CD 5 - Playgrounds
Part 3: The CDs
Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies
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.


CD 5 - Playgrounds presents eleven different examples of sonic playgrounds ranging from solo sonic flight patterns, to dramatic renderings of a set of synonyms, to a fully patched and played electronic music studio, and to the melding of an audience with an experimental dance band. The CD opens with a piece composed in real time called Pipe Dreams that electronically goes beyond the limitations of acoustic pipes but does that idiomatically enough to be believable. The Deb Fox Tours exploit an electronic arts software set (a playground) created by Eric Wenger, perhaps the most visionary software designer of the late 20th/early 21st Centuries. Reservoir Boys features dramatic and humorous vocalizations of mid-1970s pre-teen boys working out the details of playing an ongoing baseball game—ensemble real time composition of a sublime order.

Play is a matter of utmost seriousness in the performance arts. Without that special joyful quality that comes only from play, performance in the arts is little more than a soulless mechanical exercise. To be reminded daily of the primacy of play should be an integral part of every artist’s practice sessions.

Performance artists play to work and work to play. With play comes spiritually uplifting delight even when the occasion may be weighted down with seriousness.

Play is the celebration of the human facility of expressively operating human breath, body, senses, mind, and soul in an integrated/coordinated fashion. Artful play is the vehicle for expressing the full range of healthy emotions connected with being alive.

When meeting a musician the first questions asked are “What instrument do you play?”. And then “What kind of music do you play? Who do play with? Where have you played? Where and when do you play next? Do you want to play with us?" If you substitute the word work for play in any of these questions the magic of the art disappears and is replaced by mechanics unconnected to the heart.

The same questions apply to athletes—"What sport do you play? What position do you play?" And so on... Performance artists are athletes that play on the field of human feelings.

The only way to excel in the performance arts is to practice. Meaningful practice requires playful repetition. Mindless and soulless repetition normally has a very short lifespan and, if that lifespan is extended by any form of force, the result is always mechanical execution bereft of heart and soul, a lamentable waste of a precious gift, the refined life force.

The artful way to focus and extend practice is to treat it as play. The quality of that play is directly correlated with one’s imagination as expressed by the invention of variations and embellishments that fertilize the objectives of practice in ways that bear the fruit of meaningful art. If one can’t learn to enjoy practice, one has no future in that medium.

How many different ways can you initiate a tone on a particular instrument? How do you organize those ways into initiation families? By physical attributes? Emotional attributes? Kinesthetic attributes? All these questions are examples of games that can be played differently according to different players and instruments. These questions make up just one small subset of games that can played as part of a process to discover one’s unique voice in the performance arts. Artful play is the method for articulating a unique point of view, that view being the most important contribution one can make to fellow beings now and in the future.

The primary function of music composition is to design playgrounds that performance artists can use as solo creative vehicles or, gathering in greater numbers and in concerted celebration, can build sound castles that both remind us of our fundamental humanity and provide us with a sense of the more elevated forms of humanity.

Composer's Notes

Track 1 - Pipe Dreams (1988) 7:33

For the first 19 years of my musical life I played pipes of one sort or another starting with the clarinet at age nine, adding the alto sax in jr. high school, adding the flute in high school, and then finally in college exploring the smallest to largest instruments of all those families while gradually adding the serious study of all the instruments of the orchestra as a facet of my composition work. What you hear on this track is very close to the sort of pipe music I've been exploring all my life.

There were periods when I wasn't playing any pipes at all because I was preoccupied with some other music related games but, when I was lost in reverie on one of my daily walks, I would find myself fingering pipe melodies that were floating through my head. As much as I love playing around with other instruments, pipes always felt like home. In Pipe Dreams I'm playing the pipe patch with a MIDI keyboard controller so while sometimes I'm sculpting these sounds so they are idiomatically pipe-like, there are other times when the sound world is clearly driven by what multiple fingers can command a keyboard to play. Sound Sample

Track 2 - Tour One from the Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours (2001) 4:02

I expected the composition of The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours to occupy me for many months because I wanted to record a fully fleshed out example of a showcasing process I explored often over the years on the road, but other projects quickly pushed the project to a back burner; so I'm left with virtual bins of materials still waiting for my attention. Like many of my compositions since the late 1960s, this is a targeted study to integrate the latest affordable emerging technology in the electronic arts with the spirit of a specific performance artist. Such studies are my favorite vehicles for learning about the new gear as well as learning about the performance artists.

