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 - 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:
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.
(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
(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
(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.
1) William Carlos Williams, A Sort of a Song
Let the snake wait under
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
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]
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.