Fall 2021 Concert

CECM Fall 2021 Concert - Program Notes

This concert was streamed by IUMusicLive! on December 5, 2021. We would like to thank Tony Tadey and his crew for creating the live video and providing technical advice. Haley Strong led the team of students who mixed our 8-channel live sound to stereo for the stream.

Xinglan Deng: How the forest thinks

Against the portrait of the moon, the water overturned the forest. Through the machinery of the future, away went the forest, with the water.

Charles Banta: Exquisite Corpse

“Exquisite Corpse” refers to a technique used by the surrealists of the early 20th century. The technique is very similar to “Mad Libs” and an old parlor game called “Consequences,” where participants write down sentence fragments on a piece of paper, conceal what they’ve written, and pass it down for the next person to write on. Something important to mention is that each game has a rule for how each person constructs their sentence fragments (e.g., the second player must have an adjective). The game ends with the entire passage read aloud for people to bask in its strangeness together.

There is also an illustrative version of “Consequences” called “Picture Consequences.” You can imagine how that would go. So, perhaps an equally fitting title for this piece might be “Auditory Consequences.” In any case, my goal in writing “Exquisite Corpse” was to take on the role of three participants and imagine how each one of them might create their own soundscape if they were only allowed to listen to the end of the previous soundscape. Each section does not necessarily have its own rule, but you can certainly imagine that they do! I hope you enjoy my brief (but fun) exercise in surrealism.

Shuyu Lin: Who are you, a composer, conductor or singer?

The sentence “a composer who doesn’t want to be a conductor is not a singer” is a joke, and also the original inspiration of this piece. During the piece, the “conductor” controls the electronic music’s timbre, volume, and other characteristics using the Leap Motion, which is a device that senses the hand’s gestures; the “singer” sings and reads in the middle of the piece; the “composer” improvises the music according to the score. These three roles — conductor, composer, and singer — exist in one person. The triple-role is the main idea of this piece. In the music, the audience will hear three kinds of media: electronic sound controlled by hand, processed sound from a live microphone, and fixed media sound, which can't be changed on stage.

So, who’s on the stage? A conductor who leads the music, or a singer who sings the music, or a composer who improvises it?

Younje Cho: CO

An etymological definition of “CO-” means “with,” “together,” “joint,” and “jointly.” Namely, it represents that at least two different things exist together in the same space. Now we humans are the main creators of artificial objects and the species predominating on the face of the earth, thereby contaminating and devastating nature to a greatly severe extent. It brought out the situation where non-natural things have occupied great parts of our daily life being unbalanced and we ended up being no longer able to live without them anymore. In this context, “CO-” indicates the coexistence of natural and non-natural things, which are to be “with” in our current and future lives. This piece depicts such ideas, including my aspiration for well-balanced harmony between those things — in quite intuitive and straightforward ways, rather than abstract and philosophical ways. The usual violin techniques and open strings’ pitches represent “natural factors” per se, and unusual techniques and pitches away from open strings represent “non-natural factors.” The latter quite often interfere with and invade the former’s path, but they are harmonized as the music proceeds toward the end.

Xiaogang Xiang: The Collision of Colors

Colors can be seen everywhere, while different people perceive them in different ways. General people would view colors as the psychological cognition of different emotions, whereas fine artists would consider them as the most important elements or weapons to utilize in their artistic works. Colors are somehow irrelevant to music itself, however, I think they can be expressed and presented using musical language. In this piece of music, I take advantage of electronic music techniques, and try to convey how the different colors interact with each other via the setup of three primary colors, such as red, yellow, and blue, and have the colors intertwined, collided, moreover, developing new colors. The goal of composing this piece is to explore some new sounds, which are “controlled by colors,” and find out some relationships between colors and music. 

Pierce Baruk: Daydreaming

Daydreaming for viola and live electronics is my first venture into the realm of electroacoustic composition. Sounds from the viola are processed by the computer in various ways, each evoking a dream-like quality. Sometimes, these evocations are meditative — like a peaceful slumber. Other times, they are disjoint and pointed — like a restless nightmare. Eventually, the instrument sounds are overtaken by the synthetic sounds of two synthesizers. With the violist controlling them, these synthesizers evoke a totally new sound world. When the instrument re-enters, it is with both new and old material. Daydreaming is a stream of consciousness piece, like actual daydreams. The combination of viola, live electronics, and synthesizer serves as a vehicle for the subconscious.

