Select academic Papers
Scoring for Music Improvisation - The potential of digital graphic notations for improvising ensembles.
A/Prof Cat Hope
Vs Representation, Prague 17-20 July 2014
This paper examines the range of improvisation possibilities in animated, graphic and text scores that are made, presented and interpreted on a computer. Computing offers new ways to communicate different types of musical ideas, facilitating a new variety of starting points and guides for improvisation. Moving away from paper pages to a computer screen or projected image enables scores that can easily feature wide range of colour, movement, aleatoric components, the co-ordination of multiple parts and control of electronics. The idea of ‘improvising from a score’ has been developed - and challenged - considerably by the potential of computers, and is examined through different approaches.
It is well known that improvisatory techniques for musicians can span from completely free and spontaneous performances to guided structures. This paper focuses on the different ways notation as a way to guide improvisation, including the way it can be made or adapted on a computer, examining trends in animated and graphic notation, as well as the impact and ongoing development of text for the communication of musical ideas. Further, a range of techniques for the presentation and interpretation of scores for works with a large component of improvisation will be discussed. This includes the potential for networking multiple computers and techniques that enable improvising electronic artists to share score interpretation with acoustic instruments.
Drawing Music: New ways of facilitating collaborative music practice in the digital age.
A/Prof Cat Hope
Digital Humanities Australia Conference, University of Western Australia, March, 2014.
This paper argues that graphic music notation created using digital technologies offer contemporary musicians ways to make music in more collaborative and creative ways. Contemporary music practice continues to expand into a wide array of styles, techniques, and performance media, yet music notation has not evolved at the same pace. Graphic notation represents music through the use of visual symbols that do not make part of established traditional music notation. It provides techniques to communicate aspects of contemporary music making such as improvisation, electronic music and its performance. Graphic notation created and read on computers extends these possibilities of communication even further, and is a recent, evolving practice. This paper discusses the ways software can be employed to create new ways of reading and writing graphic notation that are not bound by the one dimensional page, as music notations can be put in motion, appear and disappear for performers, be generated in real-time, and used to signal the creation and response to audio and electronics. The creation and performance of new kinds of graphic notation inspires and facilitates new music collaborations across genres and cultures in way that has not been possible to date, and the paper examines the rationale, historic background and impact of these developments.
Mobilising John Cage –
The design and creation of score generators for the complete John Cage Variations I – VIII.
Dr Cat Hope, Dr Lindsay Vickery, Aaron Wyatt.
School of Music, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.
Malaysian Music Journal 2 (2) 2014
The John Cage Variations provide a useful snapshot of a range of score writing techniques employed by Cage throughout this career. From very complex preparations and realization of parts required in Variations I and II, to the almost non-existent scores of VII and VIII, the complete Variations provide a range of opportunities and challenges. In 2011 Western Australian new music ensemble Decibel developed a software-based score maker and player for the works and presented a series of concerts of the Complete eight V ariations. The performances have led to the development of the John Cage Complete Variations App for the iPad tablet computer, developed in conjunction with Peters Edition. Drawing on the ensemble’s experiments with real- time and scrolling computer score generation and performance, and their unique make up of performers, composers, sound artists and programmers, the group have made the realisation of these works more accurate and possible in real-time for the first time.
This paper discusses the approach taken by the group for the concept, design, creation and eventual performance of the scores for John Cage’s Variations I – VIII, including the packaging of the works into an application. It will also cover the challenges presented by the range of different score formats to the packaging of the collection as a whole.
New digital interactions with John Cage’s Variations IV, V and VI
Cat Hope, Stuart James and Lindsay Vickery
ACMC 2012 Brisbane
To celebrate the centenary of John Cage’s birth in 1912, Western Australian new music ensemble Decibel undertook the realization of the John Cage’s completeVariations I – VIII. The works offer a unique insight into the development of Cage’s approach to composition practice, aleatoric approaches, spatial arrangements and the use of electronics. The preparation and reading of the scores that make use of transparent sheets (Variations I, II, III, IV and VI) has been adapted using digital score creators and readers. This permits real time generation of measurements and graphics, as well as the assemblage of performance symbols, that can occur during the actual performance of the works. This paper examines the approach to Variations IV (1963) and VI (1966) from the perspectives of digital adaption and the context of the program as a whole.
