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  • Chambers - Music for String Quartet & Chamber Ensemble

    The first volume of my Emergence Trilogy, Chambers, is out in the world. I thought the community here might be interested as it's all vsl. There are some album notes to give a bit of poetic context that I'll post if there's interest. I'm in Indonesia for a few weeks without my laptop so it will take a bit of work to copy them from the liner of the physical CD. Kenneth.

  • Chambers - Notes It was perhaps only natural that he should have constructed a frame, modeled on a child's abacus, a frame with several dozen wires on which could be strung glass beads of various sizes, shapes, and colors. The wires corresponded to the lines of the musical staff, the beads to the time-values of the notes, and so on. In this way he could represent with beads musical quotations or invented themes, could alter, transpose, and develop them, change them and set them to counterpoint to one another. In technical terms this was a mere plaything. A characteristic feature in the Game's history was that it was constantly preferred, used, and further elaborated by whatever branch of learning happened to be experiencing a period of high development or a renaissance. The mathematicians brought the Game to a high degree of flexibility and capacity for sublimation, so that it began to acquire something approaching a consciousness of itself and its possibilities. This process paralleled the general evolution of cultural consciousness. It represented a symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself--the symbols and formulas of the Glass Bead Game combined structurally, musically, and philosophically within the framework of a universal language, were nourished by all the sciences and art, and strove in play to achieve perfection, pure being, the fullness of reality. Thus "realizing" was a favorite expression among the players. They considered their Games a path from Becoming to Being, from potentiality to reality. Herman Hesse Recursive enumeration is a process in which new things emerge from old things by fixed rules. It might seem that recursively defined sequences of that type posess some kind of inherently increasing complexity of behavior, so that the further out you go, the less predictable they get. This kind of thought carried a little further suggests that suitably complicated recursive systems might be strong enough to break out of any predetermined patterns. And isn't this one of the defining properties of intelligence? Douglas R. Hofstadter It's the future. It's the future for music. It's the future for performing music. It's the future for writing music. It's the future for listening to music. All of our futures in music are involved with it. It's as simple as that, and as complicated as that. Glenn Gould I have nothing to say / And I am saying it. John Cage Bandmate: "Frank!... Where did you learn all this stuff?" Zappa: "Oh... I went to the library." Appreciation: Martin Gotfrit for offering support at the crucial moment for the work to brought to fruition. Baba Shankar Barua for support over the years in providing a playground and meeting place in India for sharing the work as it evolved. Jeannette Angel for being there at the moment the calyx first revealed its wonders. Aleksandra Dulic for the garrett in which the flower has taken its full bloom. Antonin Artaud Glenn Gould Marvin Minsky Bela Bartok Keith Jarrett Per Norgard The Beatles. Susanne K. Langer Pauline Oliveros Leonard Bernstein Otto Laske Rahayu Suppangah John Coltrane George E. Lewis Toru Takemitsu Ram Dass / Richard Alpert Gyorgy Ligeti K.R.T Wasitodiningrat Claude Debussy George Martin. Anton Webern I Made Gerindem Charles Mingus Frank Zappa

  • This is some very interesting work and the textures are complex and varied.  Is it a combination of live and VSL or other libraries or what?   Also the presentation is very well done and I like the concepts you have brought together. Congratulations on getting this completed!  

  • Thanks William. The quartet material is pure vsl using the solo strings. I love those libraries for the richness of their articulation sets. The only complaint I would make is that the paucity of velocity layers makes it difficult to really represent a true richness of dynamic range. Really quiet music is hard to do, although the sordino sets get you closer. The chamber ensemble is almost pure vsl made up of string bass, harp, tenor trombone, bass trumpet, alto flute, contrabass clarinet, bass waterphone, and crotales, plus the incredible IRCAM prepared piano. That ensemble is a pure pleasure to work with, with the exception of the bass waterphone. I love the instrument for its almost electroacoustic quality, but it's lacking in velocity layers so the sound gets old pretty fast with overuse. Man oh man would I love a waterphone with four or five layers. I'm actually surprised that our friends at vsl didn't produce that way, given that it's got to be the most forgiving of instruments to design, with no two strokes of a pitch sounding the same. I've found this frustrating enough that I'm considering buying one and producing my own Kontakt instrument with multi-layers. The richness of the performances is made possible by means of automating the selection of articulations based on realtime analysis of a set of ten "melodic features" while the MIDI is being played. Articulation sets or "playing styles" as I call them are preassigned to be mapped to those features. Different playing styles can be instantly swapped in for each other during the performance based on larger phrase features - phrase-period, antecedent-consequent kind of structures. That's all embedded in the hierarchical form that arises or "emerges" from the recursively structured temporal form. That's, of course, the Hofstadter connection. You might recall I made a fairly extensive post or two describing how the automatic performance works last year. Anyone interested in replicating this can probably figure it out from there. Some programming--that is, coding--is required. And it also helps to have some of the latest research in the cognitive science around music perception under your belt. That's what the Hesse quote was getting at. Advanced computer music like this really is, imho, a Glass Bead Game. But, if you ask me, good composers and musicians for that matter, have always known this, which is the Zappa connection. Figure out what you want to do and go to the library to get books you can learn it from. It's all there. And of course listen to the best music by the best composers.

