their own music to little water color paintings. Three more were sent out randomly to those who had previously been sent releases. One release was kept as part of the archive which itself was considered the twelfth and final “release” in the project, titled aleph (there is more to aleph which perhaps I’ll write about at another time). There was at this point in this project a very small amount of people interested, but this group was pretty engaged with the project. As I’ve written elsewhere the degree of engagement in the project was somewhat discouraging, but (as also previously mentioned) I do tend to blame my own inadequacies in various aspects for this.

9 Haiku score 3

Another fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

While I kept extensive notes throughout the project of recipients, communication, objects traded and so, by this point in the project other information was not being so rigorously maintained. For instance the oft cited essay No Ideas But In Things documented each release through August (47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W) at which time I ceased writing it. Thus I do not have my specific motivations, thoughts, feelings and notions on record. Nor did I keep (at least that I can find now) a comprehensive list of the haiku that correspond to each of  the scores. I have to admit I find that rather unfathomable and I do have vague memories of writing them down to use for reference to create the graphical elements. These pages were never completely digitized (I have a document with a couple of them) and has been lost in the course of several moves. I do recall that the poems were by Issa, Bash?, Sant?ka, Snyder, Kerouac and Whalen but I can’t say with any confidence which poem goes to which score (beyond No. 2).

Beyond the lack of keeping more rigorous notes I also did not end up really exploring the secondary more ‘conceptual’ aspect of 9 Haiku which was that each individual recording could be thought of as a ‘leaf’ in a Calder Mobile. The idea here is that one can take each piece and play it in concert, starting each one independently, repeating each one as often or as infrequently as required and so on. The structure for this was only ever mentally sketched out and due to my lack of writing on this entry it is actually hard to say what I really intended at the time for this aspect. The individual pieces could all be played live as described, or the files could be arranged in a DAW, or one could take the individual rice paper scores and make them into a physical mobile and perform them as it lazily moves around. This last notion is definitely something I’ve long had in mind and this piece was certainly part of that.  The recordings released as part of this project, as their covers are the score, could certainly be tied onto a framework with their red ribbons and created into such a mobile. The bit of weight that is the CD-R in each one would help steady against light breezes. The far flung nature of the recipients who resided in Scotland, Maine, New Zealand, California, Spain, Texas, Australia  and Illinois makes assembling such a mobile seem very unlikely but to me just add to the notion.

9 Haiku score 2

Another fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

 

I do hope that someday such a mobile will be constructed. But until then sharing files digitally is easy and as each portion becomes available then one mobile becomes more filled out.  Not monitoring online sharing sites I have no idea how much of it appeared online but now that I’m putting each of the releases out there myself and have described these intentions these forms can be experimented with. The two additional recordings I made, Haiku  No’s. 10 and 11 are also part of the archive being release allowing for one to create 9 Haiku from these eleven sources (though only 9 should be used in any one realization). Archives in lossless formats containing these 11 recordings, plus supplementary documents and images can be found here:
Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku)

David Tudor

David Tudor performing John Cage's Water Music

Today, January 20th 2013, would have been David Tudors 87th Birthday. This occasion provides sufficient impetus for me to write a bit about the major theme of the Eleven Clouds project. This is the notion of what I’ve often referred to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics.  Before delving into that subject let me relate the origin and early history of the Eleven Clouds project.  I’ve written many times about the Network Instrument and how I began thinking about the live electronics work I’d been doing in those terms.  While I want to explicitly state that I didn’t really independently develop any of this I was quite ignorant of this history when I began my own music making. I was aware of what might be thought of as third or fourth generation live electronics and perhaps that could be thought of as my starting point. In a way I was working backwards but it wouldn’t be for several years until I really realized that.  Network Instrument theory on the other hand is my own development in that it is a way of thinking about these existing practices, practices that were often treated as mysterious, purely intuitive and esoteric.


