New Music with Birds, Frogs and Other Creatures 3-18-90, The Oakland Museum concert program 1496w

New Music with Birds, Frogs and Other Creatures The Oakland Museum Sunday, March 18, 1990 3:00 p.m.

Earth and the Great Weather (excerpt).........John L. Adams for tape; followed with an introduction by Charles Amirkhanian

Four Voice Canons.........Larry Polansky for percussion and computer-generated tape William Winant, percussion

Splendor - In Memory of Jim Tyler (1988).........Evangel King for solo dancer Evangel King, dancer

Whailes.........Brenda Schuman-Post for solo oboe Brenda Schuman-Post, oboe


San Francisco Bay Wildlife Environment.........Paul Matzner, Curator of Library of Natural Sounds for tape

Cranes.........Brenda Schuman-Post for solo oboe Brenda Schuman-Post, oboe

Mechanical Life.........John Bischoff for live electronics and computer John Bischoff, electronics/computer

Program Notes:

EARTH AND THE GREAT WEATHER (1990) is a "sonic geography" of the arctic, created by Alaskan composer John Luther Adams. ...

FOUR VOICE CANONS by Larry Polansky are part of an ongoing set of pieces constituting an experiment in the continuous morphogenesis of musical ideas. Each piece is a mensuration canon on a single "voice" created from the simple permutation group of 4 or 5 objects (ABCDE, BACDE, CABDE, etc.). This permutation group is ordered by the computer so that each successive element in the group (where an element consists of a set of 4 values which may be applied to any musical parameter) is the "closest" possible to the previous one, by a simple rule of "two-cycling" from elementary group theory.

It was my intent to devise a simple, elegant, and perpetually meaningful way to generate a "continuous" morphogenetic structure, one which and other listeners (with a great deal of difficulty and practice) might use to evolve our notions of morphological distance in music (a subject crucial to my current ideas).

Each voice in each canon is the same permutation set, although durational values (and in the case of the computer versions and #5, certain temporal timbral parameters) are scaled by the ratio of the voice's length to the duration of the piece. In each piece the permutation elements apply to different musical parameters. In the simplest, #4 (1978-80), each voice consists of a list of reorderings of four different pitches, drawn from the harmonic series, in an ideal version, this piece might be played on a marimba tuned in that way.

In #3, the permutation lists are applied to over twenty parameters, most of which are very subtle timbral variations, like envelope and FM values. By using the computer, I was also able to achieve accurate and complex rhythmic ratios. The durations of each voice are related to the others by the golden mean (the percussion pieces are integer approximations: 2:3:5:8). Another earlier computer version exists (#2, 1975), for computer and analog synthesizer. In #5, for "generalized" percussion (1985), the canon is applied to duration, timbre, and accents. The score only suggests the instrumentation, and the final choices are the result of a collaboration between William Winant and myself.

#6 was composed and generated on the prototype version of the HMSL hardware, although the work was written entirely in 68000 assembler. The permutation algorithm in this case controls a kind of primitive sampling instrument. The "sampling" is intentionally brute force and sonically "raw," no filtering or even zero-crossing detection is used. The sounds are what I consider to be "found sonic objects" at Mills College -- Braxton playing sax, Diamond playing a Javanese rebab, the frog pond, and the sine wave of a Kurzweil 250.

The permutation lists of the canon are applied to four blocks of memory that are each sound (each about 5 seconds apiece). Durations are simply computed as some percentage of the total computer memory for each sound, and certain random procedures are built into the program to alter the starting memory locations of sounds. In addition, each of the sampled sounds (except the frogs) rises in pitch over its 15 seconds or so, and successive voices in the canon tend to pick higher starting memory locations for their events, so that the voices get higher and higher as the durations get shorter and shorter. As in the other canons, higher voices have shorter durations. All this is done by the computer, and the canon can be played in real time from the machine. -Larry Polansky/WR

