EASL_V2html The Electronic Arts Of Sound And Light
Volume 2 of Music for the Book
Ronald A. Pellegrino





Please note that links to music samples are to be found below at the end of the composer's note for each track.


If you do not have a good quality satellite sound system connected to the audio output of your computer, as the composer I would prefer that you NOT download the sound samples associated with each of my tracks. My pieces are like my spirit children and I don't want them to be treated badly by inadequate transducers. It's already bad enough that the sound samples are compressed versions (a current internet requirement) of what you would hear from the CDs which are in themselves digitized (distorted) versions of the analog sounds as I heard them originally. To navigate those shoals I test and adjust all my sound samples on 7 different audio systems and 3 different computers in my personal studios and scores of both systems out in the world. In a nutshell, what I've found is that all built-in computer sound systems STINK and should never be used for music. If you are more than half-serious about music, connect at least a good audio system to your computer. The better the audio system, the richer and deeper your musical experience, and the closer to hearing the music as the composer did.

Furthermore, please remember that the sound samples are just samples--not highlights, not the pieces, just out of context highly compressed excerpts that hang together in ways that give a sense of what one might expect to hear from various tracks. It's important to get beyond confusing the samples for the pieces. If you are at all interested in the quality of music, listening to a CD via a good audio system gets your ears reasonably close to the original music. In any case, avoid settling for dumbed down audio. The difference between even a decent satellite audio system hanging on the end of a computer and what you would hear from good standalone audio system is like the difference between night and day. Often I hear from young people who've grown up with buds in the ears that they doubt they could hear the difference between mediocre and good audio. My response to them is that now is a good time to educate your ear so you can have a lifelong deeper appreciation of the power and beauty of sound to affect your soul. Much is lost when music is considered no more than a commodity to be squeezed into smaller and smaller storage spaces. Go for the systems that can handle bigger files; they tell better stories.


Introduction


Late in 1981 when I finished writing THE ELECTRONIC ARTS OF SOUND AND LIGHT (released in early 1983) I dove into a to-do list that had been building for four years. While I was working on that book I was busy with full-time university teaching and doing electronic arts gigs on the road. And I was also fending off agents from Van Nostrand Reinhold, the publisher, who, for several years running, pressured me to complete the book project. They did not care one iota that I was making a special effort to write a book on art technology in a way that would give it legs; they were more interested in making a buck now. So it pleased me immensely when I discovered 25 years later in 2008 that, despite being out of print for almost two decades, the book had morphed into being a good seller online and that readers and critics over the years referred to it as a "classic", "a bible", and "seminal".

From my perspective one of its weaknesses is, although the book is packed with charts, illustrations, and photos, that it has neither audio nor video. So to further clarify as well as flesh out the positions I took in the book on composition and aesthetics I decided to publish multiple volumes of audio and video representative of what was happening in my electronic arts garden during the 14 year period covered by the book. Video examples are found in Part Two: The DVDs of Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies (2009), my current project.

All the music on this CD is made public for the first time outside of my solo and collaborative live performances. The music provides examples of the musical and philosophical positions articulated in my 1983 book as well as those in the book I finished recently. When that early book was published I had been operating for over a decade with a policy of only making my music available to the public via my personal appearances—concerts, lecture-demonstrations, and radio and TV shows. My reasoning was straight forward. I was not a musical materialist; instead I wanted my music to be in and of the moment. I also wanted to be completely free of inside or outside pressure to repeat what I had done musically in the past (such repetition being the tried and true method for establishing a commercial identity). Plus I was waiting for the right time in my life to release my electronic arts work in forms that made sense to me. So until very recently I refused all offers to make my music available in any recorded form. Now the time is right for releasing my recordings and I am in the midst of preparing and releasing multiple CDs. One set of CDs (this set) will be connected to my book published in 1983 and the other set will be connected to my 2009 book.

