PAYNE: PROGRAM NOTES
AEOLIAN CONFLUENCE (1993)
At ten year intervals I compose a flute piece. AEOLIAN CONFLUENCE is the third work in this series. The first section is sampled flute, which slowly builds and rises. The second and third sections use the SoundHack convolving algorithm, with flute samples as the exclusive sources. The final section is recorded live, with several overdubs, and uses additional samples only at the very end.
The piece deals with spatial concerns. The first section slowly rises, spreads, comes forward, then cascades down while rapidly receding; the second and third are very distant; the fourth section is very present, receding only at the very end.
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, he 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 it's 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.
AIRWAVES (realities) attempts to convey a sense of the vast differences in perspective which individuals have regarding what is collectively termed "reality." One of the most striking close-at- hand illustrations is the contrast in the lives of the desert dwellers of Nevada and the San Francisco Bay Area urbanites. The diverging viewpoints are partially due to differences in population density and ethnic make-up, with the extreme physical contrast of the barrenness of the desert versus the lushness of the Bay Area being a significant contributing factor.
AIRWAVES can be presented with a video which I shot of rather static desert landscapes of Nevada. The starkness of these scenes in contrast to the sometimes active, at other times lush texture of the music, is intended to further highlight the differences between the cultures.
There are only two unprocessed "natural" sounds in this piece: the very beginning of the cars passing by and the two airplanes which fly over. All of the other sounds are derived from television and radio broadcasts, both major sources of "unrealities". These materials, most of which are dialog, are highly processed, resulting in a complete disassociation from their origin.
BACK TO FORTH was commissioned by Ed Tannenbaum for the 1986 CADRE performance. Dancers Pons Marr and Sidra were processed live by Eddie's real-time digital video processor and the Fairlight video processor.
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.
The music for FLIGHTS OF FANCY, also called VISCOUS MEANDERINGS, was commissioned by Ed Tannenbaum for the Fleet Science Center in San Diego. It was danced by Marci Javril, with Ed working camera and directing the video processing.
Desertscapes (1991) for two spatially separated a cappella choirs
Born and raised on the High Plains of Texas, I came to love the vastness of the landscape on the large scale and minute details on the small scale (cracks in parched earth, gullies, etc.). When I moved to California in 1970 I was delighted to find the desert still so close at hand.
The four images I described, of Pyramid Lake, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon and the Devil's Playground/Kelso Dunes, represent four beautiful desert areas, each with very precious and unique characteristics. It seemed right to have exclusively female voices in this piece: Sirens calling me back to these desert haunts.
It is important that the interplay between the two choirs be audible. The sound should wash across the space, fully involving/surrounding the listener in the vast frailty of desert space.
HEAVY WATER (1991)
HEAVY WATER was composed for a work for dance and video- processed imagery by video artist Ed Tannenbaum. He requested that three ideas be included: water, war, and peace. The piece starts with water drips, which are subsequently augmented with sampled percussion, the rhythm and pitch being derived from the water drips via a pitch-to-MIDI converter. The background sampled and synthesized sounds which are also driven by the pitch-to-MIDI converter eventually take over, leading into the active "war" section. This section dissolves into ocean surf, from which emerges (locked in time with the surf) a chordal conclusion using synthesizers and samplers.
LIQUID METAL (1994)
I took up canoeing in an effort to "experience nature" and to build up my upper body. I became fascinated with the water patterns visible at such a close-up range. The water had an intimate kind of beauty, very different from water viewed from a greater distance. I captured images for two years before finally sequencing them. It was only in the editing that I fully realized that water actually turns out to be rather colorless (the dictionary definition) - especially at close range and especially with the almost constant cloud cover we experienced. The video has no processing whatsoever.
The "nature" that I ended up experiencing in large part had to do with human nature. I would have loved to have paddled the California waterways hearing only the sounds of birds, water, etc., but instead much of the sound consisted of Harley Davidsons roaring down a canyon road adjacent to the river, helicopters, the Blue Angels, various prop planes, a train screeching harmonics as it went through turns in a canyon, remote-controlled model airplanes, cars driving over a bridge, jetskis and motorboats with and without waterskiers attached. The music is derived from those sounds, with only a few exceptions (seagulls, falls, wind and waves lapping against the shore).
I wanted to transform those undesirable "natural sounds" into sounds I would probably not mind hearing - or wouldn't mind hearing in my head while canoeing. I used convolving, phase vocoding, extensive layering and exteme equalizations to accomplish the transformations.
LUNAR EARTHRISE and LUNAR DUSK
Both pieces were composed using the Moog and Aries synthesizers and the twelve track recording studio at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College. Much of the work involved premixes, resulting in a total of twenty tracks being mixed at a time in some sections. Major concerns of both pieces are spatial location of sounds and complex timbral changes. Structurally the pieces are simple, with large areas of clearly differing textures. On a smaller scale, however, the sounds are continually changing--delicately shifting in space and timbre.
PHASE TRANSITIONS (1989)
The sound source for PHASE TRANSITIONS was exclusively that of the Roland D50 (550) 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 D50, the "surf section" in the middle of the piece was sampled D50, 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 densest 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.
RESONANT PLACES (1992)
RESONANT PLACES was composed over a two-year period. It consists of natural sounds recorded in various resonant spaces found on location in the Bay Area. Some of the resonant frequencies are emphasized by equalization and/or digital signal processing and some sections of the piece are slightly supplemented with synthesizers. The resonant sounds/spaces consisted of a swivel chair with casters rolling across an oak floor, a tightly sealed hallway which changed frequencies as doors throughout the building opened and closed, BART in a BART tunnel, two separate stove vents inside a single house, the ocean through mailing tubes, and train and freeway sounds through sewer pipes in an industrial area of West Berkeley. As the piece progresses the sense of space collapses and expands depending on the original resonant body locations and microphone placement within these bodies. The transitions tend to lift the listener out of the aural space and to deposit them into another, completely different space.
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.
SHIMMER was originally commissioned by Ed Tannenbaum for the Siggraph '85 Computer Graphics Conference held in San Francisco. The images were processed in real-time through Eddie's digital video processor during the performance. This tape of SHIMMER was taken from the Siggraph '85 performance, prop manipulation by Ed Tannenbaum, Karen Koyanagi, silhouettes.
SOLAR WIND (1983) is an electronic piece based on 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.
SUBTERRANEAN NETWORK, commissioned by Hartt School of Music, is an electronic 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.
WHITE NIGHT (1984)
The source material for WHITE NIGHT 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.