Dienstag, 5. April 2016

Video responses

Hi everybody,
finally, here's the video responses to your pieces.

It's great fun to go through all of your notes and prototypes.
I think we're on track to get things done successfully once I'm there.

You will see that I am performing/videotaping at home which is due to some change at my workplace which made the room unavailable for a bit.

Please don't go by the sound of the cello too much - I am using a small VOX rehearsal amp...

If there are any further questions, suggestions and comments, you can either post them here or send me an email. Also, depending on your class schedule we could do one more video conference.

Very much looking forward to meeting you all in person and working with you.


Dienstag, 1. März 2016

Etudes - First Answers

Hi everybody,

thank you for uploading your etudes.

Let me make a few general comments first and get specific further down in this article.

I am very happy about what comes my way here. You all explore the performative angle quite deeply and put the cello into almost absurd contexts - I like these approaches a lot.

One question arises in more than one of the pieces: are you thinking of the classical acoustic cello???

If so, we really need to find a solution, since I was planning to not travel with my acoustic cello.
[This is not entirely my choosing - customs regulations have changed because there is a serious issue with smuggle of historical instruments. Since a few years you need to bring a passport for your instrument if traveling form Europe to the US. This passport and the additional cost of shipping a valuable instrument like that { which is only possible on certain airlines}raise travelling costs to a level where they become prohibitive.]
If your pieces need the classical acoustic cello I suggest that we find a cellist who is willing to lend the instrument to me for the time I am visiting.

My pragmatic solution would be to not bring the BassCello (so far I have not found any instrument-specific details in the compositions) and rather bring my 6-string eCello. This instrument would permit me to play classical repertoire much better than the BassCello while using effects and playing techniques demonstrated in the video at the beginning of this project would still be possible (see below in the short video sequences).

One more general remark: if you need concrete examples or video attempts, please don't hesitate to ask! As the majority of your pieces involve several other performers or technology I am unsure which type of input from my end would benefit you most at this point.

And one last question: are there any set durations for the pieces from your end?

Jonathan &  Blake

Very cool - I can see this working.

I see one musical bottleneck if you're only using chords or definite notes: the piece could really become a bit bleak that way.
I suggest to have several groups in the chat simultaneously sending different parameters:
group #1 - as you suggested: pitches, chords, duration. Add dynamics?
group #2 - playing techniques: arco, pizzicato, col legno battuto, chopsticks, ebow
group #3 (optional) - direct influence on mixing parameters in the ToneLab (Chat-to-MIDI). this might be overdoing it, though.

I fear that the way you set up the rules the piece could be over in less than 5 seconds.
Maybe add in a time frame like "IF more than one member of the audience speaks inside of the first 10 seconds"...
The feedback loop is a nice touch - it generates the opposite fear in my: what if no-one speaks?
Yes, I see where you're going with this!

Ms. Howard
I like the ideas of the colours a lot!
What would I be wearing, since I seem to be the counterpart?
And especially for your piece the question: would you be ok with the 6string eCello instead of a real acoustic cello?
There are examples in the video above of who the 6-string works
As for the improvised parts of your composition: I would like to flesh this out in the group. How do you feel about that? Would you like concrete sound-ideas before hand?
Maybe we could actually also decide on which part of the Bach could be used in which part of your piece? The structure is very clear and could be shown that way...

I like the aspect of the choice between fighting and just giving up towards the end of the piece!
Spontaneously I would tend to take a very slow and calm movement from the Bach (Sarabande) and really try to concentrate on that.
I can be seated with the eCello, no problem.
Might really be a good idea for the performers to get the harness around me, plug the instrument in etc.
What do you need from me in terms of more examples?

see video

see video

Dienstag, 16. Februar 2016

Brainstorming Concepts for ZenMan X @ TAMU 2016

Hello all,

I'm going to respond here in my blog space to your concepts. I hope that this is convenient for you. Comments are enabled, so we can use this blog here to discuss the ideas in a forum.
Please feel free to contact me via my email (which I'm not going to post here - I assume that you all have it).

I would like to make you aware of one very interesting concept from way back when. If you're stuck in a creative process this will get you going.
Video "How frustration can make us more creative"
App for iOS
App for Android

I will edit this post as your concepts go up.


Helicopter Game - I spontaneously like that idea a lot, especially the direct connection between what's happening on stage and on screen. Here's an example from ZenMan Improvisations v.2  iamgoogle | Jordan Bartee from MEME @ Brown on Vimeo.

Sight Reading - I'm not really sure about that one. I see the potential for this idea going into one of two extremes: either the performer nails it and it becomes a rather synced performance of more or less interesting parts of classical music or the performer doesn't get into it in way that there will be no sync at all. In both cases it questionable what the audience will get out of this. Maybe you could use several recordings of the same piece on headphones and instruct the performer to try to sync his version to the ones he (and only he) hears while he is unable to hear his own instrument. The audience on the other hand only hears the performer.

The Fourth Wall - very interesting. Could this be combined with the Helicopter Game?


@ Jeff:
Nature Sounds - I think this idea is worth exploring. Maybe you should work out the sound-vocabulary for this piece. It could be just a list naming the aspects you would like to focus on. Which sounds for the sand? Any structures there in the sand you want to focus on? What about the rocks? The petals? The moss? Does it rain? etc..