  • Hi Kenneth,

    For me, it's really the very first time that I hear the VSL strings sounding that way. If it's all VSL, than you've reached a point beyond the so called 'normal' use of the strings. I can only admire that. During my musical education we only received the classical way of dealing (playing and composing) strings sounds (up to the beginning of the 20th century). I have a number of friends who play contemporary experimental music, but I've never heard it with samples so far.

    The ambience (very unmanipulated and pure, hardly any reverb) pleases me as well. Very interesting and enriching!


  • Hello Max,

    First of all, sorry for the lapse in replying to your post here.  I was on the road most of the summer and only am getting caught up on things here at VSL Community now.

    Yes, this is all VSL, with the exception of the IRCAM prepared piano on the chamber ensemble pieces.  It's interesting isn't it?, one composer's "beyond normal" can so easily be another's "normal".  I suppose it demonstrates the profound difference different educations can make.  My education was, first of all as a child learning to play the piano, a grounding in not only Bach but Bartok. I had a teacher who, while looking back with profound respect to previous centuries, had his feet firmly planted in the twentieth.  Then my university experience was in the context of so-called "contemporary music" where there was no normal :-)  My objective in using the VSL libraries is to try to reflect my personal understanding of how music—its structure and performance—works.  The richness of the offerings of these libraries, particularly the solo strings makes it possible, in the context of a bit of home-brew artificial intelligence, to make use of that richness and still get some sleep!

    I'd like to make this music more widely available so I made selection of the works available in a dropbox folder for anyone who's interested in hearing the complete works.  I realized that my extensive facebook community of composers and performers doesn't include anyone from this community—another curious anomaly.  At any rate, here's the link. And if you'd like to connect on facebook you can find me at kenneth.newby.


    P.S. To our dear friends and enablers of this music at VSL: If you'd like to include any of this in the examples of what people are doing with your libraries I'd be happy to see that happen.

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    Hi Kenneth I like very much what I hear it is a charming kind of "contemporary music"

    It reminds me a bit an a little Stringquartett I've made some years ago based on the musical understandable letters of my name: Stringquartet

    Modern Music like yours inspires me to come back to composing again. However I like your way to use VSL.

  • Thanks Steffen.  I appreciate your reaction.  I've always been of the opinion that music very much has the power to "charm" the listener.  And the beauty of the art of music is that there are so many ways to do it.

    You quartet was interesting... In the early section it almost sounds like the instruments are being processed by a digital delay with those crisp repetitions.  I see it was completed in 2004... almost fourteen years ago.  Is that an early work?



  • Yes this an very early example of my experiments with Digital Audio workstations. I came from working with NI-Reaktor and used at that time more and more samplelibraries to explore the dimension of invention and recognition of familiar structures of musicmaking which I found very helpful in the traditional musical language compared to the nearly boundless possibilities for instance of synthezisers. The experiment was very similar to some of ligetis attempts to realise electronic music with traditional instruments already several decades before. So there are only "pure" Solostringsamples. That means there is absolutly no delay applied but the whole repeting effect composed and shaped tone for tone, as if a regular stringquarttet will do.

    I have "suspended" compositional experiments in order to delve in the whole univers of our tradition "resurrected" in the world of samplebased recordings being a great "inhalation" of musical language and thought of previous centuries. Music like yours remind me that however deep inhalation might be once I also will have the desire to "exhale", applying and using for my own thoughts what I absorbed from my experiments with traditional repertoire. ;-)

  • Great stuff Kenneth. So well written and captivating. A great advert for VSL too.
  • Thanks for the kind words regarding this work. And I'm pleased if it prompts anyone to engage in their own creative efforts in music. We live in such a rich time given the openings in music that occured in the last 150 years of Euro-American music, not to mention the opening to the whole world of music of different cultures. It always surprises me how much effort is put into recreating the works of the past rather than balancing that effort in creating the works of now or the future. But then, Marshall McLuhan taught us that any new medium, such as this one we're learning to master here, is typically driven with our eyes firmly locked on the rear-view mirror.  Witness the birth of cinema which was basically a filmic documentation of theater—no moving camera, closeups, montage, etc.—it took quite a while before the language of cinema was formulated.  We're in a similar situation now with the new technologies at our disposal. It's easy to look back. The models are there to imitate, and there's no denying that one learns much from mastering them. But at some point we need to get our eyes of that rear-view mirror and look forward to where we're headed.  It's a brave new world of artificial intelligence and tools—musical assistants—that allow us to explore the landscape of creative approaches to music at a level of efficiency beyond belief.  Sounds scary to a lot of people, but the benefits of being able to try out ideas at such a rate, and effectively separate the wheat from the chaff, are profound and I think the new music of the future is going to be extraordinary as a result.  We just need to make sure that the tools are as musical as our conceptions of music are—that they "know" as much as we do if not more—so as to accomodate as wide a set of musical practices as possible.  Early days, but interesting times ahead I think.

  • Hi Kenneth,

    I understand your complaints...

    To do something about it, I passed the box-link to my friend (viola player in the Spectra Ensemble - you should google it), he might perhaps be interested in your music. I can't promise anything, but as soon as I get a reply, I'll let you know and establish further contact.


  • Thanks Max! That's a wonderful gesture.  They have a lovely website don't they?  The work is visually very beautiful.


  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on