Around the end of 2009 I began working exclusively with various networks in order to further develop my understanding of this theory I was developing. This would generally take the form of setting up a network and working with it, changing it, pushing specific parameters and the like. If I hit a configuration (a cloud in Network Instrument parlance) that was particularly interesting I’d document it in various ways, typically a recording, photographs and any patching data. In late December 2009 this process led to a piece I found so strange and yet compelling that I felt I should do something with it. But I was pretty attuned to the tastes of my fellow travelers at the time and I knew this was a particularly odd piece not particularly attuned to those tastes. But I still felt that the music demanded that I do something with it. So I made a few 3″ CD-Rs of the piece and I gave one to a fellow live electronicist. This gave me the germ of the idea – I would continue my exploration of network instruments, documenting it as I went and releasing a series of recordings of these efforts. I decided right off that if I was going to do this it had to be done right and that this exploration of network instrument theory had to be just the base of the project. That is that it had to have multiple components to it; it had to be an exploration of several ideas both overarching and in each individual release.

 Winter Clouds Setup

 Winter Clouds Setup - used for I'm not completing any thoughts and Skipping Stones

The overarching themes of the project were three: Post-Tudor Live Electronics, Music as Object and Conceptual Music.  Not every release would encompass all three themes though they often did. Music as Object, clearly pointed at by the projects slogan ‘No ideas but in things‘ (William Carlos Williams,  A Sort of a Song1), was the fulcrum around which each release was built.  Additionally each release was also done in tribute to one or more musician, composer, artist or poet. It is this additional layer that would generally determine how an individual release would engage the overarching themes.  Three of the releases were explicitly engaged with ideas of live electronics particularly the notion of a configuration as score. These three releases were dedicated to David Tudor.

In the unpublished companion document to the Eleven Clouds project there is a short section on each of the overarching themes as well as an entry for each individual release. Below I’m including the section on Post-Tudor Live Electronics as well as the entries for the three releases dedicated to David Tudor. The generally short entries for individual releases describe the format, dedications and additional ideas. Also there is some discussion of how it was released and how this was received. This aspect is part of the Music as Object thread of the project which as I noted above is the axis upon which each release revolved. This document was unfinished and there was meant to be additional writing on each release exploring the individual idea(s) that may be explored herein. These entries are primarily included for completeness sake. Additionally the music and photos from each of these releases has been uploaded to their corresponding sub-pages in the Eleven Clouds webpages. Thus for the first time complete versions of these pieces can be heard by anyone. The three releases dedicated to David Tudor in the Eleven Clouds project are:

I’m not completing any thoughts
Skipping Stones, and
A Closed Letter

 Network Instrument

Network Instrument utilized for A Closed Letter


Post-Tudor Live Electronics

The first overarching idea is purely musical: what should follow on after David Tudor in the area of live electronics. Tudors legacy in live electronics is huge but barring a few people who were working with him at the time as well as some tangential artists it did not seem that many followed in his path during his lifetime.  After his death in 1996 there were many tributes and retrospectives and the like there wasn’t much in the way of attempting to follow on with his work. Those who had been engaged in live electronics already did of course continue on, but they were following their own trajectories that could be seen as concurrent to Tudor’s as opposed to starting from it.

Over the next decade though there would be a renaissance in analog synthesis, followed by a DIY resurgence and suddenly more and more people are citing Tudor as an influence, working in the same general areas and, finally, trying to use his techniques to explore the ideas that have captured the current zeitgeist. I think of artists such as Matt Rogalsky and Micheal Johnsen that can be seen as having started where Tudor left off as well as those such as Brian Eubanks and James Fei who started within the current milieu and found their way toward Tudor.  However I think that it can be said that even with an increased awareness and interest in his work it is still an open question of how to iterate from where Tudor left off. He was such a virtuoso and so idiosyncratic plus there is a dearth of information on the subject that this is hardly surprising.

The very first release in the Eleven Clouds project, I’m not completing any thoughts2, was part of an initial stab at this notion. The electronics in this piece are, unlike David Tudors custom and modified electronics, commercial products interconnected in such a way asto increase unpredictability. The Network Instrument3 was a theory devised to attempt to create an understanding of the instruments that Tudor created and to attempt to develop a language to facilitate to further developments in this area.  I’m not completing any thoughts was an interesting step in this direction but in isolation didn’t seem sufficient.  It was at this time that the notion of Clouds (a configuration of a given network instrument) was codified and the notion arose of a series of statements exploring this instrument.

i'm not completing any thoughts

(01) I’m not completing any thoughts.

Released January 2010 on 3” CD-R in an edition of 4.