Volume 2 of Music for the Book is composed of solo pieces and collaborations. The solo tracks include one called Voice Sifting (1973), an audio illustration of what's involved in the search for a fully fleshed out synthesizer system voice. The instrument is an ARP 2600, one of a set of synthesizers I used on road shows at The University of Illinois Phoenix 73 Festival, both in my solo sets and in my duets with electronic music giant Sal Martirano. Another solo track called Early 70s Lamentations (1973) is one example of how throughout my life I have put music to work as a therapeutic vehicle for releasing personal psychological strains partly with the intention of achieving a like effect in resonant listeners. Tronic Folksong (1981) was composed in my Kelly Lane Studios but my mind and spirit were singing to the Pacific Ocean at Dillon Beach on the Sonoma coastline, one of my favorite destinations during the 24 years I lived in Petaluma. The track called Milwaukee River (1967) is a remix of my score for what was probably one of the earliest environmental consciousness-raising pieces in the movement. It clearly demonstrates that from my earliest work with music synthesizers I was committed to the vocal spirit issuing from electronic sound.

The collaborations include duets with Howard Moscovitz (Oakland Shuffle (1974)), Lawrence McDonald on clarinet (S&H Explorations (1972)), and James Gillerman on trumpet (UC-Berkeley Carillon Lark (1976); I played the carillon.). Additional collaborations include several Real* Electric Symphony performances, one at Old First Church in San Francisco including Gordon Mumma, Olly Wilson, and Howard Moscovitz, and another at Cat's Paw Palace for the Performing Arts in Berkeley including James Gillerman and Bob Lansdon. A track that is 100% acoustic but sounds very electronic is Bellows (1980), a performance at Texas Tech University by my group called The Real Time Electric Theater Band (RTETB). Everyone who studied with me at Texas Tech was a member of that band. Normally the RTETB involved a subset of the group configured differently for different projects but this performance of Bellows involved everyone; it was the opening act for a concert by composer Pauline Oliveros who was in residence as part of our Leading Edge Music Series.


Composer's Notes


Track 1 - Oakland Shuffle (1974)
. Howard Moscovitz and I met often in 1974 to play duets. Musically we were simpatico so getting together was always a special treat. Howard has BIG EARS; you can hear the depth of his listening through the quality of his playing. Our sessions were mostly in his Oakland, CA studio just before he decided to leave the professional music world and instead to pursue electrical engineering. What I like most about our duets is that they carry the sense of an harmonious approach to creating collaboratively a highly electronic yet classically informed soundspace. We recorded at each of over a half dozen meetings and in studying those tapes I have not heard anything that sounds as if it were born of competition; that's very rare. It's also clear from the music that we both held the electron in high regard. When I was working with Howard, he had an MFA from Mills College but his sights were set on a Masters in Electrical Engineering from UC-Berkeley. Now after a long career at Bell Laboratories he's back to making electronic music. Sample link.

Track 2 - Voice Sifting (1973). This track should be heard as an illustration of what's involved in the search for a fully fleshed out synthesizer system voice by musically thinking out loud. In this case I was working with an ARP 2600, one of a set of synthesizers I planned to use on coming road shows. The recording was part of my early preparations for a residency at The University of Illinois Phoenix 73 Festival. I was in the process of preparing myself to give a solo concert and a duet concert with Salvatore Martirano, a recognized major force in the field of electronic music. During my preparations I did not know that Sal and I were going to find time for a number of long recording sessions but they turned out to be the highlights of my time in Champaign.

What's illustrated in this track is fundamental to the process of preparing for a real time composition event. The early exploratory stages usually yield the most exciting and seductive discoveries. As a balance to the inspiration of the moment, sufficient discipline is required to find paths back to the best of what's being discovered. Notating systems (flowcharts and notes) and multiple audio recordings (at least one close to the end of each session) and their subsequent study are crucial steps in the process.

Compare the early developmental stages of this voice with its use in the context of a piece such as Early 70s Lamentations (Track 4).

It's worth noting the conversational nature of the music on this track. The fact is that I always approach the preparation for the composition of a duet as a conversation; so in the process of thinking out loud, the musical structures typically mirror actual verbal structures I might use in conversations with other artists. It's especially fruitful to turn a phrase first this way and then that way to hear whether a door opens to the unexpected, in other words, to create an environment with triggers to the emergent. Following up on and developing those surprises gives life to the process as well as to the doer of the process.

