Live Electronics

The Art of David Tudor


The Art of David Tudor  is a new 7 CD boxed set released from the ever great New World Records. The most exciting release IMO since their epic Music for Merce. Of course while there was much music of interest to me on Music for Merce it was the David Tudor pieces, especially the unreleased material, that was particularly of interest. In my series of posts covering that box set I time and time again bemoaned that the bulk of the Tudor pieces were only excerpts and more than once mentioned that there should be a boxed set of his pieces. Miraculously New World has provided.  This set can now be ordered, though I’m not sure if it’s in anybodies hands yet.  It will apparently be available for download on at least iTunes though the link is not currently active. However the liner notes for the set are currently available (major props to New World for putting these online – makes quotes and such from them a lot easier) and I’ve given it a looksee.  So before I have this set in hand let us consider what we are going to be getting.


The Art of David Tudor

Variations II  (John Cage)
For 1, 2, or 3 People  (Christian Wolff)
Bandoneon ! (A Combine)  (David Tudor)
Anima Pepsi  (David Tudor)
Pepsibird  (David Tudor)
Pepscillator  (David Tudor)
Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled (John Cage, David Tudor)
Weatherings  (David Tudor)
Phonemes  (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV  (David Tudor)
Webwork  (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV  (David Tudor)
Virtual Focus  (David Tudor)
Neural Network Plus  (David Tudor)

Quite a few of these pieces have been previously released either in whole or in excerpt. But these pieces were performed live and often performed with the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company or in concerts and due to the nature of live electronics can be quite variable. So in the cases where there are new performances or different versions it is certainly a cause for celebration.  The full versions of the pieces released only in excerpts are of course especially welcome.  Let us now consider each of these pieces in brief.

Variations II can be heard on the David Tudor Edition RZ set plus a different version on vol. 1 of the John Cage Shock set from EM RecordsEdition Omega Point. This version is from the ONCE Festival and is I believe a third recording of the piece. I’m all for more versions of this piece as they all vary due to the nature of working with feedback.

For 1, 2, or 3 People  is currently available on Edition RZ’s Christian Wolff set as well as an excerpt on the Music for Merce set. These two versions are the same IIRC and this one is listed as also from tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance company. So could be the same one or a different performance.

Bandoneon ! (A Combine)  This has been released in excerpt on the DVD documentary series on the E.A.T. 9 Evenings series. This is not listed here as an excerpt but at just over 14 minutes it almost certainly is. In my review of the DVD I note that the length of the performance is not known, but I do go into the available data. This is a longer excerpt than found on the DVD by about 5 minutes which is welcome, but one still awaits the full piece.

Anima Pepsi was released on the album  Live Electronic Music (Electronic Music Foundation) and this appears to be the same version (both are 23’37” which is a pretty good clue).

Pepsibird  & Pepscillator These two pieces were along with Anima Pepsi were recorded at Recorded in the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan but only Anima Pepsi has been released. So these are two new tracks that presumably will be in a similar vein of Anima Pepsi.

Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled  Untitled, a definitive Tudor composition, has been released in a couple of forms but was originally performed with John Cage’s vocal performance of Mesostics re Merce Cunningham. As far as I know this version has not been released (a version with Takehisa Kosugi on vocals is on the album Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music).

Weatherings  This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and assuming this is an entire performance, this would be the first complete recording of this piece.

Phonemes  This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and a complete version can be found on  Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music. However this is a full live performance of the piece, whereas the  Three Works For Live Electronics version is a layered version of many recordings. So this will be a full, live, single version which is a welcome addition to the recordings of this piece.

Rainforest IV  There are two versions of Rainforest IV on this set both credited to Composers Inside Electronics during the period when Tudor was performing with them (they are still a going concern). As Rainforest IV is a sculpture based piece that was constructed anew on numerous occasions and thus was often different this is certainly justified. However the Rainforest pieces are of course Tudor’s most well know and most well documented. Mode has a disc with Rainforest IV (as well as Rainforest I) on it and there was an German instance of the installation in 1980 which has been released on an LP  by Edition Block and on CD by Lovely. One of the versions of on this set is this German installation the other from a Stockholm version. While most likely the German versions are all from the same source it could be a different excerpt or even a different recording. The Stockholm one appears to be a new release.

Webwork – This was presented in excerpt form on Music for Merce so a complete performance is of course highly anticipated. This has only otherwise been released as a 7? excerpt  on the John Cage tribute CD A Chance Operation

Virtual Focus  This very interesting piece excerpted on Music for Merce so a complete performance is definitely a huge plus here. There has otherwise been unreleased barring a 3? of excerpt on Musicworks 73.

