Paper Presentations 2021

Tuesday May 11th – 13:00 – 14:15 – Paper Session A

Matthew Burke – Murdering the lone composer: The potential of band-style collaborative compositional systems.

“Within the world of Western classical music, it is often assumed that the lone composer is the sole vehicle for the creation of the musical artefact. Whist this may once have been the case, we began to see composers more openly collaborating with performers in the 20th century and this has continued into 21st century. Barrett (2014) notes that collaborative compositional systems exist as a fundamental element of Western composition pedagogy and are also vital for composer/performer interaction, but I would argue that the degree of collaboration hitherto seen has simply not gone far enough; nor is it particularly transparent.
This differs greatly from the compositional processes of much popular music (i.e rock, funk, jazz etc) in which one is far more likely to see a collective of individuals whose varying levels of ability and musical experience coalesce into a single dynamic system; usually leading to the production of composition and performance simultaneously. Whilst both approaches are valid methods of music creation, I do not believe they need be mutually exclusive.
This paper will outline my proposed methodology for working towards a more collaborative, band style approach to composition within a Western classical context. Utilising the umbrella alias, The New Band Collective, I intend to produce individualised, multi-media scores for various forces which will require in-depth collaboration from its performers in order to be fully realised.
If properly explored, collaborative composition has the potential to further break down the barriers between composer and performer: putting an end to the idea of the lone composer as the only viable option for music creation.”

Ewan Stefani – Collective Experimental Performance with Analogue Synthesizers

This paper argues that although the analogue (subtractive) synthesizer is familiar to musicians and the general public, contemporary synthesizer performance practice as a branch of electronic music is currently under-represented in academic research. A brief overview of how the synthesizer has been viewed in academic research since the 1970s is presented, with a particular focus upon how the instrument evolved in the literature from a studio device to a rock keyboard instrument. The case for a re-definition of the synthesizer is outlined, based on the initial work of Tellef Kvifte and others. Potential differences in approach when using modular and fixed architecture instruments are discussed and the impact of synthesizer design (beyond the Moog versus Buchla narrative) upon composition, notation and performance practice are discussed. Different modes of instrumental control are assessed in the context of an experimental aesthetic that places a primary emphasis upon spectromorphology via the parameters of the synthesizer. The potential of the analogue synthesizer as an instrument within live electronic and acousmatic music is illustrated with examples from recent ensemble and studio-based works.

Dr Gavin Wayte and Dr Martyn Shaw – A Prelude to the Future: Early Nineteenth-Century Musical Innovation as a Catalyst for Interdisciplinary Collaboration.

During the pandemic, whilst barriers to music making have engendered new approaches to collaboration, there remain challenges in maintaining the necessary levels of creativity to develop the field. Seeking inspiration from innovative practice is of fundamental importance. Musicians in early nineteenth century England were especially innovative, through their approaches to composition and performance. By engaging with the interdisciplinary practices of the period, embedded within the social and aesthetic fabric, we seek to discover new ways of collaborating in the present day. A particular focus of our collaboration is the work of Charles Nicholson (1795-1837), whose collaborative engagement as a flautist, composer and instrument designer was influential in his lifetime and continues into the present day. Nicholson is widely acknowledged for his significant contribution to flute design, and most notably his influence upon Boehm’s design of the modern flute, through the ‘Nicholson’ Flute. His innovations in performance practice and composition, including an appetite for developing a palette of new flute techniques which mirrors developments in the present day, were equally significant but as yet have not been fully explored. These idiomatic techniques were embedded within the practice of Preluding, engendering an interplay between composer, performer and audience. Nicholson’s appetite for innovation across the various strands of his work resembles developments in interdisciplinary practice in the present day. It is these which provide the impetus for our collaboration. In our project we will reignite Nicholson’s idiomatic style in the contemporary milieu.Through our engagement with the innovative practices of early nineteenth-century England, we ask how interdisciplinary collaboration in the present may be developed. What artistic result will fusing the past and present, produce? Might a window on the past add a further dimension to collaborative practice, as a catalyst for the future? Our paper will approach these questions through performance and discussion.

