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Volume 10 Issue 2 - October 2004

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  • Toronto
  • October
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COMPOSER

COMPOSER 10 CoMPOSER:KEITH HAMEL continued from page 24 probably stay away from technolo- enhancing our notion of what a score is. The truth is that in an interactive piece, or any kind of electroacousric piece, the notion of "score" becomes an insignificant part of rhe piece . It's hard to rep-. resent the piece in any meaningful way in a conventional score. This is especially true of interactive pieces, because the kinds of events thar happen are based on musical actions that occur in performance. In a sense, it's like an improvisation, yet it's not an improvisation, because a certain action in performance often has clear responses in the electroacoustic world. So it's important that those relationships be represented in some way. One of the things I'm working on now, on the research side, is to develop ways in which the nature of ime::ractivity can be embedded in To the score, as.well as other impor- music for instruments, and increas­ . ingly, it's for interactive music environments. gy completely, because you 're tant elements such as the electroa- STEENHUISEN: Who do you right. there is a built-in obsoles- coustic components. see as your predecessors in working cence of almost all pieces that in- STEENHUISEN: Has your work this way, with technology and volve technology. But it's not a· in software development affected composition. huge concern of mine. I think of your creative thinking? HAMEL: Grisey comes to mind most of my music as having a relative::ly as someone who did a fot of scien- short life, in every respect. HAMEL: I feel like I have the titic exploration, which had a huge When I write a piece, it's not for posterity. I want the work to be gratifying, but the lifespan of the piece is not important to me. It's rare situation where I can build my own music software tools. Most people use the technology that they can buy, or that other people have impact on the kind of music he wrote. I guess I feel a close affin- ity with several of the composers who worked at IRCAM (Centre certainly nm enough of a concern built. I make whatever tools I Pompidou, Paris) - composers that I would consider compromising need. This puts me in the situa- such as Tristan Murai! and Kaija and, for example, deciding that tion where I'm less constrained by Sariaaho. For them, technology I'm only going to write for conventional instruments, which of software. to push the availability was used ''C omposers w h o d on 't see would ensure the greatest chance The downside anything smaller than the black their art for longevity. My creative work is more tied to the moment. I'm is that I have to dot on the page are not really forward, and withdo it, but the out the currently working on a piece that within that dot, a world of micro- uses a lot of technology, and I upside is that I changes takes place. '' technolodon 't have to gy, they have no idea how long its life will be - I gu1:ss I don't really care· that much. After that piece is completed, use someone else's software and be impeded by its limitations. wouldn't be creating the kind of music they create. In these cases, I will be ready to move on to and for me, technology is not used STEENHUISEN: So it's the opposite then. Your creative thinking something else anyway. to make something more efficient, STEENHUISEN: Even though or to help you to do something directs your programming work. it's for rwo percussion and two you already know how to do. It's HAMEL: Exactly. If I am pianos, Kolokolchiki also uses used to open up a new aesthetic working and I come across a software limitation, the solution is to technology - the notation software world. I often come across composers who are mostly concerned that you built - NoteAbility Pro. go into my own software and extend the program to work the way There's another interesting dichotomy to explore here, between no­ for tools that will let them work with efficiency, who are looking I need it to. Of course it takes tation and interactive music. On faster. That's a valid objective, some time, but in the end, I've got the one hand, you specialize in developing software to notate com­ I'm interested in developing tech­ but it's not what motivates me. something that is a better tool for me. It's a huge advantage to be plex musical ideas, and on the nology in order to expand the artform. involved in the development of the other, you work with technology in software tools. The result is that I a way that is relatively un-notatable. worked with technology are Stock­ Other important composers who rarely feel that I'm constrained by software - my level of frustration hausen, and Berio. They were HAMEL: (Laughing) I'm working on that. It's something that I one working with music software. is probably lower than almost any­ primarily acoustic music composers who began to work with electroacoustic sounds. Working think about a lot. Strategies for STEENHUISEN: And in the with take the time to thinking about sound, because end, you have the potential.for more individualized musical results, and over time you compile a large set of tools. You're not translating your ideas through someone else's software. Is that why you choose to remain independent in your software development? HAMEL: Yes. I've had software distributed by other companies. There are lots of benefits to doing that, but the software ends up taking on the vision of the company, and the vision of the company is usually commerce, and who they perceive their user to be. I perceive my user to be me, and other people whose interests are relaiively similar to mine. In terms of notation software, it's composers who are writing contemporary that technology had a huge impact on how they conceived of music and how they wrote their acoustic music. Berio's music of the 1960's and '70's would never have developed the way it did if he hadn't worked in electronic music studios in the previous decade. STEENHUISEN: Do you think it's important for all composers to study electroacoustic music? HAMEL: WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM I think it is. It helps composers to think about sound in a different way. It comes back to the idea of little black dots on.the page. Composers who don't see anything smaller than the black dot on the page are not really thinking about sound, because within that dot, a world of micro-changes takes place. There's an attack, an envelope, pitch fluctuations, and changes of timbre. All those ·things take place within the black dot on the page, and those microscopic details of sound are a huge part of what music is. Electroacoustic music forces you to think that way. Most of the time there are no black dots. When you look at a waveform you are actually looking at the microstructure of sounds. It takes your focus away from the symbolic objects on a page. Notation doesn't tell you what is going on within a note, how a timbre changes with a decrescendo, and how in the low register of the flute, the breath becomes more audible. So much of composition is about orchestration and being attuned to the timbral subtleties of sound - I think this can be stimulated and sensitized by the study of electroacoustic music. Composers shouldn't take electroacoustic music simply because they want to make tape pieces - it's a way of encouraging them to think aoout music in"a different way. STEENHUISEN: Although you work with electronics so often, you have made almost no tape pieces. Why is that? HAMEL: I'm surprised that I don't make tape pieces, because I am a bit of a control freak, in · terms of the way I approach composition. My scores tend to be very detailed and tape music would seem to be the ultimate in control since you can fix almost everything before you go to a performance. But for me, two aspects of tape music are problematic. One is that the piece doesn't involve performers. For me, a piece only comes alive when you have performers involved. The second thing is that in a concert situation, tape music doesn't make good theatre. Loudspeakers on stage are not very engaging for me. STEENHUIS EN: As you said, it's quite rare to find composers comfortable working with acoustic instruments and technology. If anything, there may be a diminishing understanding of acoustic instruments. HAMEL: I think that is probably true. The availability of music software tools makes it relatively easy to put together a musical composition. But it's just like every other discipline - the tools don't make art. Tools help, but you only get art if the tools are in the hands of an artist. OCTOBER 1 - NOVEMBER 7 2004