SPLENDOR - IN MEMORY OF JIM TYLER (1988), choreographed and performed by Evangel King; costume by Mary Stutz. This piece uses an oscillating fan and slide projector without the lens. The slide projector is the only light source. The drone of the fan is amplified at either end of its oscillations. The light from the projector on the dancer is partially obscured as the shadow of the fan moves across the light. The dancer dances: clouds, walk, sunfall, moonrise, starlight, close. My aim is to entice the viewer to forget for a moment where they are, and to find splendor. -Evangel King

WHAILES (1981/90), solo oboe improvisation; Brenda Schuman-Post, an acknowledged master of contemporary performance practices having developed new sounds, styles and techniques for the oboe, has created an improvisation based on the sound and language of whales. In this particular work, the oboe is played without a reed since the resulting sound is that of a whale's voice. -Brenda Schuman-Post/WR

SAN FRANCISCO BAY WILDLIFE ENVIRONMENT by Paul Matzner is a 10 minute recreation of the sounds of a tidal saltmarsh/mudflat environment in early summer on the shores of San Francisco Bay. The gentle sounds of the outgoing tide are punctuated by the cries of shorebirds who forage for worms, clams and other muddy delicacies by probing the mud with their long bills. Gathering in large flocks during the non-breeding season, these birds emit periodic cries to signal their finding of food and to alert and keep contact with other flock members. As some species such as the Willet and Marbled Godwit take off and fly, they emit piercing cries for communication purposes. The totality is an eerily peaceful mixture of subtle quietude and expressed longing as environment and the creatures that inhabit it combine their sounds to fulfill the primal needs of life.

The environment combines real-time recorded backgrounds mixed with individual species recorded at different times and locations, some sampled sounds are used; but all are biologically accurate in their occurrence in time and place.

The piece is part of a longer environment installed in the Oakland Museum Traveling Exhibit "Birds of the South San Francisco Bay Wetlands," first presented in the Natural Sciences Gallery in 1989.

CRANES (1982/1990), performed by Brenda Schuman-Post, is a crafted improvisation for solo oboe inspired by the sound, style, color, and effect of shakuhachi music. The shakuhachi is a Japanese end blown bamboo flute whose solo music is often evocative of natural phenomena. -Brenda Schuman-Post

MECHANICAL LIFE (for Mark Trayle, 1990) by John Bischoff projects the sounds made by toy noisemakers into an electronic environment. The noisemakers are designed to simulate natural animal sounds, and do with varying degrees of success.

The electronic environment is composed of synthesized sound from a Yamaha TX81Z and 8-bit samples of the noisemakers modified and extended by my Amiga computer using the HMSL and JForth software. The synthesized sound unfolds sequentially in stages; within each stage, sonic motions either oscillate in a holding pattern or proceed stepwise until reaching an outer limit. The modified samples of the noise-makers are triggered interactively by the performer, who plays the noisemakers into a microphone. Both the electronic and the mechanical nature of these sounds work together, the motions of one informing the motions of the other. -John Bischoff

Sponsoring Organizations

The Natural Sciences Gallery of the Oakland Museum which sponsors this concert is conceived as a presentation of the diversity of California Ecology presented as a "Walk Across California" through the multitude of biotic zones and ecological communities from the California Coastline through the Desert.

The California Library of Natural Sounds, for which this concert is a benefit, is a collection of natural sounds of species and environments of California. It is the largest natural sound collection in the Western United States. The collection provides sounds that complement the visual exhibits for the Museum's Gallery and also provides a community resource for a wide variety of scientific and artistic projects. The resources of the Library are available for listening and creative projects by appointment. Please contact the Natural Science Department for further information at 273-3884.

The Nature Sounds Society, based at the Oakland Museum, is an outreach of the California Library of natural Sounds. It is an organization dedicated to the education and networking of artists, environmentalists and general enthusiasts interested in the appreciation, recording and uses of natural sounds. It is especially concerned with educating the public on the tragic loss of quiet natural environments throughout the world. Contact the Natural Sciences Department at the above number for further information on membership and activities.

Typed by Cheryl Vega 5-14-95