Tuesday May 11th – 15:30- 16:45 Paper Session B

Pedro Quintas – Music Creation from Found Sounds

For centuries, found sounds – everyday sounds produced with no artistic or musical intent – have inspired musical compositions. Pierre Schaeffer’s work in the context of musique concrète and the subsequent popularization of electronic and electroacoustic music allowed these sounds to be incorporated into compositions. More recently, the evolution of digital technology allows for new possibilities in the creation of music using previously recorded audio. This paper introduces SoundMusic, a system that uses techniques from the areas of Computational Creativity and Artificial Intelligence to autonomously manipulate recordings of found sounds to create novel and interesting sounds, musical motifs, drone textures, and audio samples to be used with convolution reverberation. These elements can be combined into a final composition, autonomously created by the system, or be used in other compositions resulting from the collaboration between human and machine, using VST plugins. The synthesis and composition techniques used by the system are based on the work of Curtis Roads with Granular Synthesis, and the drone textures created by Eliane Radigue. Evolutionary Algorithms are used to guide the creation process, by favoring compositions that have desirable features. The compositions may be fine-tuned to the preferences of each user by using customizable fitness functions. The quality of the system’s compositions was further validated through a series of questionnaires. Participants considered these compositions to be more interesting, musical, and artistic than the original recordings of found sounds. Compositions created by the system can be heard on our website: https://web.tecnico.ulisboa.pt/~pedro.quintas/sound-music/.

This work was supported by national funds through Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) with reference UIDB/50021/2020.

James Maher (Hazel) – The Collaborative Sonic Anarchive; Working Through Precarity

“Led by two composers (James Hazel and Sonya Holowell), Danger/Dancer (dangerdancer.com) is a project that was developed during the early months of the COVID19 lockdown in Sydney. This project is concerned with constructing an online counter-archive of sound-based responses to the silenced histories associated with Sydney institutional past, which are now under threat from complete erasure due to gentrified over-development.

The collaborative anarchive posed accessible possibilities to continue creating work within the limitations imposed by COVID19 – a phenomena which exacerbated ongoing difficulties within the Australian arts industry (and artistic practice within neoliberalism in general). Barriers in this way include the increased difficulty of obtaining arts funding; lack of institutional support for experimental projects – not to mention a lack of publicly available performance spaces. In this context, the fluidity of construction associated with the anarchival process provided an avenue beyond elite institutional restraints, within precarious material conditions – a situation much more realistic for the emerging or independent composer/artist.

Ultimately, the counter-archive is a conceptual space for practice-led innovation within the flux and uncertainty of crisis associated with late-stage Capitalism. As an incomplete and unstable repository […] a space of impermanence and play (Kashmere, 2010), the anarchival process generates ways in which to create an ongoing event in an online space, while developing new modes of public engagement, and revealing what is possible if face-to-face performances are not pragmatic. From these perspectives, the proposed paper presentation will narrate the context of the broader Danger/Dancer project, as situated among other forms of 21st century, sound-based anarchives, followed by an exploration of the broader anarchival applications within virtualised, social geographies and communities.”

Litha Efthymiou and Martin Scheuregger – Composer-composer collaboration and the difficulty of intradisciplinarity

“Research and practice involving parties from different disciplines is of increasing importance in many fields. In the arts, this has manifested itself in both increasing attention on established collaborative partnerships composers, for example, collaborating with writers, choreographers and directors and a move towards more overtly cross-, multi-, inter- and/or trans-disciplinary forms of working a composer working with a physicist, philosopher or psychologist. Composer-composer partnerships are far less common, meaning intradisciplinary collaboration is little explored in relation to practice research in music.