Often I've done similar pieces with local artists in a very accelerated form usually when I'm doing week-long residencies on the road; the performing artists have been dancers, poets, theater folks, light artists, and all sorts of musicians. Our collaborations always result in pieces that are programmed on public events, consequently our focus on the coming performances never seems to allow enough time to conduct a recording process properly, so it's never part of the schedule.

In brief, what happens in the process is that a piece emerges or precipitates from a semi-anticipated evolving cloud of hardware, software, people, ideas, and technical problems. One of the objectives of the process is to sculpt the unpredictable into something that is somewhat more predictable, and eventually presentable to an audience as a art game being played by performance artists. The notion of "on-the-fly" is extended from the moment to a longer time scale, anywhere from hours to days. It's hours when there's the pressure to perform publicly as part of a residency and days when the context is more of social gathering. The purpose is more the collaborative learning process than it is the finished piece. Most of my set pieces are born of this process. Often the pieces that remain in my concert rotation longest (the set pieces) are those that emphatically demonstrate to me something I hadn't imagined initially, in other words, something I learned that was worthy of further study and field testing. In fact if the project does not quickly lead to a fruitful discovery process, it's usually abandoned and replaced by whatever is next on my to-do list. You can't learn what you already know. The best learning takes place via discovery.

The musician on this track is Deb Fox, a San Francisco multi-instrumentalist performance artist. Her history includes performances with numerous bands in San Francisco, Boston, and Hawaii. In late 2000 we met at an Other Minds event in San Francisco and, after a number of meetings exploring common ground, we scheduled a session to record her playing whatever she felt like doing consistent with the idea of integrating real time composition with her personal stream of consciousness music expression. All the basic unprocessed material found on Deb Fox Tour One, Deb Fox Tour Two, and Deb Fox Additional Video Files (on Part Two: The DVDs) is derived from one long recording session at one of my Eastman Lane studios in the hills west of Petaluma. Every single note you hear on Tracks 2 and 8 is derived heterophonically in one way or another from the viola playing of Deb Fox. That's just another way of saying that the spirit of Deb Fox is embedded and embellished in the music. Listen for it.

Heterophony is a term with roots in the philosophy of Plato. It refers to a freely created form of polyphony that simultaneously employs slightly to more considerably modified versions of the same musical structures (usually melody) by two or more performers. (In this case my computer processing functions as the second performer.) Most likely the idea of heterophony emerged historically close on the heels of melody when people first started making music together (maybe a follower couldn't keep up or maybe the leader was a bit of a show-off and added some difficult to follow material). You can create your own theories on why it might have happened but there should be no disagreement that it certainly emerged a long time ago; so heterophony as a compositional approach has the benefit of a very long organic tradition. Especially in the music of regular folks, heterophony has always remained paramount. In its simplest form it's just a matter of following the leader as closely as possible; good mistakes (variations) are encouraged as a form of sound spice. What I've always found most seductive about heterophony is that the leading edge of a musical structure seems to cut through the space of time as it surrounds itself with a wake of its own influences and in doing so leaves long trailing, ornamental clouds than deepen and enrich its musical nature. In the global music of the 21st century heterophony continues to play a fundamental structural role; it often involves more recent (past four or five centuries?) intellectual devices such as augmentation, diminution, ornamentation, etc., and at the contemporary emerging technological level, adjustable windows on all music variables.