During my earliest days of working in electronic music studios I was often on the receiving end of requests to "look over my shoulder" and "pick my brain" (how strange that expression!) while I was working. It didn't take long before that became my electronic composition teaching style both in classwork and individual tutorials. Approached as an etude this track represents a similar function, listening over my shoulder. Sample link.

Track 3 - Bellows (1980). This piece was created for the final event featuring the music of Pauline Oliveros who had been with us for several days as a guest on the Leading Edge Music Series (LEMS), an artist series I founded and directed from 1978-1981 while on the faculty of Texas Tech University (TTU). The Real Time Electric Theater Band (RTETB), everyone (in multiple configurations) studying music with me at TTU, opened for the visiting artists presenting concerts as part of the LEMS. One of the facets of my teaching at TTU was to involve students and faculty in the real time composition process. Opening for visiting artists on the LEMS was a great vehicle for showcasing the process and the people involved in it. With as many as seven visiting artist events per year, a judicious scheduling of their visits spread over the academic year generated an ongoing creative environment for TTU students and faculty to participate in the real time composition process.

Bellows features TTU faculty member David Payne on tuba along with handbell choirs I'm conducting. David's tuba playing is moving to say the least. Over the years it's been a great privilege to work with musicians like David who represent that relatively small number of university music faculty who remain open to the creative process and are not just slaves to what they are or have been told to do by notation or their teachers. The handbell music is somewhat related to "change ringing" in the sense that there is no attempt to produce a conventional melody with the bells. Instead the handbell players were organized into choirs of frequency ranges, harmonies, and clusters. This is a variation of a process I used in 1969 at The Ohio State University when I turned a freshmen music theory class into a chorus of whistlers that I conducted to accompany graphic artist Bruce Papier's beautiful animated visual projections.

I conducted the handbell choirs in the same way I would play a music synthesizer, so in a sense Bellows is a duet. In fact as the conductor I mostly followed what I anticipated David might do musically. (Strange sentence because I'm looking to the future for what the present will be and I know that it's highly probable that much of it will be based on what has transpired (the past). That's a good description (prescription?) for the process of real time composition. But the fact is that anyone who lives their life with intelligence does that much of the time, despite the best efforts of social mechanics and technocrats to gear up the populace for lockstep living. (In a nutshell, that's the real time composition message—a musical exercise in living a life that's both in tune and freely composed.) Sample link.

Track 4 - Early 70s Lamentations (1973). This music was often used as one of the scores to CRIES, a film in my Lissajous Lives Film Series. It's the result of a studio performance I did shortly after returning from the University of Illinois Phoenix 73 gig. On a purely technical level I wanted to be certain that I documented the musical material I invested so much energy creating.

This is heavy heart music but it would not have happened without the guidance of the head. I rarely discuss the subject because it tends to lead to the snowing of flakes but for me the therapeutic value of music has always been paramount. It should be easy enough to hear from the music that at the time I created it I was dealing with an overflowing plate of emotional issues, some of which did not get resolved fully for decades. For me it works both ways but this time it was the head lifting the spirits of the heart. It's important to bear in mind that in addition to the inherent therapeutic value carried by sound, the act of creating music (or any art for that matter) in the form of marshaling and focusing one's positive resources is in itself one of the higher forms of therapy. Some of us would be lost souls without the power of music to harmonize our beings. Sample link.

Track 5 - S&H Explorations (1972), features Lawrence McDonald on clarinet, a fellow collaborator during my years on the faculty of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. The piece was composed for Larry; he did the first and many other performances of it while I was on the Oberlin faculty. The clarinet part is traditionally notated but the ARP 2600 part uses custom graphic notation which means the sonic result from the 2600 is different (though very close) with each performance. I sketched the 2600 part because I intended to perform it myself wherever it was programmed; graphic notation gave me license to experiment with the synthesizer shapes in performance. I have sweet memories of playing this piece coast to coast with some of the best clarinetists in the USA including new music pioneers and principals of major orchestras.

The clarinet part actually sounds more difficult than it is to play (though it's certainly challenging enough even for the best clarinetists). That's because, after seriously studying the clarinet from age 9 to 28 and performing many solo virtuoso pieces in my late teens and early 20s, I had intimate knowledge of what sounded difficult but was actually relatively easy to play on the clarinet. I put that knowledge to work on this piece.