Digital adaptions of the scores for Cage Variations I, II and III
Lindsay Vickery, Cat Hope, and Stuart James
ICMC 2012 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Western Australian new music ensemble Decibel have devised a software-based tool for creating realisations of the score for John Cage’s Variations I and II. In these works Cage had used multiple transparent plastic sheets with various forms of graphical notation, that were capable of independent positioning in respect to one another, to create specifications for the multiple unique instantiation of these works. The digital versions allow for real-time generation of the specifications of each work, quasi-infinite exploration of diverse realisations of the works and transcription of the data created using Cage’s methodologies into proportionally notated scrolling graphical scores.
Reading Free Music – adapting Percy Grainger’s Free Music scores for live performance.
Dr Cat Hope
Australasian Musicological Society, Melbourne, December 2014.
“Embodied in the concept of Free Music is 'non-harmony'--totally independent voices creating an immensely complex polyphonic web of sound that was, for Grainger's time, too intricate for human performance.” Lewis, 1991.
Percy Grainger’s Free Music was a vision for music inspired by natural sounds, which resulted in Grainger constructing machines and musical works that were characterized by continuous pitch without formal rhythm, and often described as precursors to the microtonal music that came much later. This paper discusses the systems designed to enable live performances of Grainger’s Free Music 1 and 2, composed in 1936 and 1937 respectively), works that are important early examples of graphic notation for electronic instruments. Original materials were sourced from the Grainger Museum to enable the creation of digital performance scores that facilitate the reading of Grainger’s notation in a number of ways, leading to the performance of the works using Theremin iPad /iPhone applications. This paper discusses how the idea of performing the works were conceptualized, researched and the various processes that led to the end results.
Electronic Music is Here to stay - Or Is It?
Meg Travers, Cat Hope
Proceedings of the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2013, Sydney.
Musical composers frequently make use of new technologies in instrumentation. Whilst orchestral traditions remain strong and the instruments viable, what of the works of composers of electronic music where the sound sources have fallen into disrepair, obsolescence, or modern technology has changed the sound so that it bears no relation to the original?
Beyond collections of manuscripts and recordings, the practicalities of the re-performance of electronic music compositions have not been widely discussed, and no methodology for archiving the artefacts for re-performability exists. In time, as greater importance is placed on these works, the issue will become more difficult to retrospectively resolve.
Harnessing the ARC-Hive
Cat Hope, Lelia Green, Lisa MacKinnney, Tos Mahoney.
Proceedings of the Emerging Issues in Communication Research and Policy COnference, University of Canberra, 2013
This paper addresses the construction of archival collections through the use of public support and volunteer labour.
It examines the requirement of a new archive to engage with consumers and participants to achieve its desired outcomes. The Western Australian New Music Archive (WANMA) is a research project involving music advocacy organisation Tura New Music, the State Library of Western Australia, ABC Classic FM and the National Library of Australia. It seeks to collect and make accessible, in digital form, new music associated with Western Australia from 1970 to the present day. WANMA will also create new performance pieces for inclusion within the archive. The collection is currently in its formative stages but builds upon a seeding project which involved the digitisation of Tura’s archives. This made visible the fact that much public experience of new music is as a comparatively ephemeral and experimental art form, and many traces and recollections of iconic and everyday performances need to be collected soon if they are not to be lost entirely. Alongside the technological and copyright challenges facing such an enterprise, WANMA seeks to engage with musicians and music lovers who might have materials of interest for the archive which can be digitised and then returned to the original owners. Such materials include, but are not limited to, recordings. Indeed, they encompass all conceivable peripheral artefacts of new music in Western Australia, from performance programs through to letters describing a concert, through to individuals’ memories. Such a project needs to engage with, and fire the imaginations of, audiences past and present.
The Western Australian New Music Archive: Performing as Remembering
Dr Cat Hope, Prof. Lelia Green, Dr Lisa MacKinney, Mr Tos Mahoney, Ms Meg Travers.
PARADISEC, Melbourne, December 2013.
The Western Australian New Music Archive (WANMA) is an Australia Resarch Council (ARC) Linkage funded research project involving the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) at Edith Cowan University (ECU), The State Library of Western Australia (SLWA) and Perth organisation Tura New Music. ABC Classic FM and the National Library of Australia (NLA) are also contributing to the project. The project will produce a digital repository and interface of new music by Western Australian composers, from 1970 to the present day. It seeks to discover, collect, collate, digitise, store and disseminate music recordings, video documentation, scores and other evidence pertaining to Western Australian new music. This digital archive will be housed on SLWA’s server in perpetuity as part of the libraries’ 'Heritage Collection’, accessible through the Library website as well as a dedicated WANMA portal. This paper discusses the curation, collection and some early rights management of materials in the archive.