Dancing Cello - since I am bringing the OmniBass only there will be no technical issues to dancing around. Keep in mind that we could leave the instrument amplified the whole time; thus my dance steps would be audible and result in a kind of a rumbling sound, which could be looped ...

Self Concerto - hm. I feel that there might be something missing. And I'm not sure what that is. I do understand where you want go with this idea. What could be added? (see above for Oblique Strategies)


@ Grant
First off: I like all three concepts. All of them would be worth exploring.

Repetition - will there be a cut at the end, or is the piece shaped more like a bell curve? Could be a dramatic performance.

Dichotomy - here I would suggest a more concrete vocabulary (see notes for Jeff's Nature Sounds). The concept reminds me of 224 by Ben Nicholson, which explores the relevance of silence (or its absence) music by filling all free space in the piece with white noise.

224 | Ben Nicholson from MEME @ Brown on Vimeo.

Performance vs Audience - the concept will work, but I would be careful which pieces to choose for the performer. If I were to start Suite #V by Bach and people would start to really listen we'd be there all night. Maybe define concrete musical phrases which could be used either in a concrete sequence or predetermined by some kind of device (i.e.: dice; I Ching)


@ Blake

Percussion Cello - I love doing stuff like that (see video below for QED). The thing is: e've limited the choices to the OmniBass. So, without a body to drum on it will be tough to perform - not impossible, mind you. So in the sense of the above mentioned Oblique Strategies you'd really get me out of my comfort zone...Let's keep this concept in mind for sure.

Gabriel Falk - "handsawfish" from Ulrich Maiss on Vimeo.

Heartbeat Tempo - yes, I can see this. But we'd definitely need different musical material than Stayin' Alive... It will sound bleak (very bleak) on the cello. The heart beat could be used to trigger delay times for example? Improvised material going into a tap-delay. Maybe think about that one a bit more in terms of content.

Twitch plays the cello - yes! This could be a great interactive experience! Just (as in a the answers to Jeff and Grant) maybe think about vocabulary and mapping.

@ Ms. Howard

A Live Argument - I like this idea because of its simplicity. There are a lot of things that can be done with this setup and the audience could easily grasp the correlation of colours and sounds/notes/actions. Maybe a map could be devices that includes said actions/notes/sounds and at the same time incorporates intensity by showing different brightness. Maybe there could be more than one colour shown at the same time at some time during the piece?

Action - how about interaction as a two way street? Again, maybe a mapping of corresponding actions (i.e.: performer smashes fruit means cellist plays a very sad melody - cellist plays that melody first means performer smashes fruit)?

A Strictly Musical Piece - this could also work out nicely. And I don't agree that there should be a lot of rehearsal necessary. Not if you abandon the idea of concrete sounds. If the performers concentrate on the gesture of the action (softly smashing fruit for example) the auditory outcome might be secondary or actually not important at all.

@ Leon

I will react to your concepts in one answer, since the overall concept is similar.
The idea appeals to me but I fear that if we are talking about a score (composed music) the outcome of this experiment largely depends on the material at hand - if the composition/the material  is too simple the piece will not work well, material too complicated will make the piece hard to understand for the audience.
Maybe broadening the concepts by giving the performer(s) more than musical actions (movement; lyrics/texts; actions with objects etc.) and combining these actions with impossible tasks (un-smashing a fruit) could add to the experience.
As to your concern about reaction-times: I wouldn't worry about this too much. Sometimes you get a better gesture if it is not premeditated too much. And a performer's reaction on stage with adrenalin pumping is quite fast. Giving the performer too much of an advance notice might take away from the overall intensity of the piece.

Jazz vs Classics - it would be interesting to really compose a piece like this. Given that we are talking about at least partially improvised music I think it is too difficult. To get the right musical gesture with a piece like that it would be necessary to switch from one instant to the next, switch the music and the persona of the performer at the same instant - and that is better done with practice than spontaneously. On a more pragmatic level: the OmniBass does not really lend itself to classical music that much. Yes, you can bow it, but the handling of this particular instrument is very different from a cello.

Campus Music - here I would try to find some meta level on which this piece could work to get away from "Mickey Mousing". How does Campus life develop inside of a 24-hr period? What about a week? I would guess that interesting structures might evolve there. Here's an example that popped into my head:

Information Overload - also interesting. Especially when you get into the position of the people who have those disorders and look at things from their perspective. But how to make this palpable in musical way. Are you thinking multi media here? That could be an option for getting more information across, to make the emotions you mentioned emerge. (i.e.: contrast between music and video footage)

Radio - this could be an interesting video-piece. A video team could follow the performer through various bars, shopping centres, gas stations, restaurants, office environments and record the ad-hoc performance. Instead of bowing I would use the ebow and the radio would replace the cello. For it to be not completely random certain moods could be set beforehand. Here the challenge would be to achieve i.e. a melancholic mood using the radio in the environment of a gas station.

Game - reminds me a lot of Jonathan's Helicopter (also see the video "iamgoogle" by Bartee). I fear that a more complex game like Mario Bros. could cause a performance meltdown.  As you said: tricky in the technical department.

Week Shuffle - this is very interesting. Again, I would like another concept, some non-musical hurdle in addition to make the outcome less random. What kind of parameter could make me as a performer do more specific things? Also, by finding a parallel system (7 days vs 7 minutes) the piece could be moved to a live stage. Maybe using the recordings from the weekdays and than react to random snippets of these recordings inside of a 7 minute time frame? Something along those lines.