Alchemy in the arts can be viewed as a process for transforming what is mined from an experience and adding value and personal color to it by putting it in the company of other experiences and processes (gardeners: think "from compost heap to edible delights"; neurologists: think creative thinking). It's a method of combining and tuning multidimensional matrices to create new higher level forms most often beyond anticipation—a method that is an ideal environment for exploring, learning, and creating. For The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours, the sonic and visual music alchemical tool set is a software electronic arts synthesizer made up of a combination of U&I Software products—MetaSynth, MetaTrack, ArtMatic Pro, Videodelic, and Xx. These are software products for the Macintosh computer by Eric Wenger, one of the premiere software designers of the late 20th/early 21st centuries; he was based in San Francisco at the time the work on this piece was done.

The Tours are various paths through sets of emergent music and visual music explorations collected over many play sessions. The individual pieces are composed to stand alone or to be considered modules that can be placed into various sequences (the tours) according to production requirements. Look for Deb Fox's images in the abstract computer-mediated video animations (found in Part Two: The DVDs). Visually as well as sonically she's everywhere all the time in these pieces. The fundamental compositional notion is closely related to the motivic work of composers from the Western Classical era.

As a composer, especially in my performance-multimedia work on the road, I've collaborated with artists who exhibit a broad range of technical proficiency. From my compositional perspective the technical facility of a performing artist always takes second place to the spiritual honesty, authenticity, and transparency of the artist in performance. My collaborative work is targeted at supporting and showcasing the spirit of my collaborator as it manifests through their playing. That approach makes for a great learning environment for all concerned. Sound Sample

Track 3 - Reservoir Boys (1975) 7:25

At Oberlin College one fine spring Spring weekend in 1975 I carried around a Nagra portable audio tape recorder just to document some of the sweetness of the campus and the village; when the semester ended I was leaving for good to pursue my next adventure, the San Francisco Bay Area, but I knew years hence I would enjoy a mnemonic of what for many folks was a dream environment. Part of one of those recordings is what you can hear as Reservoir Boys.

The piece is a musical time capsule, a small town American Midwest soundscape of pre-teen boys playing a pickup baseball game alongside a small reservoir late one Saturday afternoon. The reservoir was on the southern edge of town encircled by a path that was a favorite destination of Oberlin walkers with and without their dogs; you can hear their voices as they pass behind me while I was recording the boys at their game. The north end of the reservoir park had an open field perfect for seasonal sports and, since it was spring, the sport was baseball. What I recorded is the real thing. There is no way anyone could have scripted it or acted it. To my ears it's a sublime music drama that celebrates a way of life that mostly evaporated from American culture soon after parents elbowed their ways into children's games by supervising, overscheduling, and showering them with subversive compliments, trophies, and pizza. I remember playing my part in similar sports dramas 25 years earlier than this recording and, thankfully, there wasn't a parent in sight at that time either.

The reservoir boys are so immersed in the progression of their game that they are absolutely free to be themselves as they personally interact with each other to move the game along. There isn't one false note. Their language and voices authentically project their characters. Like instruments performing the best music imaginable they distinguish themselves by pitch, color, loudness, and rhythm in perfect concert with their fellows. Beyond the bounds of even the best music, they simultaneously interact with their environment while making it part of their play—"Hey! Have you got anything I said yet?", "Do they want a lock of my hair yet?", "Dog! Go away!", plus numerous other musical asides. Midway through the piece one overly charged, vocally high pitched ball player gets a passing bird so excited that it joins in a duet with his screeches and that sets a dog to barking to make it a trio. How sweet is that? Getting the creatures to join in the play. Sound Sample

Track 4 - Experts And Aberrations (1968) 2:35

The music for Experts And Aberrations was commissioned by choreographer/dancer John M. Wilson, who in 1968 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was completing his Ph.D. requirements focused on Dance and Kinesiology. Anyone who's gone the Ph.D. route and finished the race knows that nerves are more than a bit frayed as you push yourself to the finish line. So it's not unusual for folks to aim their anger at the nearest targets, the Experts And Aberrations, who, of course, are those professors reminding you of what you need to do to complete the marathon. When your nerves are about to snap it's easy to forget that they are actually providing assistance. Nevertheless…

I began exploring the Moog Synthesizer in June of 1967 and shortly thereafter decided to make that exploration part of my Ph.D. dissertation project. By early 1968 I used some of the 110 instruments (Moog synthesizer sound designs) I created as part of my dissertation project to compose a commissioned score for one of the earliest environmental consciousness-raising pieces in the movement, a UW video piece on the Milwaukee River (remix on Track 3 of CD 1), a piece that was broadcast on public television throughout the USA and beyond. Experts And Aberrations is my second complete piece using the Moog; it uses a different subset of the original 110 instrument designs.