Low Frequency Sound
Leonardo Music Journal, December 2009, Vol. 19, Pages 51-56
Low-frequency sound on the cusp of the audible offers the possibility of redefining the way we think about listening to music. As the perception of pitch is lost in very low-frequency sound emissions, an opportunity arises for a different kind of music and a different way of listening. Low frequencies can be engaged to activate responses other than the aural or be used as a kind of “silent activator,” enabling or affecting other sounds. This article explores the possibilities for what may be called an “infrasonic music.”
Earth pulse: Vibrational data as artistic inspiration. Cat Hope
Re:live Media Art Histories 2009 conference proceedings. pp7 3-77
The use of scientific data to create artworks has always played an important part in the arts, and music has been no exception. The impact of developments such as electricity, the phonograph, the cassetterecorder and the now ubiquitous computer on the aural arts is well documented. This paper looks at a different influence however; the use of scientific data as a source for musical artworks, in particular the use of seismic and other low frequency data logged in various formats. As sound art offers different ways to experience aural media, this paper looks at some artists who have experimented with methodologies to create works using meteorological, geological and hydrological data.
Silence As Stillness? Sonic Experiences in Art using Infrasonics
NOMAD/MASS Conference Proceedings, 2010.
Is silence the ultimate depiction of stillness in a sonic environment? Not all music is audible, if it is created using a
frequency range high or low enough. Developments in sound reproduction, measurement and creation technologies have allowed us to control the frequency and volume of sound more fully, challenging our idea of what silence is. There are certain ranges within the low frequency sound spectrum that teeter on the cusp of audibility, but are never silent. Rather, they involve entire structures or bodies in the ‗listening‘ experience through vibration, ultimately allowing listeners an individualised role in their own experience of a work. This paper discussed some artists approaches to low frequency sound production in composition, installation, and performance.
The Bottom End of Cinema: Low Frequency Effects in soundtrack composition.
Sound Scripts – Proceedings of the Inaugural Totally Huge New Music Festival 2009
Much of the power of the cinema experience lies with the sound track, and the way it interacts with what happens on the screen. Soundtrack composition has become a complex art, where musical ideas are enhanced by sound reproduction technologies and complicated by sound effects demanded by the action. The effects of certain ranges of low frequency sound which are featured in the creation and presentation of both film music composition and cinematic sound effects can add an unique dimension to the experience of the soundtrack, and indeed the total cinematic experience. This paper discusses very low frequency sound features in certain examples of Western film music and sound effects, as well as the success of the results achieved.
Vibrating Performance: Experiencing Music through Vibration in the Work of Abe Sada
Australasian Drama Studies , No. 56
As music and sound art move closer together, there is a possibility for experiences that offer an expanded concept of listening. The Abe Sada project attempts to create an embodiment of sound and music by enabling physiological responses to vibration. Music composition, installation and performance created with a focus on very low frequency sound (infrasound) offer a broader spectrum of listening experience below that provided by the generally perceived audio frequency range. The project uses vibration to activate architecture, audience bodies and a range of objects and its performances employ a unique combination of improvisation, performance technique and scoring to create works that range from warm and soothing to abrasive and extreme.
The Possibility of Infrasonic Music
Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Low Frequency-Noise and Vibration and its Control, Tokyo, Japan 2008.
Low frequency sound on the cusp of the audible offers the possibility to redefine the way we think about listening to music. The extension of music into sound art means that more plastic art forms, such as installation, may involve music and allow vibration to manifest in objects other than musical instruments. As the perception of tonality is lost in very low-frequency sound emissions, an opportunity arises for a different kind of music, and a different way of listening. This paper explores the possibilities for what may be called an 'infrasonic music'.
Music to Feel: Revising the Listening Experience with Low Frequency Sound.
Australasian Musicological Society of , Dunedin, New Zealand, December 2012
Abstract A focus on low frequency sound in music composition can engage a new dimension to listening, that of physical vibration. This can be realised in listeners, objects and the very structure of performance space itself. The extreme end of low frequency sound is known as infrasound, technically considered to be sound below the range of human hearing. Infrasound is created in many acoustic environments, and may effect the way we experience other tones. It is also thought to be responsible for some of the psycho-physiological responses to music such as ‘chills’ or ‘goosebumps’. This paper examines the ways composers and performers have used low frequency sound to define acoustic space and engage bodily as well as psychological responses.
