Thu, 12 Oct 1995 13:53:29 Thread 9 of 31 Lines 97 "Brains" cutup voice Re: Electronic Pieces? 4 Responses Chris Koenigsberg at U. of Chicago 898w

In article , Kenneth J Flagg wrote: > This brings up an interesting point. Has anyone taken a nonsensical >phrase, sampled it, cut it up into its vowels and consonants, and made a >piece out of it?

Been there, done that (well, I went down to the level of individual words, not to vowels and consonants, but with sample looping a similar effect was achieved :-)

Check out the title track "Brains" from my computer music CD (email the eMUSIC Foundation for ordering info or email me for more info, I might even be in the mood to give away a few copies :-))

It's one of the few times that I condescended to the use of a "sample playback" device (the AKAI S1000) along with my Buchla Thunder controller. Normally I "hate samplers" since most people use them to do dumb things.... so I had to see if I could use one to do something reasonably aesthetically satisfying, entirely non- "note"-oriented.

Back in 1975, me & my buddies were in the middle of an incredible home recording session, three of us playing one guitar (one guy whamming the top 3 strings, another guy whamming the bottom 3 strings, and me twiddling the knobs, tremelo rate&depth, treble, bass, reverb, on a Fender Princeton Reverb amp) to a deafening climax of awesome noise, when my grouchy old man stomped up the stairs, opened the door, and said "Shut it off! That's it! No more, you understand? ..... If you don't have brains enough, I won't let you use it again!"

Fortunately, the cassette player was recording all of this. This piece of music, later titled "The Unfinished Manifesto", turned out to be around 20 minutes long, a slow gradual buildup to the climax, interrupted by Dad in his infinite wisdom :-)

So, 18 years later in 1993, I was a grad student in Electronic Music at Mills College preparing to do an MFA Thesis concert, and I finally got to do something with his voice. I would play the original "Unfinished Manifesto" before the opening of the concert, while people were still filtering in to the hall. After his voice ended it, I would commence the "official" concert program with a new piece built entirely out of the same voice, to make the most out of his challenge "...if you don't have brains enough, I won't let you use it again!".

Over the course of a week or so, I prepared a set of soundfiles using SoundTools, with the entire sentence sonically cleaned up, plus different subsets of the words, plus all the individual words, and copies of each with various different assorted loop-points. I loaded them all into an S1000 sampler configuration (12 megs of RAM meant I could store lots of stuff online). I set up the numerous individual soundfiles in the configuration with various different stereo positions and panning speeds, etc. across the 16 MIDI channels.

I prepared a Buchla Thunder configuration with a bunch of keys and programs to take maximum advantage of the ordered complexity I had arranged in the S1000 sampler configuration. Random pitches and loops and pitch bend values on the Thunder add another layer to the complexity, since me & Thunder might be sending continuous pitch bend changes, plus looping key note values, plus looping pan position values, across all 16 simultaneous MIDI channels, to S1000 samples which are also panning within the S1000.

With this 16-channel realtime setup, after some rehearsing and learning (since I basically had built myself a new "instrument"), I improvised the outline of a skeleton structure, and then overdubbed a bunch of maybe 10 or 12 stereo performances, to 24-track tape, adding to the complexity of events with each new overdub. Finally did a 2-track mixdown (I just LOVE mixing down 24 tracks, it's such a blast!) and the finished piece was premiered in my concert, plus became the title track to my CD.

Structurally, the piece starts out with the clear voice, gradually working through the phrase, but textures begin to build up, with various digressions into various textural spaces. There are some groups of very high-pitched, fast-panning sounds, which sound bird-like to me. There are some very rich low-pitched, slow-moving sounds which provide a good bottom end. I wanted to achieve a full, balanced, rich sound space. Plus, since actual words are the sound sources, interesting juxtapositions of semi-intelligibility weave in and out.

There is one point towards the end where everything stops in a false ending, then a distant wave builds up and moves closer and closer, a wave of pure texture, which I think is a beautiful and profound moment, especially because any trace of the voice's intelligibility is gone.

At the concert, as I mentioned, this piece comes at the start of the official concert, immediately after a 20-minute long intense tape from 1975. On the CD, it comes right after a set of 3 long, intense sonic landscape pieces, the last of which ("The Free Spirit") is a slow, thorough, deep 19-minute long meditative noise work.

Hope this was at least a bit interesting! :-)

Chris Koenigsberg