The Displacement of Agency and Sound Source in Electroacoustic Music as Compositional Approach in Works Including Live Performers

University of Calgary
1106-3600 Brenner Dr NW
Calgary, AB T2L 1Y2

Music facilitated by technology has led to an unprecedented development in performance-practice: the ability to generate sound without the physical action required when performing on an acoustic instrument. Response to this development has resulted in differing approaches to performance aesthetic preferences, with one direction, for example, emphasizing acousmatically-based listening practices. Most removed from this acousmatic research is another approach, emphasizing the development of electronic instruments that replicate the type of human gestural interaction present when using acoustic instruments. This paper examines the incorporation of both previously described aesthetics on a continuum as an approach to composition which provides dramatic and narrative elements to electroacoustic works including live performers. Three recent electroacoustic works by the author are discussed: Memento Mori (2014) for saxophone and live electronics, Ecclesiastical Echoes (2015) for piano trio and The Woman and the Lyre: Sapphic Fragments (in progress) for vocalist, chamber ensemble, and live electronics. Their analysis presents the displacement between agent and sound source as integral compositional narrative approach. Memento Mori, for example, uses a computer vision system to track the performer's distance from the front of a stage. The data transmitted by the camera subsequently affects spatialization and volume parameters of processed sounds. The performer's physical actions are therefore linked to acoustic sounds that are not geographically displaced from the agent, as well as processed sounds that are displaced. The relationship between agent and sound location serves as a narrative element in the piece, using the fact that the performer is continuously present, regardless of the spatialization, as commentary on the idea that, much like performance motion can never be completely linked to sonic response on an electronic interface, the inclusion of a live performer makes it impossible to remove the visual element of the performer completely. This demonstrates that works for live performers and electronics present unique challenges that do not necessarily apply to acoustic works. Ecclesiastical Echoes and The Woman and the Lyre: Sapphic Fragments both employ similar systems as Memento Mori; motion tracking via computer vision enables a connection between performance motion and electronics. However, in Ecclesiastical Echoes this is intentionally visually obscured, as the camera is placed inside the piano, tracking motion related to the performance gesture but not the gesture itself. The Woman and the Lyre: Sapphic Fragments incorporates motion tracking that is visible as well as invisible, and also makes use of performer visibility and other staging devices to illuminate the compositional approaches to agent and sound source displacement in a larger scale work.

adrian 2015-06-03