The wacky surreal freedom of Federico Fellini's 1965 film Juliet of the Spirits was a powerful influence on experimental artists of the late 1960s and this piece clearly demonstrated that we felt it too. When I saw what John was doing with the choreography and costumes I felt free to release a little musical craziness. For me this piece is a one-of-a-kind—nothing like it before and nothing like it afterwards. All it had in common with a few other pieces I composed during the late 60s was that it was a bridge from my traditionally notated music to my music composed in real time either by performers or composed systems (algorithms of all sorts). It's easy enough to hear from the contrapuntal flashes that I used a bit of rough notated sketching.

However despite its singular nature it did follow closely on the heels of another wacky piece that I composed for a solo show I presented at the University of Wisconsin Student Union just days before John's dance concert. On my home stereo tape machine I recorded fairly gross mouth and throat sounds that are commonplace in Wisconsin public places as the winter wears on. While the vile tape rolled, a vocalist in a prim white blouse and little blue skirt recited from Ezra Pound's "Ancient Music" the following text:

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

No surprise, "Ancient Music" was the hit of that show and I was asked by a number of student producers to program it on other campus concerts; that was a piece that in late winter Wisconsin had resonance. In contrast Experts And Aberrations sat on a shelf for 42 years before I included it on this CD, although I expect John programmed the piece from time to time. Especially during that period I was inclined to look ahead to the next project, so my old pieces tended to wander off on their own. Sound Sample

Track 5 - Cynthia's Roget (1981) 3:24

Cynthia's Roget is based completely on composer/performer Cynthia Fanning's unprocessed voice recorded in Texas Tech University's electronic music studio in 1980. At the time Cynthia was one of a group of outstanding musicians in my music composition class at Texas Tech (I taught electronic music and real time composition and directed the Leading Edge Music Series there from 1978-81). During the period of late 1980/ early 1981 as a special project to be programmed on an annual contemporary music festival, she and I were collaborating on a performance piece based on the idea of musically dramatizing the inflected meanings of a group of words listed under "unconformity" in Roget's Thesaurus of Words and Phrases (Cynthia made specific choices).

This recording was from one of our studio rehearsal sessions made for the purpose of discovering and refining the tools for her part in our piece. As you can hear from the recording, Cynthia, an accomplished musician on piano and voice, was also blessed with a gift for dramatic flair. My performance role in our collaboration was to play shaman on stage while she delivered her dramatized choices from Roget's list; I simply danced in circles around her while simultaneously sprinkling her with sounds from some of my acoustic toy collection. Audience heads were scratched and, of course, that was one of the piece's objectives. Such scratching is an ancient technique for creating transcranial electrical motor evoked potentials and we all know how much they benefit the health of the central nervous system especially in regard to promoting a creative outlook.

Synonyms in the sound sample:

flying fish,
black swan,
lusus naturae,
rara avis,
queer fish,
tertium quid,
androgyn. Sound Sample

Track 6 - Mutatis Mutandis (1970) 5:37

from the original program notes by composer Herbert Brün...

"A FORTRAN program written by the composer and run on the IBM 7094 computer generates instructions for the CALCOMP PLOTTER to draw various set of figures.

The program simulates a process by which different shapes, each created independently and randomly somewhere on the page, suggest the seemingly uninterrupted chain of transformations connecting them. The result is a set of continuities which, apparently causing the shapes, really are caused by the shapes.

