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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Orders of Magnitude: Three Works for Instruments and Electronics

  • Author(s): Einbond, Aaron Michael
  • Advisor(s): Campion, Edmund
  • et al.

Orders of Magnitude comprises three works for acoustic instruments and live electronic sounds: Temper for bass clarinet and electronics, Beside Oneself for viola and electronics, and What the Blind See for bass clarinet, viola, harp, piano, percussion, and electronics. The works may be performed together in this order or separately. All works are performed using an interactive electronic patch programmed by the composer in the computer program Max/MSP.

The works respond to the question of how to organize noise-based sounds, arising from extended instrumental playing techniques, into a flexible and expressive live-electronic environment. The process of rapidly analyzing the live instrumental sounds and synthesizing responses based on their timbre becomes the basis of the work's structural logic. This technique is carried to a further degree in the notated score, where the computer programs Max/MSP and OpenMusic are used to produce timbrally-coherent acoustic combinations and trajectories that would be difficult to imagine otherwise.

The works are united musically by their instrumentation, their material, and by their treatment of figurative scale. The temporal proportions of Temper and Beside Oneself are recast in What the Blind See transformed by different factors. Internally the works recall materials at different orders of magnitude, for example the conclusions of Temper and What the Blind See in which the material of the entire piece is compressed into increasingly concentrated outbursts.

The instrumental playing techniques and their amplification also relate to the notion of scale: certain gestures that are almost inaudible and invisible are amplified and brought into relation with material far different in its natural proportions. For example the opening of Beside Oneself and What the Blind See for viola is related to the close of Temper and What the Blind See for bass clarinet, in both of which punctual gestures alternate with silence. Finally, scale is treated in the spatialization of the works, which progresses from stereo to 4-channel to 8-channel and gradually fills the acoustic space with an increasingly-coherent landscape of electronic sound where gestures are spatialized in real time based on a mapping of their timbres.

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