The following is a documentation of a residency by the members of Composers Inside Electronics in Buffalo. We're still trying to track down the author of this material but we feel strongly that it should be posted anyway. We are also tryng to confirm the dates of the event.
Composers inside Electronics is a group of composer/performers, founded in 1973, which is dedicated to the composition and live performance of electronic and electro-acoustic music using circuitry designed and constructed by its individual members. In November-December 1978, four founding members of that group - John Driscoll, Ralph Jones, Martin Kalve, and David Tudor - presented a series of four discussions at Media Study Buffalo under the collective title, Aspects of Collaboration in Electronic Performance. The talks were presented in conjunction with a five-week residency by the four composers at the Center for Media Study, SUNY at Buffalo, with funding by the National Endowment for the Arts. The purpose of that residency was to research and develop rotating instrumental loudspeakers for lice electronic music performance; prototype loudspeaker units developed during the five weeks were tested, in the final three days of the residence, in the sound stage at Media Study Buffalo.
The special, highly directional loudspeaker units under development by Composers Inside Electronics were to be composed of a number of different drivers, each for a different frequency range (e.g. woofer, midrange, tweeter). Each driver was to deliver a focused beam of sound or to focus sound at a point in space, and was to be capable of being "aimed" or "panned" in performance. The composers have hypothesized that, using such speakers in their performance, they can achieve interactions among their individual sounds, and between their sounds and the acoustical space in which they are performing.
The initial areas of research defined by Composers Inside Electronics were:
The second and third areas remain to be further researched.
In the course of five weeks' work, Composers inside Electronics explored a number of established wave focusing techniques developed originally for microwave antennas, as well as a few original notions. Technical assistance with the work was provided by the Engineering Department and the Educational Communications Center of the State University at Buffalo; Seneca Sound, Inc., of Tonawanda, NY; and Robert Attea, a speaker designer an member of the team that developed the revolutionary Heil driver.
From initial qualitative impressions formed during the first tests of a number of techniques, tentative conclusions were drawn, and prototype speaker units developed for quantitative analysis. That analysis was then pursued in the sound stage at Media Study Buffalo. An accurate means of generating hard-copy plots of frequency response of each driver was developed by Ralph Jones and John Driscoll and, in a three-day testing period, such plots were made, from a number of different angles, for each prototype unit.
The information developed in this residency is currently being analyzed toward the refinement of the designs and construction of the final instruments.
Aspects of Collaboration in Electronic Performance
It was natural that Composers Inside Electronics should choose for their series of discussions at Media Study Buffalo the topic of collaboration in the making of electronic music. Originally formed to perform "Rainforest," a collaborative ensemble work by David Tudor, the group has worked together over the past five years in performances, environmental installations, residencies and workshops throughout the Unite States and Europe, and has in that time developed a repertoire of collaborative pieces by each of its members.
In this latest series of discussions presented on four consecutive Sundays (November 12-December 3), each composer explored a different aspect of the composition and performance of, and design of systems for, live electronic music. The talks were illustrated both with audible examples, in the forms of audiotapes and live demonstrations using circuitry designed by each composer, and with visual descriptions such as scores, system diagrams, videotapes, and photographs of electronic and mechanical soundproducing devices.
Ralph Jones opened the series with Design and Collaborative Composition in which he introduced the audience to the particular strategies for collaboration that have developed among the members of Composers Inside Electronics during their five years of working together. Jones distinguished the function of design, which he defined as "the making of a plan to make something," from that of composition, "the act of putting together a finished product." Illustrating his point with recorded examples, slides, and videotapes, he showed that, in collaborative music-making, the individual may design a system of interactions among the composer/performers, thus freeing the composition of the finished piece for the collaborative effort of ensemble, investing the resulting work with "the spirit of discovery." Jones, a composer/performer, designs, builds, and utilizes sound-producing and modifying electronic circuitry in a wide variety of applications. He has been an ASCAP Fellow in composition at Tanglewood, a Fellow of the Center of Creative and Performing Arts, Director of Research Design of Media Study/Buffalo, and Instructor in the New York State Summer School of Arts. His research for the development of a "transposing microphone" for ultrasound was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
John Driscoll, in his talk Automated Puppetry, expanded his concept of "puppetry as the manipulation of an idea through a medium" into the areas of mechanics, acoustics, and electronics. Illustrating his talk with slides and audiotapes, Driscoll traced the history of automatons, from such early novelties as a mechanical chirping bird, through the sound sculpture of Italian Futurists, to the complex, electronically controlled kinetic sculpture of this decade. Throughout, he drew parallels between the concerns represented in these works and those on which is own, which in many respects bridges the disciplines of sculpture and music, is based. Among the most fascinating aspects of Driscoll's talk was his presentation of the variety of construction styles represented in the work of those artists and musicians using "homemade electronics." Drawing from this extensive collection of slides showing the interior and exterior construction of the electronic devices produced by a number of artists, he compared various construction styles, and dealt with the work as a kind of sculpture of architecture. Driscoll began work in sound sculpture and electronic music in 1968, and was, in 1973, instrumental in the founding of two performance groups, The Dance Construction Company and Pnumbral Raincoast. He has been Artist-in-Residence at the ZBS Foundation, and has instituted a sound exploration center for elementary school children in New York City. His current work involves extensive research and performance with acoustical phenomena in both spaces and materials.
Martin Kalve's talk, The Art of Playing Electronic Instruments, was an exposition of various instruments used in electronic performance, and their respective playing techniques. Using examples on audiotape, Kalve explored a wide range of musical activities, showing how different playing techniques arrive at a balance in a collaborative performance situation. Martin Kalve has been working in speaker design, electronic and mechanical filter design, and self-generating audio circuitry. He toured with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1978 and, in collaboration with Petr Kotik realized the first player piano version of The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Erratum Musical, by Marcel Duchamp.
Concluding the series, David Tudor spoke on Altering Signal Sources In Real Time; - transformations by electronic and non-electronic means, speech and other sound simulations; or, "how to make the ordinary extraordinary". Explaining in detail the techniques fundamental to his work, Tudor traced the historical development of this personal style of electronic music-making, and argued for "output processing," the electronic enhancement of basic sound sources, as a means of heightening the aesthetic quality of musical material. Introducing "a sound that I hate," a recording of a grasshopper chewing a grape leaf, Tudor demonstrated how, by output processing techniques, that sound could be transformed into a striking musical event. A substantial portion of Tudor's presentation was taken up with an actual performance in which he demonstrated ways in which the techniques he had explained may be used musically, in an interaction what the acoustics of a space, to produce complex auditory illusions.
David Tudor emerged as a leading avant-garde pianist, teaching at Black Mountain College and engaging in early projects of Merce Cunningham and John Cage. In the early 1960's, together with Cage, he initiated a trend toward live, as distinct from taped, electronic music. Many of his compositions are associated with collaborative visual forces: light systems, dance, television, theater, film, or four-color laser projections. He was one of four members of Experiments in Art and Technology which designed the Pepsi Pavilion at Osaka, Japan for Expo '70. His compositions include Rainforest 1, Forest Speech, Tone Burst, and video Pulsers, and electronic sore integral to Brazos River: a Video Collaboration with Viola Farber and Robert Rauschenberg. At present, he is developing a sound and fog environment, Island Eye Island Ear, for and island in Sweden.
All four talks in the Aspects of Collaboration in Electronic Performance series are currently being transcribed and edited by the composers for publication.