The graphic displays turn into "scores" as soon as an interpreter translates their structural characteristics into the instructional code of another medium (music, movement, esthetic contemplation, speech, etc.) and following his translation recreates the simulated process by analogy"

I involved my entire composition class in the brainstorming process that led to the performance; but the group actually realizing the score in concert only included some of the more advanced musicians.

The Group:
piano - David Gunn
flute - Janice Mitchell
clarinet - Helen Myers
Moog synthesizer - Ron Pellegrino

My instruction to the students was to choose one from a set of graphic scores titled Mutatis Mutandis: Compositions for Interpreters (1968) by Herbert Brün.

Since this was a new undertaking for all the students, I initially selected pieces that were strongly suggestive of time, direction, virtual space, and other musical variables. Based on our discussions of how best to proceed with the eye to ear translation the students made the final choice of which graphic to use as a score.

from the original program notes on the interpretation process by Helen Myers...

"In rehearsal the performers discussed the distinguishable properties of the patterns, shapes, and textures of the score, and how an analogy to those properties could be created with sound. We agreed that the sine wave function was the dominant image, both structuring the composition and providing a framework for mutations of the individual figures. Our interpretation makes use of the sine wave function as a controlling agent for various musical parameters including tempo, frequency, duration, and intensity. All attempted realizations were tape recorded and analyzed to aid in identifying those musical ideas which corresponded most effectively to the visual structures. Sound Sample

Track 7 - Rigor Mortis Loony Tunes (1977) 7:03

This is an excerpt from a Rigor Mortis Rescue Squad dance gig at choreographer/dancer Margaret Fisher's Cat's Paw Palace for the Performing Arts in Berkeley, by far the best new performance arts venue in the 1970s San Francisco East Bay.

The Rigor Mortis Rescue Squad was composed of five musicians, three from The Future Primitive Art Ensemble of San Francisco (Charles Moselle, David Simons, and William Brown) and two from The Real* Electric Symphony (James Gillerman and myself). We billed this event not as a concert but as a dance, and that billing attracted the most beautiful collection of young Bay Area dancers you could possibly imagine. (Except for the musicians, not a male in sight that night.)

Often at the beginning of gigs with my experimental music bands, to diffuse the normal separation of band and audience, we would invite the audience to join us in creating a meditative sound world that would serve as both our common ground and a launch pad for the evening's play. San Francisco Bay Area audiences always were highly responsive to such invitations and of course that meant that almost anything could happen musically. Not uncommonly a person from the audience who could barely carry a tune would feel so liberated that they would approach the band and sing full voice directly in front of us. Naturally, given that their singing was at our invitation, everyone in the band would be completely gracious and other audience members would normally be just as forgiving (outwardly). But such episodes seldom lasted very long because in an environment rich in artists, psychic messages seem to be powerfully communicated. Such an episode occurring early on this track and that is the genesis of the title—Loony Tunes. Sound Sample

Track 8 - Tour Two from the Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours (2001) 1:44

See notes from Track 2. Sound Sample

Track 9 - Shimmer (1973) 7:13

Shimmer (1973) -- This piece evolved from a series of chord cluster tuning studies I began in 1967 during my early days of working with music synthesizers. Initially I used a frequency counter to set the pitches for extended chord complexes based on repeating and stacking all the intervals from minor 2nds to major 7ths. From the beginning I experimented with octave displacement, voicing, spectral combinations, durations, and other variables. In the process of tuning the chords I quickly learned that there was a serious disparity between what the physics book based on the math tells you is supposed to be the correct frequency, and what your ear tells you is actually the correct frequency if you want it to sound psychophysically "in tune". In a nutshell, the ear is a non-linear transducer and it's a psychophysical fact that one's perception of pitch is influenced by spectrum, amplitude, duration, envelope, pitch combinations, and whether it is in the middle of your hearing range or at the extremes. The upshot is that the most efficient and aesthetically accurate way for me to tune chord complexes was to rely on my ear, and to use the frequency counter only to establish the earliest reference pitch.

