The Curve of the Earth (excerpt) 1

The Curve of the Earth (excerpt)

 

The Curve of the Earth
An electric score for soloist performing on a networked instrument with optional observations

The Curve of the Earth, is the new project that I’ve alluded to in a few posts earlier this year. This piece is a union of three elements: An Electric Score, a Network Instrument configuration and six optional Observations.

Electric Scores

An Electric Score is a score meant to work in concert with a live electronics setup.  Live Electronic configurations are rather score-like in and of themselves, in that a particular setup has it’s own characteristic behavior which the performer interacts withs.  They tend to be self-activating to some degree and can operate independently (though often predictably) without much user input.  Electric Scores are thus designed to influence this user input but are far from the strict guidelines of a traditionally notated score in which symbols require a consistent reaction. Electric Scores are a metascore that is to say it is a set of rules used to generate scores. It has few prescriptions on what the scores should be as they depend on the associated live electronics setup but it does describe a set of parameters that insures that the generated scores are all still an Electric Score.

The Curve of the Earth is a graphic score constructed of brushed ink on a long scroll of rice paper.  The scroll is quite long -30 or 40 feet long. The ink is usually quite lightly brushed on and the folds, wrinkles and other imperfections in the paper are a vital part of the score.  The score is meant to influence the live electronic setup, so it is not that case that you are turning a knob, or moving a slider in reaction to any of these markings. They are there to influence how you are trying to guide the setup. How this is done is left to the performer, but it definitely behooves the performer to be pretty familiar with both their instrument and the section of the score they are to play.

A Network Instrument

The Network Instrument in questions

 

The Network Instrument

I’ve written about the Network Instrument quite a bit in these pages (primary articles here and here) so I won’t delve much into the theory. I used various network instrument configurations in the Eleven Clouds project and as I stated in the interview I took part in w/r/t that project, I learned a lot from that project about how I’d setup a network for extended performance. This network is the direct result of that experimentation and experience. There were several elements that I felt I wanted to add into the setup and since the conclusion of that project I’ve made a lot of progress in finding and integrated those components into my base configuration.  In general I tried to use existing items where I could adapt them as opposed to just acquiring new objects, as that way I was able to test my theories without accumulating more stuff.

Network Instrument detail

The Network Instrument detail

 

In this case here I’m using the Nord Micro-modular primarily for EQ which with the Doepfer controller I’m able to make a fairly fine grained adjustments to the overall sound. This has worked well enough that I could see adding a dedicated unit for this, thus freeing up the Micro-modular for other uses.  The Rat Shack Mixer I’m using more or less as a matrix mixer and I definitely would like to replace it with the real deal – it’d be a lot smaller for one and could easily add a few more patch points. The major addition to this setup is the Jomox T-Resonator – this device is almost like a physical manifestation of aspects of Network Instrument theory.  The unit combines filters, some simple effects, internal feedback and most importantly it can modulate between it’s two channels.  It has a nice degree of unpredictability to it and after months of experimenting with it, it has really added to this setup. This network is highly (though far from totally) connected and that has really added to the possibilities.

This network allows for a variety of adjustments both in patching, connections and interfaces which I can utilize for varying parts of the score. This is vital as the score, in its section about the electronics, specifies that the network should not be fixed, that it should evolve along with the score.

Each performance of the piece should have the network especially considered for it. Which isn’t to say it should be a new network for each performance but that the section of the score that is to be played should be considered in what is to be played. Likewise the previous portion should be considered and a small section of a recording of it could even be added as a sound source at the beginning of a new section.

 

Observation 3

Observation 3 (for percussion) (excerpt)

 

Optional Observations

There are six “observations”  that are separate one page scores that can be performed simultaneously with any portion of the score. In the course of a complete performance they can be performed any number of times in concert with the primary score. At any given time no more than two ‘observations’ can be made. Over the course of a complete performance the tendency should be for the bulk of the time to be without observations and of course none need be made.

Observations can be made from any sound source within the specified constraints, but a network instrument, If two of them are occurring simultaneously they should be different instruments.  The material on the pages should be interpreted as a Musical Pattern in that a duration for the page should be determined in advance (in collaboration with the Electric Score performer) and that the silences between material should be consistent within this time. The observations are printed on clear transparencies which should be overlaid onto the Electric Score (the same scroll that the primary performer is used, unrolled to where the observers are. If there is not enough score left to do this, then no observations can be made). The observations are interpretations of the intersection of the primary score and the material on the transparency. Material is not to be repeated.

Observation 1 – for a stringed instrument
Observation 2 – for any sound source
Observation 3 – for percussion
Observation 4 – for any sound source
Observation 5 – for bowed strings
Observation 6 – for percussion

 

The Curve of the Earth (excerpt) 5

The Curve of the Earth (excerpt)

Performance and Recordings

[The Curve of the Earth] should be performed sequentially, that is to say each performance takes up where the last one stops. Each performance should perform as much of the score as the allotted time allows but the overall pace should be sedate.  Each section should be then marked and dated with the performance.  Any recordings of any parts of the score should include the length and time of the score played. I.e.:

The Curve of the Earth [00’00”-05’30” / 00:00:00-01:09:47]

As the above excerpt from the instructions indicates, The Curve of the Earth, is meant to be played in its entirety as opposed to choosing a section to play. However it is not required to be performed in one single occaison, though of course if one could devote the time to it, one could.  It is meant to be played at a deliberate pace, to allow the network instrument to reveal itself.  For as I stated above, this score is a overlay on top of this network – the network is the score. And the network should shift and change as the score shifts and change. So really it is expected to be done in multiple performances, picking up where one has left off. It is hard to determine how long it would take to perform at this point, since it is unperformed and of course this will vary by performer. In the end I don’t think it is important, except that it is meant to be played at a rather sedate pace. It should live.

From the perspective of a listener perhaps the details of these elements aren’t important and there is also a risk of the music, once finally experienced, not really living up to any sort of lofty claims.  But as I stated from the outset I want to more or less document the entire process of this project, to lay out what it is that is trying to be done.  This post describes the score and some of the process; look for further posts that describe more of the ideas and concepts behind it.  Ideally also performances should begin at some point, but life events may put those off for some time.  A performance of this piece is pretty liberally defined and recording in ones living room qualifies. So perhaps I’ll try to get a recording of the first few inches made before I have to pack everything away for a forthcoming move – keep an eye out for that to be posted here. But ideally in the future the bulk of the piece will be performed live. Hopefully more on that later.