Neural Network Plus  Again excerpted on Music for Merce but in this set a whole disc is dedicated to a 55″ version.  While Lovely Music has put out a double CD of the related Neural Sythesis pieces and Atonal Records put out a disc split between Neural Synthesis No.2 and a Cage piece this is the only recording of Neural Network Plus which includes Kosugi on violin. Even the extract was intense and wild so really can’t wait for this complete performance

Basically the pieces from Expo ’70 are the most novel of the set but the complete performances of the later live electronics pieces are of course the big draw. There is still quite a bit from David Tudor’s oeuvre that is still unavailable. His first piece, Fluorescent Sound is of course the first one that springs to mind (though perhaps no recording exists) but just scan through his list of compositions on and you can see that many are not represented here or anywhere. One hopes that of those that recordings exist that some day these will come out in some form.  With all the variation and iteration in his live performances one hopes that in the future these will all be available for download. This is I think the direction that any music that is so varied in performance needs to. It is a shame that these recordings just languish in vaults.  Still I can’t wait to get this set and and it is a vital edition to the David Tudor legacy. I commend New World for putting it out and will write more here once I’ve had a chance to absorb it.

without chemicals he points

One last piece of music for 2012. An instance of minimal live electronics, this piece  simmers constantly with the occasional interjection above the surface. Take the time to let it develop and it’s inexplicable form and seemingly inward facing aspect will unfold and reveal it’s depths.


aeolian filter screenshot

Figure 1: Aeolian Filter Nord Modular patch.

One aspect that is vital to understand w/r/t Network Instrument theory is that the network is made up of interconnected instruments. Confusion can be had as electronic instruments are fundamentally made up of interconnected components and something like a modular synthesizer could appear to be a Network Instrument laboratory. Now a sufficiently large modular synthesizer could be patched in such at way that it contained discrete instruments that could then be interconnected in various ways, some of which could actually be interesting beyond simply summing signals in a mixer (for instance a four quadrant multiplier would allow you to intermodulate your signals).  A large collection of individual modules, or a software based solution that works on similar principles thus can be a a Network Instrument laboratory though what particularly makes the instrument is the variety of interfaces which, especially in a soft-synth, can be severely limited.  However it is the networking of the individual instruments that  is of interest and is something that can be exploited.  This, plus the fact that “instrument” is a rather loaded word that in an idealized network instrument might not meet the basic criteria that people hold, is why in Network Instrument theory they are referred to as subnetworks.

Synthesis v. Complex Waveform Modulation

Typically what people are doing with synthesizers is subtractive , additiveFM synthesis or a combination of these  (of course there are plenty of other forms of synthesis:  Wavetable, Karplus-Strong etc). A Network Instrument can utilize any or all of these techniques in its subnetworks but it is explicitly not a form of synthesis. Synthesis is taking very fundamental parts, typically quite simple waveforms (triangle, sine, saw, etc) and altering those waveforms to create a more complicated waveform. The Wikipedia links above are actually quite informative for a basic overview of these forms of synthesis and of course there is much on the web describing these techniques in greater details. Synthesis is almost always trying to create other sounds:

Subtractive synthesis is a method of creating a sound by removing harmonics, characterised by the application of an audio filter to an audio signal. For example, taking the output of a sawtooth generator and using a low-pass filter to dampen its higher partials generates a more natural approximation of a bowed string instrument than using a sawtooth generator alone. Typically, the complexity of the source signal and the cut-off frequency and resonance of the filter are controlled in order to simulate the natural timbre of a given instrument. – from the Wikipedia article on Subtractive Synthesis


Additive Synthesis
Figure 2: Additive Synthesis

Additive Synthesis which is the process of sound generation via the combining of simplified waveforms to increase the complexity of the waveform is a bit more akin to the notions of Network Instrument theory. However it is still at a much more basic level than what is done with an Network Instrument. That is the process is still trying to create a singular sound, usually tied to a pitch. The process though is much closer and if you applied the basic concepts not toward creating single sound but on an instrumental level you’d have a simple network, however the methods of modulation between subnetworks via interfaces doesn’t limit the process in which waveforms interact to just the additive.  Additive synthesis simply as a process does create enough complexity that it is rarely used in commercial synthesizers but of course this doesn’t limit its use for those that have enough of the constituent parts to explore the technique.

Network Instrument in contrast to the various forms of synthesis has no interest in replicating the sounds of other instruments or even in creating “new” sounds. It’s concerns are for utilizing the sounds in and of themselves and to increase the complexity and unpredictably of the sounds generated through the interactions of the complex waveforms generated by complete instruments. In this regard a Network Instrument is much more akin to a musical ensemble than a synthesizer. When you see an ensemble, say a string quartet, play live there are four separate sound sources that are bounced around in a space, altered by running into other objects, reflecting from walls and finally being mixed by your brain from two separated inputs.  This is what a Network Instrument is trying to do

