Fall 2019 Concert

CECM Fall 2019 Concert - Program Notes

This concert was streamed by IUMusicLive! on December 8, 2019. We would like to thank Tony Tadey and Cyrus Resur for leading the live video shoot and editing. Thanks also to Haley Strong for technical assistance and for supervising the audio recording crew.

Shuyu Lin: Dimness

In the beginning of Dimness, the whispering Chinese voice says: “Ah, homeward bound I go! Why not go home, seeing that my field and gardens are overgrown?” Words by Yuanming Tao, a famous ancient Chinese poem in Tang Dynasty. Tao expresses the back-to-nature sentiments that make people yearn for rural bliss. The percussionist plays a cadenza to depict stressful inner emotions. Then the camera director accompanies the percussion to control the electronics, creating an atmospheric sound to describe the feeling of pastoral pleasures.

Alex Tedrow: Biff

Male betta fish are surprisingly aggressive for their small size and will attack any other males (and often females) in their vicinity. Despite their belligerent behavior, bettas are usually very beautiful and innocent-looking to the human eye. This poses a really interesting juxtaposition of ideas in my mind, since we generally think of them as these tiny, colorful, harmless pets to keep in our homes. From the perspective of the fish, however, protecting territory daily is an arduous and dangerous task. This piece attempts to bring these ideas into the realm of music — mixing very serious, intense material inside the context of a sporadic and playful, sometimes melodious soundscape. The whole thing is meant to be loud and aggressive yet almost a bit silly, not unlike the personality of my own pet betta, Biff. Biff is written for and dedicated to my good friend, Jake Simons, who has known and admired Biff almost as long as I have.

Lok-Hei Tam: Glorianthemica

Homeland is where one feels the belonging and finds loyalty.
Once built up, it develops into a secure connection.
None of these is in-born or can be imbued with,
Given that people have the freedom to feel and love.

Kindness brings people together;
Obligation pushes people to speak out.
Night by night and day by day.
Glory will be the reward after all.

Soundtrack credit: Thomas dgx yhl (used by permission)

Ben S. Jacob: For Who Can Stop the Wind

This work was composed to demonstrate the sonic and musical capabilities of the Hyperaeolian Harp, a data-driven instrument comprised of a Gametrak dual motion sensor, two Nintendo Wiimote controllers, and Max interactive audio processing software. The goal in designing this instrument was to provide sonic expression to a diverse vocabulary of gestures and motions that I absorbed through personal experience in Indonesian classical dance as well as American dance traditions such as popping and locking; through study and teaching of such martial and movement arts practices as taijiquan, qigong, and kungfu; and, naturally, through the study and practice of conducting music.

The Gametrak provides two three-dimensional motion sensors that are attached to the hands by strings, and the Wiimote controllers provide orientational information independent of their locations in space; in other words, the two Gametrak sensors detect location in space, and the Wiimotes detect the “tilt,” or direction in which the controllers are pointing. The Max software is programmed to translate this information into various sonic elements, such as volume, timbre, and perceived location of the sound sources in the two-dimensional immersive sound field provided by a “surround sound” quadrophonic speaker arrangement. The numerous buttons available on the Wiimotes have also been programmed to allow the performer to switch between various sonic capabilities during performance and thus provide a wider array of sound-sculpting possibilities. The accelerometers built into the Wiimotes measure the rate of change in the spatial orientation of the controllers and add further interactive capability through measurement of sudden changes in the controllers’ orientations in space.

The Hyperaeolian Harp is so named in reference to both the legendary instrument with origins in the ancient past as well to the modal nomenclature of European sacred music in the Middle Ages, and the title of this work refers to an expression that circulated among my taijiquan community in reference to the unstoppable nature of aerodynamic motion.

Yuseok Seol: Tortoise's Impromptu

Tortoise’s Impromptu is an improvisatory work. Unlike other usual impromptus, however, I dragged out composing this piece for a long time. Tortoise firstly implies this slow process of composing. It is also related to the opening section, where the electronics sound as if watching some chaotic scene (such as a battle scene) in a far distance. Personally when I play it back, I receive an impression of watching a scene of massive dead runs of hatchling turtles in a beach, with the risk of being eaten by enemies.