Walker Smith: The Sound of Molecules

Brrrpppttt! Honka weEeeEEe Woo LooOODle LooDLe! POP! FizzZZ. Bingalingaling!

That’s not what a molecule sounds like. And neither is this:

Chugga Chugga CHOO CHOO. WoW! sSH rrRRRREEE ShhH FofoF SUuUUUUSsss.

But…if that’s not what molecules sound like…then what DO molecules sound like?

It may seem like an absurd question, but I have always wondered if there was a way to convert the activities of molecules — their rotational, vibrational, and translational motion — into sounds.

I have pondered this for a while, but one day I met the current love of my life:

Melinda Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy. NMR Spectroscopy is an analytical technique that chemists use to understand the structure of molecules, but it can also allow us to HEAR molecules! NMR produces characteristic waveforms for different molecules; writing these data as audio waveforms allows us to recreate the literal sound of the molecule.

Tonight, you will hear several molecules, all of which were made right here in the Indiana University Chemistry building, inside the organic chemistry lab of Professor Kevin Brown.

With me as your tour guide, I invite you to don your lab coats and safety goggles as we dive into the microcosm of the atomic world and take a bath in the symphony of stochastic sounds and chemical cacophonies created by the mayhem of molecular motion.

Seare Ahmad Farhat: جنی || روح

جنی || روح or ghost || ghost (pronounced “jinn || rooh”), is scored for solo snare drum and electronics and written for Nate Hurst. The nature of the electronics includes fixed sounds entirely derived from a recording of a rimshot and stick bouncing on the snare drum and robotics (solenoids mounted to strike a variable surface). The piece was inspired by the confluent connotations of the phrase “ghost in the machine.” Simultaneously evoking an association to the Cartesian mind/body duality problem and the Sci-Fi machinations of a post-apocalyptic dystopia run by robots, the phrase strikes the imagination vividly. This piece creates an environment for the performer to embody these connotations and a listening experience where, to varying degrees, the performer and machinery of the electronics fuse into a singular musical object.

Zouning (Anne) Liao: Flow

Flow is for double bass and fixed media. As the title suggests, this piece attempts to blend different sound sources — sounds you expect to hear from the bass, sounds you don’t expect to hear from the bass, sounds generated outside of the bass — into one continuous spectrum. Thanks to Will Kline for playing this piece live; and thanks to Bryan Bailey, whose playing appears in the fixed media.

Duncan Henderson: Stasis

Stasis is defined as “a period or state of inactivity or equilibrium.” This idea of stasis, while the backbone for a lot of the musical ideas in this piece, is also reminiscent of my mental state while in the creative process. When writing music, I often find myself stuck with one or two ideas that I love, but have trouble developing, or fitting cohesively within the context of the larger piece. With Stasis, I started with two completely different ideas that I knew I wanted to incorporate into the piece somehow. After that, however, weeks and months went by without the piece taking any real shape, despite countless hours of part writing and experimentation on my end. Eventually, I learned to embrace this sense of “inactivity” within the piece as a guideline instead of a hindrance. From there, I began to go about the piece with this question in mind: how much development of sound does one really need to keep a listener’s attention?

Isaac Smith: Call to ____(Work/Worship/War)

Call to ____(Work/Worship/War) began as an exploration of the sound world I experience when performing as a tubist. An audience may only hear the sound produced from the bell of the instrument, but I hear all of the mechanical clicks, percussive resonance, and all the other noises and pops that come from operating this piece of musical machinery. I recorded as many of these sounds as I could make, and all of the material contained within the piece comes from these sounds.

When I had my spectrum of sounds recorded, I noticed that they fell into three large categories: industrial mechanical sounds (work sounds), meditative, resonant drones (worship sounds), and a series of horn calls I created by removing some of the tubing from my instrument (war sounds). As the music began to take shape, I imagined the tubist onstage as the source for the electronic sounds, to “call” them into existence. This is where the piece gets its name.

In creating the electronic part for this piece, I tried to preserve the character of the sounds I recorded as much as possible and mesh them with the live tuba performance. At points, it will be unclear whether a sound is live or recorded, and the electronics become an augmentation of the many fascinating sonorities contained within the tuba’s sonic universe