This paper will take the collaborative music theatre composition I only know I am (2019) created by Litha Efthymiou and Martin Scheuregger as a case study, outlining the issues and opportunities that arise through combining two compositional practices in an effort to create a single artistic output. We will discuss the ways in which we managed this process in the context of communication, technology, and the issue of tacit knowledge (of both individual compositional process and the working of intradisciplinary collaboration).

Notions of composition as an inherently collaborative process will be used to contextualise the means by which composer-composer collaborations might be understood. We will reflect on an understanding of intradisciplinarity in the context of our practice as composers in order to draw conclusions that will allow us, and others, to approach composer-composer collaboration in an informed manner.”

Wednesday May 12th 10:45 – 12:15 – Paper Session C:

Rosalía Soria-Luz – Fighting racism in Mexico, a project involving popular opinion and collaboration.

“Discrimination due to ethnic origin or skin color is present in everyday life in Mexico, yet this is normalised and therefore invisible to many. This phenomenon is believed to be a consequence of the Spanish colonization and the influence of the media.
In this presentation the author discusses the different challenges of developing the three-year project ‘Fighting racism in Mexico’, a project supported by the Mexican agency SNCA- FONCA, with the aim of raising awareness about racism amongst Mexicans.
It consists of a series of electroacoustic works of diverse formats addressing this topic.
Some pieces include interviews with Mexicans and conducted in Mexico, Germany and the UK. Other pieces involved collaborations with visual artists, dancers, performers and studio technicians. The author discusses challenges of different natures: technical, organizational, social and artistic. A series of questions also arise from this project: What is the relevance? Who is willing to listen/ participate? What was the impact? “

Bennett Hogg – Bowing the Stream: Collaborating With a River

This paper presents an ongoing artistic research project in which amplified violins are used to collaborate with a river in producing improvised music. Two violins fitted with DPA microphones are plunged into the river, which then “”bows”” the string, rather like the effect of wind on an aeolian harp.

Strings that under high tension will only sound in fast flowing currents, whereas slacker strings respond to slower flows, their upper harmonics being progressively sounded as the flow speed increases. This means that the sounds produced, listened to by the performer over headphones, are congruent with the tactile perception of resistance of the instruments against the water flow, permitting the player to effectively “”map”” and “”collaborate: with the currents of a particular part of the river, using this knowledge to make a musical improvisation.

Interestingly, it was found that this is only really effective if the players are actually in the river, not on the bank reaching into the river. This novel technique for musical improvisation (it must be improvised because the river is not a stable collection of currents but a semi-chaotic dynamic system) is foregrounds the extent to which listening and embodiment are inextricably linked, and through a participative, non-representaional engagement with the river places the improviser into a collaborative relationship with river, whose character and “”agency”” – even if imagined – is a powerful determinant of the resulting music. This project seeks to find alternative ways of thinking about and experiencing the forces and dynamic energies of the natural environment, while trying to sidestep the hegemonic cultural tropes that connect to the natural world through aestheticisation and representation.

link to video of the practice that will be used as example: https://vimeo.com/64993807

Mine Doğantan-Dack – The piano as artistic collaborator: A phenomenological enquiry

There is an abundance of narrative anecdotes where musicians talk about their instruments in anthropomorphic terms, and construct their relationship with them in terms of intimacy. The idea of the musical instrument as an artistic partner or collaborator is also frequently foregrounded in informal discussions about agency, embodiment and ownership in music making. In scholarly research, however, the nature of the relationship between a musician and an acoustical instrument has received little attention. The tendency to speak of the performer in abstract terms conceals the phenomenological differences that arise as musicians interact with different kinds of instruments: the experiential mechanisms whereby a pianist connects with her instrument are not the same as those that relate a flautist to her instrument. Among the most significant factors that shape the nature of the relationship between the performer and her instrument are the material characteristics and the expressive affordances of the latter, and the embodied-affective contingencies of the former. In this presentation, I propose to continue exploring a research topic that I opened up in some of my earlier work namely, the phenomenology of artistic pianism by focusing on the processes through which the modern instrument of the piano can be construed as an artistic partner or collaborator. This invites thinking about the sound of the piano, its mechanism of sound production, the manner of a pianist’s embodied interaction with it, as well as the spatial features of the instrument that encourage imaginative ways of being with it. In this connection, I also discuss some of the popular cultural tropes that have been constructed since the nineteenth-century with regard to the partnership between a pianist and the piano, and explore novel ways of imagining this intimate artistic relationship, which although involving a culturally highly traditionalized acoustical instrument is in essence about the interaction of a musical agent with the wondrous and ever-dynamic phenomenon of sound, an interaction that always retains an improvisatory and experimental quality.