An Example Subnetwork

Pictured at the top of this post is is the Nord Modular patch utilized in the recording of the aeolian electrics (part of the Eleven Clouds [Hollow Earth Recordings 2010] series). This is a patch that is run on Clavia’s Nord Micromodular which is a DSP based synthesizer that basically runs a softsynth in hardware. With two inputs and two outputs (plus a headphone jack that can be used for additional output) it is a useful and quite flexable addition to a Network Instrument. I often use it as part of another instrument, as several instruments or for processing of other instruments. With it’s multiple Ins and Outs it can be setup to create feedback which it can then process itself. My first use of this synth was what I called the Feedback Synthesizer where I’d only use feedback as a soundsource (no oscillators). It also can internally create feedback from interconnecting of modules which allow for a pretty high degree of instability from a digital instrument. However I find I get the best results when I feed in an outside source into it and incorporate it as part of a network. The typical setup with the Nord is a feedback loop on one channel and the other input either bring in another instrument (in a network sense) or a signal source to be part of the subnetwork in the patch.  These two parts can be interconnected and thus form a Network Instrument. In the above example I’m using a single input source, in this case another instrument (my Chimera BC-16) and then I’m splitting its input and feed it into two subnetworks. These two networks are interconnected to increase the interactions between the complex waveforms.

Figure 3: Annotated aeolian filter Nord Modular patch.

In figure 3 we can see isolated the two subnetworks of the aeolian filter. The object used to access the inputs is in the middle of the image (the Network Input) and the two subnetworks are in the top and bottom of the image. The input coming in is split into multiple signals which are then delayed to shift their waveforms.  These signals are altered in various ways (filtering, quantizing etc) but primarily they are inter-modulated with each both internally and across the two networks.  This of course is the essence of Network Instrument theory: the interactions of complex waveforms leading to increasingly complex and unexpected behaviors. The use of delays here (all very short; the Nord doesn’t have the memory for long delays and frankly I’m not very interested in the use of delay in and of itself) is always to create a new signal which increases the complexities as the are mixed with the other signals. This network (along with the instrument that was used in conjunction with this patch) was being used to invoke the chaotic behavior of the wind; effectively I should add as Brian Olewnick on his Just Outside blog described it thusly:

“One disc involves ringing metallics (a Tibetan bowl buffeted in some manner by wind?), the other more “whistling wind” (through some aperture?).”

The ringing metallics, is one disc (which was actually two contact microphones on windchimes) of this two disc set, and it is the other disc of electronics described in this post that Brian described as “whistling wind” (through some aperture?). The goal of course was not to directly replicate natural processes but to to capture that natural randomness that doesn’t seem random since being in the world it is always around us.  Use of the cascading complexities of a Network Instrument worked admirably for this.

Aeolian electrics excerpt by spiralcage

Above is an ~18′ excerpt from the ~80′ piece which gives a fair example of the sound. It can be downloaded via SoundCloud as well as played by click on the above.

Spooky action at a distance
Spooky action at a distance
(download: Apple Lossless, MP3)

Some have wondered what will follow the Eleven Clouds project and given its epic nature one would imagine a bit of a break is in order. Surely I don’t plan to release any more cds in the foreseeable future but the process of exploring the Network Instrument that was the genesis of that project has just begun.  Those who have listened to all Eleven Clouds (of which only one person beyond myself currently has that opportunity) have had a chance to experience my continuing experiments with a particular network but due to the nature of that project there was constraints and concerns for each release that transcended that aspect.  What I’ve planned to do for 2011 is a series of webreleases documenting further explorations, ones that are more driven by explorations of the theory and whatever components needed in that exploration. These will be a lot more raw, documenting failures along with successes. I will though with these posts discuss to some degree what was attempted and what in the released fragment achieved.

That is the plan for 2011, but I’m jumping the gun here, inspired by the yesterday being the only day of 2010 whose date when written in the typical US fashion forms a descending sequence: 12.11.10. What I was doing for this piece is I took the basic Network that I’d used for …and yet but instead of using radio static as a source of randomness I went the opposite direction and utilized my ancient Healthkit Oscillator for a continuous tone. Then the batteries on my BC-16 ran out and  I replaced it with an internal feedback loop on the Micromodular. Thus it actually ended up as an altered network with a quite distinct cloud. The goal here was a sense of stasis but with a chopped up feel to it that was driven by the feedback. I dislike it when feedback falls into obvious patterns, it has too much of a techno beats feel for me, but I do like that sort of unstable tearing effect that is basically that pattern interfered with. This is the art of live electronics – this sort of effect has to do with balancing on a knife edge; the system will want to fall into the oscillating pattern and you (or at least me) want it to stay in a chaotic pattern.  Give this one a listen and see how I did.

I’ll be back in the new year with the next in this series, most likely with a changed network. This piece can be thought of as the swan song for this long used network and perhaps a final bit of documentation of its flexibility. As I replied to the Network Instrument question that Joe raised in his questions for Drunken Boat, one of lessons I learned from the Eleven Clouds project was how I would shape my setup in the future. 2011 will be the year in which I put this to practice.

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