Practice Led research
The Composer and the Machine: Organic Collaborative Processes in Composition and Programming Leading to Performance.
ACMC 2011, Auckland, New Zealand.
This paper contemplates different processes and results developed by programming composers as compared to composers who use programmers to facilitate or realise compositional components of their works. Different models for the relationship between music composition and computer programming are examined, as are the outcomes for composers and performers. For music programmers the compositional process varies according to the composer and the
work they wish to create. Complex musical configurations involving sound synthesis, processing, aleatoric and improvisational approaches may be guided by conceptual ideas that do not always originate with programming skills, and can be outsourced within differing levels of collaboration. Gerald Strang's seminal 1970 essay 'Ethics and Aesthetics of Computer Composition' asks if it is possible for a programming composer to apply similar kinds of aesthetic and analytical judgments as a composer who does not program [Strang 39]. This paper contends that things have changed, and if the act of music programming were thought of as 'musical' by all composers, it could be employed to further the timbral and structural palettes of music composition for all music. Using works of her own and her peers, and a discussion with a programming composer, the author
discusses some different ways to recognise musicality in computer programming.
When Lines Become Bits - Engaging Digital Technology to perform works by Alvin Lucier.
Cat Hope, Kynan Tan, Stuart James.
Proceedings of the Australasian Computer Music Conference 2010,
The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
New music ensemble Decibel is a group of musicians, composers and improvisers who pursue music that combines acoustic and electronic instruments. In May 2010, they presented a concert of works by American composer Alvin Lucier (b1931), applying a range of new approaches to the reproduction of this important artists’ works. Lucier has made clear that he sees technology as a tool, a means to an end [8, 122]. Different possibilities for his works - such as alternative instrumentation, lengths, and live or recorded versions of pieces - were
suggested in many his scores. The adaption of certain analogue electronic components in the works using digital software and hardware has facilitated many of these suggestions. In addition, Lucier’s compositions provide an opportunity to demonstrate how vital the
performance of electronic sound generation and manipulation is when combined with live instruments.
This is articulated in the consideration given to spatialisation of sound reproduction, the placement and assignment of performers to electronic sound generators and the use of software to facilitate performance requirements. Whilst Decibel may not be the first to
attempt these adaptations and approaches, they have presented a number of Australian premieres of Lucier’s work and have carefully documented the process of their realisation in this paper. The curatorial rationale, methodologies applied to the proof of concept and live performance of the works, as well as the results achieved are discussed.
New Possibilities for Electro Acoustic Music Performance
Proceedings of the XVII Colloquio di Informatica Musicale, Musicale Italiana, Torino, Italy, 2010
Western Australian new music ensemble Decibel has an ongoing research project dedicated to performing music that combines acoustic and electronic instruments. In the process of revitalising pieces that have been considered un-performable due to limitations in technology at the time of composition, or certain technologies becoming obsolete, Decibel has developed a unique approach
to new music performance involving electronic and acoustic instruments. This has also involved the reworking of electronic pieces not intended to be performed live, works that have previously proved difficult to perform, and the ‘electroacoustification’ of acoustic works.
The ensemble combines old technologies such as reel-toreel tape machines with newer approaches to music making using interactive programming and networked environments. This paper investigates possibilities for the configuration of electronic devices in chamber music with acoustic instrument performers, arguing that through the development and implementation of a series of methodologies for performance, Decibel is able to create a new kind of pure ‘electroacoustic music’ where electronics and acoustics are truly blended on a live concert platform.
Sound Art / Mobile Art
Sound Scripts – Proceedings of the Inaugural Totally Huge New Music Festival (pp. 41 – 47), Perth: ECU Press. 2007
This paper examines the role of sound installation and music composition practices in addressing the relationship between sound and telecommunications devices, in this case the mobile phone. The popularity of mobile phone artworks is rapidly increasing, with handsets readily available, artists excited abousponsorship opportunities, and the general push in electronic arts. This paper focuses primarily on work by Perth mobile phone Sound Art collective, Metaphonica, which explore many issues raised by this art form. “Phonebox” (2005) was a site specific sound installation where phones are called from a remote computer, presenting a synchronized composition featuring sounds created by the artists installed on the handsets as ring tones. This was in turn subverted by visitors to the exhibition location.