The title is based on my musical explorations of the sample and hold (S&H) unit on the ARP 2600 (at that time a new addition to one of the Oberlin Conservatory electronic music studios). Functionally the S&H unit takes a sample of the voltage at its input, holds the voltage level for a specified length of time, and makes it available at its output. For my own amusement and edification I played every sort of musical game I could imagine with the unit including converting clarinet loudness (amplitude) to voltage that I applied as an input to the S&H unit so I could take the output and apply it as a control voltage on a resonating low pass filter that operated directly on a mix of the straight clarinet sound and a soft drone; that's what creates the pitched percussion that you hear along with the clarinet in the middle section.

This piece was composed during a transitional period when I was still notating music in the traditional way (the clarinet part is completely written in tradional notation) while in the same period I was composing a series of films (the Lissajous Lives film series) to be used as dynamic graphic scores (a visual music flavor), experimenting with synthesizer instrument designs that would simultaneously generate the music and the imagery, doing experimental video work in San Francisco, designing interactive music/light/air currents/audience movement multimedia environments that ran for days in chapels, doing live synthesizer performances of my graphically notated pieces at Oberlin and on the road, collaborating with Oberlin performance artists in designing an InterArts Program, directing Oberlin's Electronic Music Studios, and teaching electronic composition and theory classes. Given that overflowing plate I did everything quickly in those days and this piece was no exception; I finished it in less than a week as the 1972 new year was dawning.

This was a "money piece" for me, a piece that generated gigs because I composed it so I was the only person who could play the ARP 2600 part which was notated in a type of ARP 2600 specific tablature. So if someone wanted to perform it they had to hire me to play the synthesizer part; of course this meant that the exercise of quality control was built into the piece. The upshot is that I performed the piece with top professional clarinetists in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Dallas, etc. and the situation was always the same—despite the precisely notated clarinet part I always had to sing the music to them for them to get it right.

So during this period I seriously began to doubt the efficacy of traditional notation to suggest much beyond gross mechanics (this realization was surfacing and clarifying after 23 years of studying, performing, and composing with traditional music notation and earning a BM, MM, and PhD in music composition and theory) so I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the notion of designing real time composition systems for both solo and group settings. During this period I also committed to the idea of visual music in which the notation (the imagery) emerges directly from the same source as the sonic music (flip sides of the same coin; music for the eye and ear emerging from one and the same energy train).

When I listen to this piece 37 years after I composed and performed it, it sounds to me like classical music. I attribute that to the traditional notation of the clarinet part. Of course I have no way of knowing how others will hear it in 2009 and beyond. Sample link.

Track 6 - Early Earth Walk (1975) -- This is the second excerpt from the same concert presented by The Real* Electric Symphony at Old First Church in San Francisco; the first excerpt appears on Volume 1 of Music for the Book. Joining me for this performance were some heavy-weight electronic music practitioners, namely Gordon Mumma, Olly Wilson, and Howard Moscovitz. At the time of this performance Gordon (an electronic music pioneer) was on the faculty of UC-Santa Cruz, Olly (prize-winning electronic music composer) was on the faculty of UC-Berkeley, and Howard (already in his youth a notable electronic music instrument designer) was heading for a lifetime career at Bell Labs designing DSPs that would make their way into all sorts of electronic systems. My "virtual group", The Real* Electric Symphony, was in the 70s what today would be called a "media band" or more precisely, a performance-multimedia band. It was a "virtual group " in the sense that I engaged specific performers for specific gigs from an extensive collection of performance artists with the majority living in the San Francisco Bay Area and others spread across the USA and Europe. In other words, the composition of the R*ES changed according to the requirements and location of the gig; the size of the group ranged from three to as many as thirty performers and in age from 18 to 83 years.

