Program Notes — December 12, 2023

Courage Barda: Sound of Thanksgiving

This piece is split into two movements.

  1. My sweet cat companion Alice Mae tells me she wants to make Thanksgiving dinner this year and whoa it’s delicious
  2. The tiny turkey ivory tickler Turzo entertains his family and friends with some experimental improvisation

The first movement samples various kitchen sounds and Alice Mae’s meows. She spends lots of time with me in the kitchen and the idea of her stuffing a Turkey was amusing to me. Like me, she would give up very quickly. What is more amusing to me is the idea of her effortlessly preparing Thanksgiving dinner, thus I wanted to play some calm keyboard melodies beneath the sampled sounds. This was improvised but the general affect of peace was always in mind. To prepare this piece, I recorded sounds on my iPhone, brought them into the studio, compressed and normalized them in Ocenaudio, and strategically placed them in a sampler.

The second movement was composed by 10-month-old Turzo who has begun enjoying himself at the piano. I was moved by his fascination with the sounds he could create and asked his mom if I could play and record and duet with Turzo. While that was the initial inspiration, as I played back the audio I recorded from my iPhone, I was most inspired by the sounds of people talking in the background. This sort of candid, familiar sound was a percept backdrop for the piece, and so I manipulated it with a highpass filter and reversing and layering to create a backdrop I was happy with. Three other layers made with software instruments are the square pad (of which I altered its cutoff the most), an arpeggiator (to liven the energy and brighten the sound), and a drum set. The top layer consists of three reversed piano regions played periodically at increasing volumes. The piano is obscured completely by the end of the piece before the intense texture dissolves. It is a happy intensity, one that resembles that joys of sharing a holiday with people you care about.

Erin Blake: Vitals

Vitals is an exploration of the fear of being awake and a meditation on the comfort of sleep. Much of the piece is built from distorted and garbled voices, repeating the same few phrases. It is organized into two larger sections. In the first, the voices chase and threaten you. You don’t feel relaxed, but you are so tired. As if in a dream, the crumbling in the first section becomes resonant gleams of light in the second. Individual pitches uniquely spaced throughout the environment fade in and out but do not move, letting the listener follow and focus on individual voices through pinpoints within the sound world. The voices are more soothing now, but soon become not so in their attempts to wake you up.

KiMani Bridges: Dilemma

Dilemma (2023) is a fixed media piece that has two separate realities. The front scene observes two dancers, practicing with a track of drums and singers. The back scene is intended to be cloudy and distributive for the dancers. The work has a mood that can be described as uncomfortable, stirring, and expressive. A wide range of dynamics, the use of spatialization, and experimenting with musical structure are main features.

Noah Burns: Meditative Trance

Meditative Trance is a serene scene of life. As the piece develops, it gains a groove, but retains a meditative quality. MIDI is extensively used along with panning techniques and a custom VCV rack bass sound.

Daniel Cui: Ballerz

This piece is inspired by basketball, hence the title Ballerz. I used recorded sounds from the basketball courts in the gym, along with midi tracks in the background to sustain the ‘groove’ of this piece. The purpose of this piece is to reflect the excitement and intensity of basketball playing, and the joy when you hear the sound of a shot being made, as ‘ballerz’ might call, ‘nothing but net’.

Scott Horton: Backwards Compatible

Backwards Compatible is quadrophonic fixed media piece with heavy influence from video games during the NES/Gameboy/Gameboy Color era. The piece walks through a narrative of an individual struggling to even get their game system to work. Finally getting the game to turn on it follows their progression through the game only to be bested by an insurmountable foe. In frustration they lose their cool and damage their game system creating a glitched experience bringing them directly into the game. With a second chance, they re-engage their adversary and come out the victor. Through this achievement they are returned to the real world where reality sets in, and they decide to end their gaming session.

In this piece you will hear both a mixture of real and fabricated sounds. Many of the sounds come directly sampled from Gameboy and Gameboy Color games that I personally owned. In creating the melodic content for this piece, I loosely limited myself to what the sound chips of these gaming systems were capable of at the time (2 pulse waves, 1 triangle wave, 1 sound channel, and 1 additional channel for low quality sounds). Using the midi settings to adjust the ADSR envelopes and different modulation techniques, I was also able to create some nuance in the basic waveforms giving them slightly more instrumental/human qualities.