On the surface this piece uses all 12 tones of the chromatic scale stacked into perfect fourths but the fact is that I am not using equal temperament because I'm tuning the chord complex by ear. One of the advantages of the analog synthesizer is that oscillator frequencies are infinitely adjustable, so it becomes not only possible but desirable to compensate for the non-linearity of the human hearing system and in the process create chord clusters that are full, rich, sweet, and in tune with the human ear.

I used this music in a number of different contexts. In 1972 it was employed as the score to Paths, the second film in my Lissajous Lives Film Series. Paths is a apt title because in addition to the tuning game, I was playing with the notion of having each pitch define its own path in quad space. Then in 1973 the same system generated this stereo version of the piece principally because I committed to collaborating on a large otherworldly multimedia piece with Toby Raetze, an Oberlin College light sculptor, and Brenda Way, a choreographer and director of the Oberlin Dance Collective (a group that, after their westward migration, has been a fixture in the San Francisco dance world for decades). Using the title Shimmer on a large multimedia piece made more intuitive sense given that context.

At the time I composed this piece the collection of instruments in the main electronic music studio at Oberlin seemed like the result of a multitude of Christmas mornings rolled into one. For a period one of my favorite games was to maker every function of every synthesizer work together simultaneously, in other words, to regard the entire studio as an integrated whole similar to a scored traditional orchestra. That process facilitated the integration of the functions of composer, performer, and conductor, also one of my favorite experiments at the time. So initially Shimmer was a piece celebrating the completion of the first stage of one of my major studio designs. Within months it became a film score, then a multimedia score with dancers and light projections; then after many lives, finally in the 80s and 90s it became a frequent companion to my visual music laser animation performances. Sound Sample

The Oberlin Conservatory main Electronic Music Studio in 1973.

Track 10 - Phil's Float (1974) 6:52

Phil's Float was commissioned by Phil Rehfeldt in 1974 when he and composer Barney Childs were preparing to head out to campuses all over the USA on Clarinet And Friend tours. Phil and Barney were faculty colleagues at the University of Redlands; with good fortune their touring dreams were supported by a series of U. of Redlands research grants that were used to commission new works by numerous American composers, and this piece was part of that set.

I met Phil in the spring of 1973 when he and I were scheduled to perform a piece of mine called S & H Explorations for clarinet and ARP 2600 synthesizer (Track 12 on CD 1) at a gathering of composers in Tempe, Arizona; so I had a good sense of what I wanted to hear Phil play that was also consistent with what I personally liked to do when I played the clarinet for several decades. The clarinet part for this piece has a quality that critics like to call "unabashedly lyrical". The "Float" in the title refers to my love of fluid melodies flying over the top of lush but uncomplicated backgrounds (I'm a longtime student of birds in flight especially those that soar effortlessly on thermals).

Phil set up a gig for me at U. of Redlands and while I was there we had a session where I recorded a few of my Synthi AKS takes to help Barney make sense of what to do with his part which was communicated as a tablature score. Somewhere along the line for reasons unknown to me, instead of Barney playing live on the Synthi AKS with Phil on clarinet, they decided to use one of my demo recordings in their performances. The demo tape I made for Barney is what you hear on this track.

From 1972 to 1975 was a period I experimented with using my Lissajous Lives oscillographic films in a variety of contexts. In performance a key feature of Phil's Float is the inclusion of one of my oscillographic films from that series. Because I knew that Phil and Barney would be touring extensively with this piece I decided not to use that film any longer in my own shows. Gradually my laser animations, because, not subjected to hard copy, they continued to evolve so were always fresh, took precedence over my films; and, with the exception of the film for Phil's Float, the Lissajous Lives films haven't been seen in public since the late 1970s. To make it easier to present in concerts and to cut out projector noise, Phil told me recently that a few years ago he transferred the film to video. Of course I have mixed feelings because the piece was originally composed for film, not video; in terms of color quality and image resolution, they are very different media. But I certainly was pleased to hear that after three plus decades Phil still enjoyed programming the piece.