In this example of our work it should be easy enough to hear how intensely this group is involved in creating emergent music -- listening to each other; choosing when and how to enter, where to locate their contribution (foreground, middle-ground, background), and when and how to exit the virtual soundspace. Remember that we are not playing from a score; instead the music is an exercise completely given over to musically responsible freedom. Now I know from many positive experiences that given the right combination of performance artists there is no musical experience more satisfying and inspiring than being a member of real time creative group that somehow balances being harmonious with being surprising, and, again in retrospect, this feels like one of those high times. Bearing in mind that this is the end of a 45-minute set, it seems the baby you hear (commenting on being there) just before the applause begins shares my appraisal.

It's just as beautiful inside as it is outside. Sample link.



Track 7 - UC-Berkeley Carillon Lark (1976). From the perspective of late 2009 I'm astonished that we were able to access the UC-Berkeley Campanile for an experimental music event. Clearly it was a very different time. That I could just ask and receive access to such an iconic structure stuns me today, especially because my affiliation with that institution at the time was just fleeting. Now it's true that we were in the midst of an SF Bay Area New Music West Festival, that I had recently contracted with the Music Department's Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players to perform some of my work with them in the Berkeley Art Museum, and that my group, The Real* Electric Symphony, was scheduled to perform several gigs at the Berkeley Art Museum and several more at the Lawrence Hall of Science, but allowing two male experimental artists to have the run of the Tower for a noon concert is a serious stretch, then and especially now. I remember thinking it was a unique opportunity at the time, but looking back on it over 33 years later I know I underestimated how unique it truly was.

This CD track represents my first and last experience playing on Tower Bells. It was a hoot (so maybe owl rather than lark?). The track is from the last few minutes of our performance which is one of the reasons it feels like one of those drawn out classical final cadences. Listening to it now shoots me back to that dream-like setting. When you poke your head out of the Tower portals you can see Sonoma County with its pristine air to the north and San Jose with its polluted air to the south. Across the Bay is San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean plus all those beautiful bridges tying together the peninsulas and land masses that make up the Bay Area. We were up in the Tower in late October so it was the perfect SF Bay Area autumn day. At the time I was in the middle of a two year stint doing an experimental new music show on KPFA, public radio in Berkeley, and I must have announced it on my show because there so many people surrounding the Tower; I doubt they were all students.

James Gillerman, on trumpet, was spraying sound around the Berkeley campus by poking his bell out of every portal on the Tower, sometimes getting closer to the mic and sometimes further away; that's easy enough to hear via the changes in level and timbre of the trumpet sound on the recording. The microphone placement was fixed because James, once again, arrived for the gig with his trusty ReVox and he just set everything down and hit record never thinking that 33 years later the outcome would show up on a CD.

The following is a few sentences of what UC-Berkeley has to say about the Tower—"Sather Tower, known to most as the Campanile, is perhaps UC-Berkeley's most famous symbol. Visible for miles, it stands 307 feet tall and is the third tallest bell and clock-tower in the world. The observation platform, located 200 feet up, provides visitors with a spectacular view of the entire Bay Area and of the campus. You can enjoy the music of the Campanile's set of bells, called a carillon, from all over campus. Located above the observation platform, the 61 massive bells weigh from 19 to 10,500 pounds. The Campanile was completed in 1914." The photos give a good sense of the setting. Sample link.




Track 8 - Tronic Folksong (1981). Although this piece was composed in my Kelly Lane Studios, my mind and spirit were 10 miles away singing to the Pacific Ocean at Dillon Beach on the Sonoma coastline, one of my favorite destinations during the 24 years I lived in Petaluma. As a musical structure it is sweet and simple—a background wash and a singable folk-like melody with cymatic ornaments. The melody was composed on an ARP 2600 synthesizer, an instrument I bought in 1972; 37 years later it's still, with good reason, the preferred analog synthesizer by most professionals. I did not consciously set out to compose a waltz but that's what emerged from my sonic rocking, and once it did I was happy to stay with it. Sonic rocking is a free music technique I've used since my earliest days making music; I believe I was thoroughly programmed by the red rocking duck I loved so much as a toddler. Sample link.

