Category: Listening & Reception

Aural Territories: how phenomenology taught me how to compose electroacoustic spatial music

In this article I describe the process of creation, performance, and reception of two sets of multichannel pieces - Journey I and II and Night Song I and II - performed as part of Aural Territories: a concert of spatial electroacoustic music. The main philosophical foundation for this experience has been the views on phenomenology as conceived by Merleau-Ponty (2004) and Dufrenne (1973). In these pieces, I explore compositionally three aspects of the interrelationship between sound and space that were fundamental for my theoretical and practical understanding of electroacoustic spatial music: acoustic space, sound spatialisation, and reference.

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A direct link to the past: nostalgia and semiotics in video game music

The multimedia nature of video games and the interactivity of the medium create new possibilities and purposes for nostalgia, as Bastion (2011), Fallout 3 (2008), and  The Legend of Zelda series (1987 to present) illustrate. In Bastion, composer Darren Korb uses iconic signifiers of nostalgia to create an empathetic response within the player to the in-game character’s longing for a lost world and time. Fallout 3, in contrast, uses the player’s own familiarity with the popular music of the 1930s and ’40s to heighten the destruction of the world after an in-game nuclear war. Finally, The Legend of Zelda series, which made music a major part of its gameplay in Ocarina of Time, uses music indexically and symbolically in Twilight Princess to prompt a nostalgic response within the player that mirrors the response apparently felt by the main character in the game, Link.

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Scanning the temporal surface: aspects of time, memory and repetition in my recent music

This paper considers the role of musical temporality and memory in the recent works of composer Bryn Harrison. In contrast to earlier pieces, the essay outlines the ways in which these pieces adopt a singular approach to musical structure which utilises high levels of repetition. It is argued that, through this approach, the listener is able to build up a composite understanding of the surface of the music over time. Comparisons are made to the scanning of a picture plane, and the work of Bridget Riley, James Hugonin and François Morellet are given as examples. The paper ends with a description of a new collaborative project with digital artist Tim Head which seeks to develop on this same phenomenological approach.

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The Handless Watch: On composing and performing ‘Flutter Echoes’

Étude d’un prélude II – Flutter echoes for string quartet is one of the first works to be based on the transcription, into standard notation, of millisecond-faithful micro-temporal data; the work was composed in 2009, premièred in 2010 and recorded in 2011. This article provides a first-hand account of its inception by the composer, Richard Beaudoin, and one of its first performers, Neil Heyde, cellist of the Kreutzer Quartet. The micro-temporal data was collected using the Lucerne Audio Recording Analyzer [LARA], a powerful software developed by the acoustic researchers Dr Olivier Senn and Lorenz Kilchenmann of the Hochschule Lucerne, Switzerland. The object of their analysis, and the source work behind Flutter echoes, is Martha Argerich’s 1975 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Chopin’s Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, no. 4.

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Temporality as an analytical approach to minimalist music: Tom Johnson’s An hour for piano

Minimalist compositions thwart most attempts at analysis given their remarkable simplicity; their structure is often deliberately obvious. The experience of a minimalist piece, however, is anything but simple. These compositions encourage the listener to ignore the past and the future, memory and expectation, and explore an extended present. 

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Time, eternity and the problem of minimal music’s alleged non-linearity in Louis Andriessen’s De Tijd

This article explores contrasts between time and eternity in Louis Andriessen’s De Tijd from 1981. The music, although inspired by the experience of “complete tranquility”, appears to establish a dialectical opposition between musical elements signifying timelessness and measured time.

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Looking inward: La Monte Young, Arvo Pärt, and the spatiotemporal dwelling environment of minimalist music

There is a thread of epistemic theory connecting the discourse of twentieth-century aesthetics and phenomenology which asserts that works of art open up or disclose a sort of ‘world’, so to speak, as well as an associated view of reality that accords with the subject’s primordial and embodied sense of being.

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