the score for Solitude

I pursue the intersection between timbral and tonal expression. Tonal expression is deeply embedded while timbral expression brings new opportunities for exploration. Timbral music requires new methods of composition to break free of the dictates of western music notation. Sampling provides an avenue for using tonal music within other frameworks. I use my own graphical notation system, the scores are then played programmatically using samples as the source. This provides for seamless intermixing of melody and timbre and the interplay between the two.

This piece came out of a few distinct inspirations. When the idea came to me, I was listening to a lot of Steve Reich and John Adams music, and studying their techniques of building texture. At the same time, I listened to a piece by Ludger Brümmer called Le Tombeau de Maurice where he used samples from a performance of Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. He generated textures that would rapidly morph into almost direct quotes from the sampled piece. I got the idea to try to combine minimalist textures with this kind of rapid transformation. It made for an interesting contrast between very clearly tonal and very clearly timbral music. I chose to sample a piece by Duke Ellington because the mood was similar in spirit to my intentions. Also, the piano provided good source material for the textures I intended to create. In terms of the technique actually used for composing, I drew on one of my very original inspirations for getting into computer music: Iannis Xenakis' Mycenae Alpha.

Solitude has been included in the Notations21 project, which is a modern compendium and anthology of graphical scores inspired by John Cage's book, Notations. More recently, it was part of an event organized by the Xenakis Project of the Americas called Xenakis Past, Present, and Future

Solitude with Pd

This is my first composition using Pd's data structures, and I found that I enjoyed the process quite a bit, once I got the patch debugged. The experience was a good combination of visual editing with the mouse and text editing with the keyboard. The visual representation worked well for composition in this style. By biggest problem was finding a way to represent in the score all of the things that I wanted to control. Since I wanted to have the score generate the piece, I did not add a couple features, like pitch shifting and voice allocation control, which I would have liked to have.

The Score

This rendition of Solitude was created entirely within Pd except for some minor equalization in Audacity. The score was created using Pd's graphical data structures. The score you see below controls every aspect of the sounds that were generated.

the score for Solitude

In the score, time flows from left to right. Each color represents a sample. Each sample controller has two arrays: the brighter, bigger one on top controls sample playback; and a smaller darker one at the bottom controls amp and pan. The lowest point of the sample array is the beginning of the sample, the highest is the end, and the height of the array is how much and what part of the sample to play starting at that point in time. There are between 50 and 100 voice polyphony for the samples. The height of the amp/pan array is the amp, and the y location is the pan.


You can download just the mp3 file or the program itself. The program needs at least a 2.0 GHz machine to run! It is meant to run with Pd-extended), also freely downloadable.


Solitude in Csound

This is the first rendition of the idea. I used Csound to create the basic sound files, then edited and assembled them in SoundForge. Ultimately, while I liked a lot of the results I was getting, I found the process of composing with Csound quite frustrating.


mp3: Solitude_in_Csound_-_Hans-Christoph_Steiner_-_2001.mp3

current CVS tarball: solitude-csound.tar.gz

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