WORLD ·VIEW by Kw·en Ages As at any time in the Toronto area. October offers up a colourfu I pala re of world music concerts. ranging from che cradirional to contempornry lusion. If you're picking this up early in the month. you can still catch the last three concerts of che Third Annual Small World Music Festival. the latest presenrarion by SmaJI World Music producer Alan Davis. Toronto's own aulorickshaw. consisting of vocalist/keyboardist Suba Sankaran. rnbla player Ed Hanley. bassist Rich Brown and percussionist Debashis Sinha. will be joined by guests George Koller and world fusion spe::cialist DJ Medicim:man in an evening of music ··for movement and mediration . . . This ensemble. which blends traditional South Indian music with jazz. perfonns Occober 1 at che Sage Yoga Studio. 5 Shuter St. The next evening. the 17-member Afro-Cuban All-Stars. led by founder Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. brings a raste of Cuba· s rich musical heritage to Massey Hall. The fl.nal concert October 3, features Malian vocalist Rokia lfn1ore. This young artist who in 1997 at the age of 23 won the Radio France lnterm1tional prize as "African discovery of the year . . . has three albums to her name. consisting of modem songs wich trnditional instrumental accompaniment. and a couple of tracks with the Kronos String Quartet. She will petfonn at the Bamboo Cabana. 24,5 Queen's Quay West. The Glenn Gould Studio hosts at least three world music concerts this month. October I. Takako Yanagida gives a recital of Japanese art songs mid opera classics. with piano accompaniment. October 21, .Jorge Miguel presents EL Flamenco. a concert of Flamenco music . dance and song from Andalucia. And if you missed autorickshaw earlier in the month, you can still catch them October 28 as patt of CBC radio's Music Around Us Young Artist Series. in a joint concert with Renaissam:e group Voyces Past. Speaking of second chances. David Buchbinde1"s Shurw1i Burum .Jazz Circus is back for another round of perfonmmces at the Stone Distillery. in the Distillery Historic District. October 6 - 17. Now in its third incarnation. this spectacle features 11 musicians petfom1ing Buch- Ono111R 1 - NmFMBLR 7 1004 binder's original scor

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