Track 9 - Milwaukee River (1967), is a remix of the original score. When I was completing my graduate studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968 I was commissioned by some folks from the UW TV department to compose music for what was probably one of the earliest environmental consciousness-raising pieces in the movement.  I believe the title for their piece was "This Is The Milwaukee River".  They were trying to draw attention to the sad state of the river and to motivate people to start making improvements. I know that the video was broadcast nationally (was it called Education Television (ETV) at that time?) because friends from around the country contacted me after they saw the video and my name in the credits.  I was very busy at that time finishing a dissertation and making preparations to move to a new teaching position so I just took the money and ran.

At the time I composed this music I was obsessed with the notion of tone painting, the idea that sound could color and suggest a scene of any sort from lyrical to dramatic extremes. For as long as I can remember I felt that was true intuitively. When as part of my graduate studies I took seminars and wrote papers focused on the music of William Byrd, Richard Wagner, and Arnold Schoenberg I learned through theoretical analysis and extensive listening that there is a long historical tradition and a wealth of tried and true techniques for tone painting. My first choice for a doctoral dissertation was tone painting in the music Arnold Schoenberg; he was a master. But instead a Moog synthesizer appeared on campus at UW-Madison and my musical life took a new direction.

However tone painting was still very much a part of what I did then and what I do now. My vision for that music was taking a trip down the Milwaukee River and listening to what the beings that lived in, on, around, and off the river had to say musically about what was happening at that time to the quality of the river and its environment.  So the music is conversational in nature with multiple voices having their say; it's definitely dramatic. For me this sort of tone painting was an early version of my cyberspirit explorations. Sample link.

Track 10 - R*ES@Cat's Paw in Berkeley (1976). Joining me for this Real* Electric Symphony gig were Bob Lansdon on electronic music toys, including a fancy new delay unit, and James Gillerman on ARP 2600 and trumpet. As you can hear from the track, this was a highly compatible trio. The opening creature-like lead work was done on one of my collection of acoustic toys that had voices very close in sound quality and gestural shaping to what I was designing with electronic systems at the time.

From 1975-1977 I felt free for the first time in my adult life so I enjoyed what I approached as a field research period, a time to test my sonic and visual music work in public on three continents. As a free-lance artist/educator not attached to a single university I was completely free to travel at will; so as a solo composer/performer and with my ever-changing virtual group, The Real* Electric Symphony, I was involved in well over 100 public performances over several years. Cat's Paw Palace for the Performing Arts in Berkeley, CA was one of my favorite spaces; it was the perfect size to accommodate in an intimate setting an audience of several hundred people, was covered completely in a beautiful hardwood dance floor, and was the brainchild and in the care of one of my favorite collaborators, dancer/choreographer Margaret Fisher.

During that period, for Real* Electric Symphony gigs, I sometimes hired a brilliant young man named Bob Lansdon who was completing a PhD in mathematics at UC-Santa Cruz in the field of dynamical systems as well as doing opticial research for Dolby Systems in San Francisco. He did considerable work at UC-Santa Cruz with Ralph Abraham, pioneering chaos theorist and author who was also a member of a pioneering group of math visualizers there. During that period I visited the UC-Santa Cruz campus a number of times to present my work in visual music to graduate math seminars which included some of the chaos and visualizing math researchers. It was generally agreed that we were exploring the same field through different but related windows. It was the Bob Lansdon connection that made those UC-Santa Cruz experiences possible.

Most of my art experiences with Bob Lansdon were connected with my laser animations either in presentation to their graduate math seminar or with some collaborative laser animation explorations in one of my Kelly Lane Studios. His performances on gigs with the R*ES were memorable. That for some unknown reasons he decided to cut his life short well before he reached his prime saddened everyone who knew him. His playing on this track is a testament to his talent and intelligence.

James Gillerman on ARP 2600 and trumpet was an SF Bay Area R*ES regular during this period. He was "there" in so many ways. Musically, always. Plus he often would haul in his trusty ReVox to record our events, and that was no small matter. Many of the recordings of the R*ES exist only because someone on their own, such as James Gillerman or Gordon Mumma, would make the extra effort to make it happen. I'm especially thankful decades after the fact. Sample link.



To view selected sections of Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies, Part 1: The Book, click on one of the following:
Contents
Preface
Chapter 1, Emergent Music
Chapter 15, Visual Music Flavors
Acknowledgments
Index


Information on Part 2: The DVDs.


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