Robert van Heumen Composer Improvisor Laptop-Instrumentalist Sound-Designer
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MDFreeze | Posts

Supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL through a composition stipend for 2013 & 2014.

December 6, 2013

MDFreeze / final wrap

MDFreeze was played at Cafe Oto in London in September. Some issues came up, I fixed them, and that's it. More info about the piece here. Another MDFreeze rendition can be heard on Soundcloud.

For people who'd like to program or just listen to MDFreeze: the piece is available as a standalone application for a flexible number of channels and can be played with any Mac computer with OS X 10.6 or higher and a multichannel audio interface (depending on the number of channels required). Email me for a download link.

And just because I'm proud of it, a screenshot of the app below ;)

August 29, 2013

MDFreeze / afterthought

An important question that comes up regularly: why make the piece algorithmic? Why not make it fixed?

Possible answers: because I like the idea that it's not determined while keeping a determined overall feel; because some choices in the composition process feel arbitrary to me anyways so why not have the program make those decisions; because it was going to be and will be presented in a more installation-like environment where people could listen multiple times; because I like to be surprised when listening to it for the 10,000st time.

Just roll a dice and choose the answer ;)

MDFreeze will also be presented in Cafe Oto in London, somewhere at the end of September 2013. In 12-channel format (wow).

And last but not least, pictures from the premiere in Vienna (thanks to Georg Weckwerth).

August 16, 2013

MDFreeze / wrap-up

The premier of MDFreeze was today, at the Museums Quartier in Vienna as part of a Call & Response event in collaboration with Tonspur Wien. Playing kids in the pond and some minor technical issues could not spoil the fun. Very glad with how it sounds. You can listen to a stereo version for yourself here and imagine 8 speakers in a spacious courtyard. O, and if you're feeling adventurous you can even email me for the MDFreeze App and listen over and over to all the different versions.

Out for now. Further plans with MDFreeze include making a more generic version, more like the GeluidsjesFabriek, where one can specify different structures and a different sample to process. But that is for later.

August 10, 2013

MDFreeze / last stage

So the piece is declared done. Send off to the guys from Call & Response, to be played next week on Aug 16 & 17 in a program that runs from 9:00-13:00 on both days.

It's become quite conceptual. I decided to stick rigorously to the concept of the piece: reverberating micro particles of an existing piece of music. I removed all other sounds, they just clouded the sound world of the work, clouded its clarity. After the premiere I will make it available to everyone as downloadable application.

The first ears (except mine) to hear it resembled it to film music with a lot of suspense.

More background info.

July 19, 2013

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.

February 21, 2013


MDfreeze is my version of an ambient piece. Inspired by Gas (Wolfgang Voigt) and the Kompakt label's yearly Pop Ambient collection. To be premiered at a Call & Response event in London somewhere this year. Still in its initial research phase, I'm mainly testing out various ways to process existing tracks. During the process, my respect for ambient guys increases by the day. Very hard to make something throbbing, moving, dynamic, quiet, without any real beat, climax or development, but still interesting to listen to.

This piece is another step in my research on using other artists' material and making something new out of it. Using the inherent sound quality of the original, making that my own and sculpting a new original work using that material. Finding the right balance between literal quote and synthesizing your own material.

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