This release could only be acquired by being given it. Of the three copies that were given away none of the recipients were from the same country. The ideas explored in this piece were Post-Tudor Live Electronics and network instrument theory. It is the network that was developed for this piece utilizing an interconnected Clavia Nord Micromodular and a Chimera BC-16 that would form the basis for many of the following pieces.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: I’m not completing any thoughts

Skipping Stones

(02) Skipping Stones

Released toward the end of February 2010, offered to anyone who would send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelop to an addressed supplied by an auto-responder.

This was perhaps too great of a jump for the initial release – actually asking someone to go to the post office is perhaps too much. It also is of course difficult for those outside of the US though it was stated from the beginning that there would be allowances for that.  Ultimately eleven (11) copies of this piece were sent out, though only a few of these to people who jumped through the hoops.

Musically this piece expressed the most successful attempt at a Post-Tudor live electronics. The network was iterated from the I’m not completing any thoughts and I think displayed a way to work out complex sounds from minimum structure. Ideas of the last decade of improvisation mixed with Live Electronics in a way that was different and engaging.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: Skipping Stones

 

a closed letter

(07) A Closed Letter

Released in July 2010 on a single 3” CD-R.

This piece used an expanded network to create a denser more spiky piece than previously generated. As part of the promotion of this piece a short excerpt was put up onto Sound Cloud to allow people to check it out.  According to Sound Cloud statistics it was played around 40 times. The method of acquisition was not stated; only a question mark. Again this garnered no posts in response, no inquires publically or privately.  Interest does not seem to have bee acquired.

The webpage with downloads for this release can be found here: A Closed Letter

In retrospect I am of the opinion that I’m not completing any thoughts and A Closed Letter are closer to examples of historical live electronics. It is only with Skipping Stones that I think that the ideas of live electronic are iterated upon with respect to the work that occurred since Tudors time. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t aspects or portions of those two pieces which I do think work in that way and it is the case that I was coming from that mindset.  That I think is a critical aspect to these abstract notions of instrumentality. A live electronics configuration truly is the score – that is it directs and limits what you are going to do. But it is the performers mindset that influences how that score is performed and what it becomes. In this way it is like a graphic score – a noise musician playing Christian Wolff’s Edges is going to end up with a different soundworld then a classically trained cellist.  But unlike a graphic score the sound world is set and it has definite boundaries with a live electronics configuration. So it is the networks of those pieces and not just the mindset of the performer (myself in these cases) that keep these at least one foot in the past. It is interesting to note that Skipping Stones – the most successful I think of all of the Eleven Clouds pieces is an iterated version of the I’m not completing any thoughts network4. While A Closed Letter is as well I added many more components to the network and is best thought of as more evolved (punctuated equilibrium even) than iterated upon. What all of this goes to show is that the network, in effect one’s score, has to be as reflective of your mindset as anything else.

Footnotes

1)    William Carlos Williams, A Sort of a Song

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
sleepless.
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

2) Robert j Kirkpatrick, Eleven Clouds Hollow Earth Recordings 011: http://spiralcage.com/hollowearthrecordings/discography/ElevenClouds.html

(01) I’m not completing any thoughts. (January 2010, 3″ cd-r. Edition of 4)
(02) Skipping Stones (February 2010, 5″ cd-r. Available throughout February)
(03) Vertical Landscapes 1-5/aeolian electrics (March 2010, 5 Paintings w. 2×80′ cd-rs.)
(04) Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) (April 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(05) An delay (May 2010, 2×3″ cd-r. Edition of 16)
(06) 100 Black Kites (June 2010, box of assorted items. Edition of 1)
(07) A Closed Letter (July 2010, 3″ cd-r.)
(08) 47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W (August 2010, micro-c60. Edition of 1)
(09) Fugue State (September 2010, 5″cd-r. Edition of 12)
(10) Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) (October 2010, mini-cd-r edition of 9)
(11) …and yet (November 2010, Edition of 11)
(12) Aleph (December 2010) [never released]

3) Robert j Kirkpatrick,  The Network Instrument (a work in progress), A Spiral Cage, March 2010, and The Network Instrument (WIP): Subnetworks, A Spiral Cage,  April  2011

4) It is worth noting that the majority of the other pieces in the Eleven Clouds project also worked with the Network Instrument and are examples of Post-Tudor Live Electronics with varying degrees of success. They aren’t considered in this post due to not being specifically dedicated to David Tudor.

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