Doris Lyu: Metamorphosis

I tried to describe a story about struggle, a story that requires emotions. Our lives are filled with struggles all the time, we are always challenging ourselves to move through despair and turn it into hope. Repeated changes can turn into growth, they can turn into adventures, they can even turn into legends. No matter how bland life gets, we are always experiencing it. I hope this music comes to its fullest emotion at the end. Obviously, I've split it into two parts, with the first part being based on the sound material, and the second part using harmonic changes to drive and direct the rise and fall of the emotions. However, I don't believe there is much difference in texture between the two parts, and I used the two most obvious materials, long and short lines. I tried to keep the granular material of the first part varied as it developed into a repeating theme with harmonic color pitches. I tried to keep their quality from changing too much. I wanted to make it possible to be heard, and it's this transformation, this continuous development, that makes a huge difference between the beginning and the end parts. This was the main material needed for my theme "Metamorphosis." It takes time to experience "metamorphosis" and "metamorphosis" requires an imagination that never changes.

Pablo Martinez Teutli: Un momento en la cabeza gigante (A moment within the giant head)

In this work, the listener is a tiny component inside a colossal human body and follows it along with its busy routine. This composition suggests a short trip through different environments within this giant body connected by doors. The different chambers have particular sounds and at the same time resound along with the giant footsteps. The music invites the listener to imagine the different spaces and to move from one room to another following the pacing of the music. This quick trip has its most exciting moment as the footsteps, the doorknobs and the doors display a rhythmic and dance like texture.

The music is made with recordings of footsteps, doorknobs, doors and ambients, digitally organizer and processed to describe the sonic adventure.

Thejas Mirle: Leave

Currently, I am working on a film called Leave which has to do with a dystopian society where a woman is forced to give birth even though she is going to die in labor. I wanted a motif in the film to be the heartbeat of the unborn child or maybe it is the heartbeat of the mother. Either way, I wanted the piece to centralize this heartbeat motif as it takes you through the panic, tragedy, and loss throughout the movie. I hope you enjoy it!

Aaron Montreal: Ogygia

“But in the daylight hours he’d sit down on the rocks along the beach, his heart straining with tears and groans and sorrow. He’d look out, through his tears, over the restless sea.”
(The Odyssey, trans. Ian Johnston)

Ogygia thinks about motion and stillness. Its material was mainly derived from patches built in VCV rack.

Luca Robadey: Homecoming

Recently, I’ve started reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan. This has propelled me into a fascination with the universe, its origin, and the creation of life; Homecoming is an exploration of that mind-bending process and its philosophical implications.

In this piece, I wanted to focus on creating space, a place for the listener to exist. It seems fitting that the space I want to create is, in fact, actually space. The undercurrent of this piece is a vast, undulating texture that seems to float and expand naturally. There are multiple “moments of creation” throughout the piece, marked by large synth crescendos and swells. I envisioned these as large swaths of light, representations of the creation of galaxies, solar systems, and stars as the universe expands endlessly.

Time also plays a central role in this piece, being the catalyst for the expansion of the universe. Inspired by Einstein’s theme of relativity, I wanted to play with the sound of clocks ticking at slightly different rates, creating a phasing effect and mimicking the effect that gravity has on time. I accentuated this effect by using spatialization, having the ticking sounds wrap around the listener.

The piece ends with the creation of life, represented by the very quiet morse code that can be heard as the piece fades away. This also implies the creation of intelligent life that is learning to communicate with other species. I also used the sounds of rain in this last section to bring the listener to earth (or any other planet that can support life).

Dmitri Volkov: Untitled 17

This piece features only sounds created on a violin. However, some of the sounds may be unfamiliar: much of the soft "mechanical noise" of the violin gets lost in traditional concert settings, but is audible here. This piece also makes use of techniques from total serialism; the pitch, rhythmic, and timbral material are all derived from a 5-tone row, which might be recognizable by the end of the piece. Often, I feel that the patterns arising from total serialism can be hard to identify when listening, but I feel that here they come across relatively clearly.

Shixin Zhang: The Witches

This is a witch-themed track that contains elements such as rituals, which are expressed using sounds such as vocals, ambient eeriness and bells.

The track is dedicated to an ancient, dystopian and mystical theme. The track has a large number of varied vocal choruses, and solos. The dissonant harmonies and melodies are intertwined with the almost screaming shouts of the female voices, bringing the eerie ritualistic atmosphere to a climax.

I wanted to convey a sense of magic that is also true and false with this track, so I used a lot of sounds with ethnic characteristics. But I also used some electronic sounds, such as harpsichord with vibrato effect and pipe organ. I also used two synthesizers at the end of the track to add rhythm.