The second workshop session with Luna took place at the matralab, on 4 March. I was pleased to see that the conception of her new t-stick piece appears to be almost complete. Luna presented me with a very clear line in terms of the structure of the composition; she had excellent descriptions of both gesture and sound over the course of the composition. Due to the strong theatrical direction in her conception, we have had very interesting talks about the role and presence of the t-stick. In particular, our talks have led to a rethinking of the t-stick as an agent of mediation between human performer and theatrical gesture. I find myself relying less on my usual modes of exciting sound (e.g., framing and fingering, thrusting) and more on using the t-stick as an instrument capable of measuring effort and, thus, a mediator between performer and performer expressivity – effort being one aspect of expressivity.
I proposed that we device at least one ‘effort’ gesture continuum. At one end of the continuum, we have a physical gesture that appears to require little energy exertion while at the other end we have a gesture of great vigour and energy. In between these extremes, we have numerous gestures, each one requiring more effort than the next.
I followed these steps while developing a possible continuum.
1. I chose physical gestures that required the least and most effort based on musical and theatrical concepts required for Luna’s composition.
Least effort: horizontal stick / cradling / no movement / no pressure (no squeezing)
Most effort: continually changing angularity / alternating wide grip and baseball bat position / kayak and lasso like movements / pulsating squeezes
2. I categorised the different components of these two gestures (the least and most effort gestures) into four fields:
(1) Angularity, orientation and position of stick
(2) Touch or contact
(3) Expanse of movement, activity
3. I looked at these four fields and considered the sensing mechanisms involved in each. For instance, angularity is about measuring tilt via the accelerometers. Squeezing involves the pressure sensor. Measuring the expanse of, say, a lasso gesture requires a reading of combined gyroscope data.
4. Next, I programmed ‘two’ different algorithms for extracting gesture in each field (e.g., two methods of measuring effort in relation to changes in angularity). The two algorithms are designed to respond with different sensitivity so that one method is more representative of effort that is exerted in short bursts while the other method indicates a longer energy accumulation, as long as the gesture is repeated/maintained.
A preliminary ‘effort’ gesture continuum is listed here, from least to most effort exertion. One performance goal may be to combine all of these and so, as each gesture is added, there is an accumulation of movements and also exerted effort.
(1) Rolling slowly
(2) Tilting slowly
(3) Movement along the frontal plane (forward and backward motion)
(4) Changing hand position (widening and narrowing) and brushing
(5) Squeezing with a sustained degree of force and/or rapid pulsating squeezes
(6) Spinning: lasso, fan, airplane, majorette
(7) Concentrated and highly vigorous spinning
I have been working on a t-stick sound vocabulary that integrates well with winds – wood wind instruments to be more precise – capturing not only sustained ‘wind’ sounds but also a wealth of extended technique sounds (e.g., key clicks, tongue rams, flutter, air noise, etc.). In this video, I hope you will hear various wood wind instruments and also some of the more contemporary extended technique sounds.
On December 13, David Ogborn was in Montreal and so I invited him over for our second workshop session. I was excited to have him in town and I welcomed him to my ‘home base’ at the matralab. The first part of our time together was spent on quiet programming – David working on his new breakcore synthesiser while I worked on some gesture extraction algorithms.
In terms of gesture, we are exploring movements that co-ordinate well with David’s musical concepts of rhythmic unity. For instance, his composition will involve a set of gestures that when combined, stabilise or bring a sort of periodicity to a bank of glitch-influenced sounds; t-stick movement will increase or decrease ‘metricity’, as David is calling it.
During the second half of our meeting, we explored shaking as a means of controlling metricity. I shook non-stop while David looked over the t-stick data streams coming into his custom-built synthesiser. We made an effort – exerted an effort – to map energy exertion to metricity. The harder I shook, the more stable the sounds became. After some reflection, it seems that the ‘inverse’ may make more sense; the harder the shake, the less stable the sounds become. Work in progress, as usual.