The piece has three sections: opening, middle section, and ending. In the opening, the electronic creates a chaotic-scene sound as I mentioned above, and then the bassoon plays long melodic lines in an uncomfortably high range above. In the middle section, both bassoon and electronics contain more short, percussive movements, as if we are now close to that chaotic scene. Also the music becomes gradually softer during the middle section. A little reminiscence of the opening, the ending section comes with massive electronics and the bassoon with staccato, non-metrical gestures.

Jung-Woong Oh: Atonement

My friend told me that she was having a time of atonement. She also told me that I have been one of the people who were in charge. I thought she was being too philosophical, but I had to agree. That’s how she invited me to her field as a friend.

Atonement could be thought of as washing up, enduring, or passing through. Atonement presupposes a wrong, injury, or sin. The word atonement came from “at” + “one” + “-ment.” In this sound of six minutes, sine waves are duplicated like Graham’s number. A sine wave is a plain thing, the plainest thing you can have acoustically. Each voice and action would have been a very plain thing, and you have to endure and pass through the cluster of them.

Here, atonement is just another form of meditation. Some harmonic scent still remains, but I tried to remove a clear harmonic passage. The title thereby could also be interpreted as “a-” + “tone” + “-ment.”

Felipe Tovar-Henao: «Umbra»

«Umbra» is an exploration of embodiment as a point of departure for composition, improvisation, and performance, through the use of a handmade digital photo-controller named light.void~. The act of considering the choreography involved in the production of a given sound as a basis for deciding what the sound itself will be becomes here paramount, both prior to and during the performance. From this approach emerges a fairly distinctive gestural vocabulary that not only shapes the sounds in real time, but also the surrounding space in the form of light cutting through the darkness.

Lang Chen: Yup, I am doing this

Electronic dance music (EDM), such as House, Techno, and Dubstep, is an essential underground culture among young people in central Europe. When I was studying in Vienna, I had a girlfriend who was really into clubbing. Because of her, I had my first clubbing experience at the legendary club, Flex. I witnessed the alcohol, drugs, and hormones mixing in a dark atmosphere, where a massive crowd of people moved their bodies randomly, as if they knew what they were doing. The whole image was surreal and wild, just like what I had seen in movies. I stood there and observed the environment around me. I noticed that the music was rather straightforward. The beats were so stable and predictable. However, the ways that people reacted to the music were unpredictable. Some people danced with small movements, some people danced with big gestures, and some people just stood there. Suddenly I realized the reason why those people love clubbing is that a nightclub is a place to be yourself and express yourself without being judged.

In this piece, Yup, I am doing this, I want to express this spirit. With EDM beats as the backbones, I introduced a wide range of elements in unpredictable, abrupt ways, like a series of thoughts going through people’s minds while they were clubbing. Moreover, this piece is meant to be anti-academic. I noticed that much academic electronic music is pulseless and avoids the use of defined pitches and commercial virtual instruments. But this piece is full of beats, melodies, and the use of preset synths and drum kits.

Patrick Lenz: Sleep Talker

Sleep Talker for trumpet and electronics was commissioned by a close friend of mine, Matt Suckling, who is a New York based trumpeter. Matt is known for saying a variety of things in his sleep: from incoherent mumbling, to phrases like “I have x-ray vision. Do you hear me?” or even practicing his double-tonguing. When Matt asked me to write a piece, it was only natural to me to pursue using things he has said in his sleep as the concept for the composition. The piece has four sections, each based on a different phrase from his sleep talking, and the sections are connected by brief periods of incoherent murmuring. The four phrases I choose as the basis for the piece are, in order: “If you don’t mind me turning on this light…”, “Everything that rolls, slides and glides, fumbles and tumbles… give me everything.”, “The whole thing is broken, dude.”, and “I don’t think this is the game we thought it was!” Recorded audio of Matt’s voice, his trumpet playing, and transcription of his sleep talking all are used as source materials in Sleep Talker.