Ahh-Ahh (ver 2.1) was composed in 1987. It is the music portion of a performance work, called Queue the Lizards, done in collaboration with video artist Ed Tannenbaum, and was the result of a National Endowment for the Arts Interdisciplinary Arts Grant. Very early in the collaboration, when we were first tossing around ideas, Ed mentioned that he would like to work with sounds of water, snakes, and whips (for gestural and spatial possibilities). He later denied saying anything of the kind. Ahh-Ahh (ver 2.1) has as its source material many forms of white noise, including (commercially ubiquitous) breathy vocal and unpitched but resonant flute sounds, snare drum, and pure white noise. Spatial location and modulation are of primary concern in this piece.
Subterranean Network, commissioned in 1985 by Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford, is an electric work which seeks to evoke a sense of the experience of the tunnel fighting in Cu Chi during the Vietnam War. These tunnels, from which the Viet Cong fought much of the war, were dark, narrow, poorly ventilated hell holes, filled with booby traps and inconceivable real and psychological terrors which plagued the American soldiers, known as tunnel rats, whose duty it was to explore them. These men, if not killed by booby traps, snakes, spiders or scorpions, were in constant threat of ambush in the tunnels.
The sound source for Phase Transitions (1989) was exclusively that of the Roland D-50 linear synthesizer. This device seems to have been manufactured to fit the needs of "beautiful music", Hollywood film scores, and commercial advertisement music beds. Phase Transitions is an attempt to make this very interesting instrument sound as atypical as possible -- loud, definitely "not beautiful", a little raucous. Since it is not possible to dynamically filter the PCM sounds on the D-50, the "surf section" in the middle of the piece was sampled D-50, then dynamically filtered using the Ensoniq Mirage. To build up the density desired, I made a considerable number of stereo "pre-mixes" from the 16 track to the PCM recorder, and subsequently layered several of the premixes, resulting in a combining of fifty-four tracks in the most dense section. Musically the piece is based on the idea of phase transitions -- the area of transition where matter changes from one state to another -- such as from non-magnetized to magnetized, or liquid to solid. The transitions within sections move at differing rates per section, as do the transitions from one section to the next, just as different types of matter have very different dynamics of change through various states.
The source material for White Night (1984) consists of digital delay processing of spoken names or portions of names of fellow artists. These fragments set up micro-rhythms which interlock, then slowly shift phase. Because the source fragments are essentially static in regard to texture, pitch and timbre, the composition is built on subtle rhythmic interactions among combinations of fragments, with amplitude and density determining the overall structure. “White Night” is a French expression for a sleepless night of the type characterized by the mind's relentless repetition of thoughts.
Solar Wind (1983) is an electronic piece based on the synthesized audio representations of bow shock interactions of Saturn and Venus with the solar wind as observed by Voyager, Voyager 2 and the Pioneer-Venus Orbiter. The source tape was generously supplied by the project director of the plasma wave instrument, Fred Scarf, of TRW, for NASA. The plasma wave instrument detects phenomena associated with solar wind interactions in space. The instrument, placed aboard this spacecraft, gathers information and analyzes it using a sixteen-channel spectrum analyzer. The data is transmitted to Earth and drives a computer which controls the amplitude of a sixteen-voice music synthesizer. In some bow shock interactions the actual frequencies of the phenomena are replicated; in others, some frequency shifting was necessary. Time compression is set to a 480:1 ratio. The final sequence of the composition uses the source tape with minimal manipulation. The middle section of the piece (bow shock sequence) uses the source tape, but heavily modified. The remaining segments are loosely based on the source tape.
Scirocco, composed in 1983, is a piece for live flute and digital delay with pre-recorded tape. The tape portion is composed exclusively of flute processed through a digital delay. Multiphonics, whistle tones, and humming while playing are some of the techniques used to create complex timbres. Dense textures were built by layering up to thirty-two tracks of processed flute. Scirocco is reminiscent of HUM, another multi-tracked, although unprocessed, flute piece composed ten years earlier.
Crystal was composed in 1982 using a Moog III synthesizer with extensive multi-tracking. Spatial location and modulation are important aspects of this work. Delicate timbral manipulation is also a major concern, with the harmonic spectrum of each voice in constant flux. Crystal is also a video work. The video portion was shot after the music was completed, and was edited to the music. The images consist of crystals forming in real time as viewed through a microscope.
Digital editing and mastering by Joe Tarantino, Fantasy Sound (Berkeley, CA).
Art Direction and Design: By Design
Copyright c 1991 Maggi Payne (BMI)
LCD 2061 [D] [D] [D]