coLABoratory: Lab 1 – Ray Lustig: After the Lab

Raymond Lustig & George Manahan

It’s pretty amazing that one can actually just get together with an important orchestral ensemble and play around with ideas like teenagers in a garage band.  Crazy fun, and an amazing learning experience.

Here’s some of what we learned:
Well, we knew this already, but technology continues to be the dog in musical performance, even though we’re trying to use something no more complicated than Google Hangouts, something designed to be the most reliable, user-friendly software.  We had trouble linking up with our Manchester partner Dane Lam until the very end.  But at least when we did, it was really informative.
We learned that the transatlantic link to Manchester seems to a good deal slower, stickier, uglier, which is great!  This is what we’re looking for, the problems, the limitations of the technology.
Raymond Lustig & Derek Bermel
Most of my test canons yesterday were swirly in continuous note values throughout, but Derek Bermel encouraged me to do more with canons of greater textural variety within, periodic aural landmarks that the listener hears go by at different times in each voice, and that can create their own polyphonic independence of voices.
I’ll probably include some sweet diatonic (scaler) canons in the set, but diatonicism under aleatoric circumstance just becomes pan-diatonicism (all the notes of the scale), whether the delay is 1 beat or 10 beats.  Pretty, but the degree of delay doesn’t really make much difference to the sound.  More interesting for me are canons in which the degree of delay changes the music by degrees, so most of my canons to date cycle through the keys via the circle of fifths.  Thus when delays are short, the music sounds diatonic and consonant, but as delays get longer, the sound gets crunchier and spacier as the voices get into more and more distant key relationships.  I like this because it makes the degree of delay matter a lot in the musical result, rather than delay being merely this random offset of music that would sound more or less the same with a long or a short delay.  That said however, sonic variety between the various canons might suggest having some diatonic canons interspersed in the complete set.
George Manahan conducts remotely
Much of what we learned was about the setup possibilities of who is where, who is playing what, and who is following which conductor.  Morton Subotnick suggested two interesting possibilities: Crossing conductors (having onstage players follow a remote conductor, and remote players follow George Manahan onstage at Zankel Hall), and choose-a-conductor (individual players choose which of the conductors to follow, which actually helps because some of the players, like the harpist, have trouble seeing the screen from the stage, and could therefore just follow their local conductor).  But in the end we agreed a variety of conformations, specified in advance in the score, will probably be best.
Plus a lot of other things.  But that’s all for now.

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