Robert van Heumen Composer Improvisor Laptop-Instrumentalist Sound-Designer
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MDFreeze / progress

So MDFreeze will in the end be a real algorithmic composition. I've been struggling with it but finally see some closure at the horizon. It will premiere at a Call & Response event at Tonspur Vienna on August 16-18. It is included in a program that runs on those days between 10-15h. Here are the program notes:

MDFreeze (13') is an algorithmic composition for 8 speakers dealing with the perception of music in time. By taking snapshots of an existing piece of music at irregular intervals and freezing those snapshots, the regular flow of time is altered and a parallel version of the music is created. This process started as a futile attempt to capture a piece of music in a small number of frames, but of course fails utterly. Music is not about taking samples, but about what happens between the samples; about the transition from one sample to the other, differences in air pressure. In principal music is about the experience of sound in time and can never be caught in discrete snapshots. Countability versus the Continuum. And then: is this a ripoff? A remix? Or a new original work? This is for the listener to decide. The original music too was created by changing the regular flow of time, editing live performances together into one whole; revolutionary at that time and place. MDFreeze is inspired by Gas.

The struggle. Yes. Great soundworld, lends itself well for an algorithmic aproach, but will it keep the audience's attention for 13 minutes? It's kind of ambient, inspired by the music of Kompakt's Wolfgang Voigt, especially his Gas alter ego. It is also quite dark, big reverbs. What is interesting: the piece basically plays back an existing music track in its original time (this you don't hear) and opening a gate into a feedback loop every 30-60 seconds or so (this is what you hear). This process is duplicated in 5 strands with various pulses of opening and closing the gate, simultaneously, which is the only compositional process that is working. The original music is not very recognizable (as far as I can tell after having worked with the material for so long), but I seem to notice the form stays more or less intact.

As it is algorithmic, it is not determined but (slightly) different every time. In this stage I'm playing it back over and over, making small adjustments, trying to get a feel for the piece, whether it will in general be interesting to experience.

One last important thing to decide: at this stage I added 3 ornamental sound snippets, not related to the original track. In a way this makes it a bit more friendly, provides a bit of variation to the possibly difficult material. On the other hand I feel I should really stick to the concept, the idea behind the work. Although one of the sounds is actually very much relevant.