This is last piece I wrote in conventional music notation. After spending 19 years as a serious student of traditional music notation, in 1968, after working with the Moog synthesizer for six months or so, I began to realize that it wasn't necessary for a composer (especially me) to put up with the frustration born of the inherent limitations of bar lines, meters, standard divisions of the beat, tempo indications, fixed frequencies, gross amplitude indicators, a limited frequency range even with difficult to read ledger line extensions, arbitrary temperaments, plus all the other fixtures of traditional music notation that insidiously programs even top performers to behave like unintelligent machines. Despite my best notational efforts, to get even the best performers to play my music correctly, I always had to sing their parts to them. It reached the point where I didn't want my music performed unless I was there to ensure its quality. Isn't having one's music played correctly what any composer would want?

In the six years following 1968, despite working in the relatively unyielding academic world, I gradually discarded the trappings of traditional notation in favor of more wide open systems including flowcharts, formats, rituals, and invented tablatures more specific to individual synthesizers. Once again I was living up to my name; Pellegrino is derived from the Latin peregrinus which means wanderer or pilgrim. It has nothing to do with the grass being greener; it's more like the grass has a different quality because it's growing in a different environment. If you're a lover of wheat grass juice you know exactly what I mean. Many of us thrive on the cultural differences between environments like London, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Dallas, Rome, New York City, Berlin, Madison, and Paris. Why dwell on the limitations of any one of them when you can turn your attention to their upside—the desirable qualities that make them different and special?

So from 1974 onwards I only composed sonic music en plein air—real time compositions, environments, events, creative algorithms, etc. Nevertheless, due to the nature of the media, my visual music films and some of my video pieces remained fixed. By the late 1980s I had configured computer systems to do live performance-videography in the context of residencies that showcased local talent in the experimental arts. For almost 25 years my laser animated visual music was as free as my sonic music. Then in the late 1990s, for posterity, I decided to record my laser animations onto video tape and I discovered I could only record around 50% of my visual music laser pieces due to the limitations of video resolution. The entire process challenged my animated laser aesthetic, one that had evolved over almost 25 years. The results can be experienced via Volumes 3 and 4 (Pythagoras And Pellegrino In Petaluma) of Part Two: The CDs of Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies.

Phil's Float is also the last commission I accepted. When I returned to Oberlin for the 1974/75 academic year after a year's leave to work the San Francisco Bay Area scene and to tour in the USA and Europe, I found myself turning down multiple commissions from wonderful traditional performers. By that time I had simply lost interest in telling people what to do musically. Instead I began composing environments and contexts for people to learn to make their own musical statements in their own voices in a conversational fashion. I also figured I could learn much more by composing complex systems that demonstrated intelligent behavior, systems that seemed to congeal so as to create minds of their own that manifested as sound and light worlds. Those systems became my favorite teachers.

Phil's Float was a pivotal piece at a pivotal time. I never stopped enjoying the challenges of reading traditional notation, but after this piece, writing it was no longer part of my work as a composer. Parting ways with it was one of best decisions I ever made. After closing the traditional notation door behind me I walked into the field of composer's freedom. Sound Sample

Track 11 - Rigor Mortis Trance Dance (1977) 14:32

Free dancing like free music liberates a special sort of joyful energy; ?nobody is issuing orders so you move and contribute as you please. This piece was especially memorable because there was no doubt that the dancers were completely entranced.

Probably because of entrainment many of the dancers began the dance with elephant swings while a number were trying their luck with belly dancing (not so easy because modern dancers seldom have much in the way of bellies). Gradually the floor filled with whirling dervishes. Slowly some dancers began moving out of the center and forming an outer ring of whirlers flowing around the center whirlers, the macro-look being reminiscent of old-fashioned waltzing. By the end of this piece a good number of the dancers had found their way back to elephant swings while a few were still caught up in their whirls. Sound Sample

See notes from Track 7.

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

Information on Part 2: The DVDs.

Click Here to buy this CD or other parts of Pellegrino's projects.

Home for links to other projects.

©1996-2010 Ron Pellegrino and Electronic Arts Productions. All rights reserved.