Wednesday May 12th – 12:30 – 13:30 -Paper Session D:

John Dack – Collaborations between Language and Music: Translating Pierre Schaeffer (and others)

This paper will describe some of the problems encountered in translating key texts from the French by Pierre Schaeffer. These translations are examples of a collaborative undertaking combining musicology and translation studies. Two of Schaeffer’s most important works have already been published by the University of California Press: In Search of a Concrete Music and The Treatise on Musical Objects’. The latter was a commission by the Groupe de Recherches Musicales who recognised the need for the dissemination of Schaeffer’s theoretical works whilst simultaneously acknowledging his debt to technology in general and the recording process in particular. Given the broad range of Schaeffer’s cultural references it was immediately obvious that any translator would have to have expertise in not only musicology, but also literature and philosophy (particularly nineteenth century French Symbolism). Like many musicologists I have reading fluency in French and German. However, I am aware that rendering a text into English is not the same as translation properly speaking. Fortunately, my colleague Christine North is both a translator and an expert on nineteenth century French literature. After our initial collaboration in translating the ‘Guide to Sound Objects’ by Michel Chion we decided to continue this mutually beneficial relationship culminating in our two translations of Schaeffer. It has become increasingly clear that a writer such as Schaeffer makes demands on translators. His fondness for neologisms, for example, often makes a literal translation challenging. In addition, a balance must be struck between retaining the complex character of the original text whilst communicating the meaning with clarity and precision. In this presentation I hope to explain both the intellectual excitement and indeed the joy both of us experienced in such a rewarding collaboration.

Amy Brandon – Boundary

Music, Open Studios: Music Curated by Pedja Muzijevic, Concert in the 21st Century

“Much of my work with augmented reality is connected to themes of boundaries, examining the place where the real world ends, and the digital world begins. Part of that boundary is the physical connection between these two universes, and the exact moment where the physical body begins to merge with digital space. Augmented reality technology, in particular AR controlled by hand gestures, gives the physical body control over digital space, allowing the individual to explore and sense the boundary between the real and the digital realm, and to manipulate it.

Members of the public can interact with Boundary by ‘walking’ through the sculpture and examining it using the ‘lens’ of a smart phone, or touching the sculptural elements, triggers sonic events, which creates a building and receding electroacoustic soundscape that is dependent on the movement patterns of the individual users. The sound is heard via their smart phone or tablet, preferably through headphones.”

Monty Adkins – Roberto Gerhard archive project

Monty Adkins is a composer and performer of experimental electronic music. He primarily creates digital audio works and installations. Since 2008, his sound works has become increasingly minimal and introspective, characterised by slow shifting organic instrumental and concrete soundscapes, focusing on encouraging a deeper immersive listening experience. Using a reduced sonic palette, he draws together elements from ambient, minimal electronica, acousmatic and experimental electronic music often combining instrumental and electronic sound. His works have been performed at and commissioned by leading international festivals and institutions (including INA-GRM, IRCAM, BBC Radio 3, SpACE-Net, ZKM Karlsruhe, Sonic Arts Network, Visionas Sonoras, Bourges Festival, Akousma, IOU Theatre, and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation) and released on labels worldwide including Audiobulb (UK), empreintes DIGITALes (Québec), Crónica (Portugal), Signature (France), Eilean (France), and LINE (USA).