Barbara Lüneburg & John Croft > Composing ” …mit schwarzem Glanz” for viola and live-electronics

Developing of the composition ” …mit schwarzem Glanz” for viola and live-electronics

Concert on 10.12.10 in Vienna, Stiftung Essl Klosterneuburg
In planning: concert tour in New Zealand 2011
Collaborating period: between 17-19.1.10 at STEIM, Amsterdam

John Croft:

My first visit to STEIM, after several years of working in live electronics. Barbara and I have been working on this new piece, …mit schwarzem Glanz for viola and live electronics, for some time now, in the rare moments we could get together, so it was a pleasure to work intensively over a number of days at STEIM. The piece relies on the detection of many parameters of the viola sound — pitch and loudness of course, but also noise content, brightness, melodic angularity, suddenness of attack, and so on — and mapping all of these to complex patterns of immediate response in MaxMSP, including a lot of real-time spectral processing. Because there’s no score following or pre-composed sounds, it’s essentially impossible to work “in the abstract” on the patch — it is the kind of thing that really needs testing in a kind of “controlled environment”, with plenty of time to try all the possibilities. Which is precisely what STEIM provides, and so we achieved a great deal, from the dark, pulsating opening, where the slow surges on the open strings of the viola control spectral compression and dilation of the sound, to the explosive passage near the end, where the undulating line of the viola controls a constantly changing filterbank. Because I work in a university, with its ever-increasing administrative distractions, it was a rare and welcome experience to work for a sustained period of time in such wonderful facilities. So now, aside from a few minor things, my piece is essentially finished. I’m very grateful to STEIM and to Nico for this opportunity, and I hope to return some time. Thanks to everyone!

Barbara Lüneburg:

The Research Project:
I am conducting a practice-based PhD-study at Brunel University/London (supervisors: Dr Bob Gilmore (since 2007), Dr John Croft and Prof Christopher Fox (both since 2010)), the topic of which is “The creative role of a performer in contemporary music as an interface between instrument, composer and audience”. My research touches topics like creativity research (for example the system model of creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly), group collaboration between composer and performer and performer and the field, the modelling power of the field, charisma, stage presence, concert aura and programming.
The collaboration with John Croft is part of my praxis-based research. The work we are doing at STEIM consists of investigations around the use of the viola and the development of fitting live-electronics.

At the same time I will investigate the creative relation between composer and performer. By combining to different domains of knowledge (that of the performing artist and the writing composer) and two different fields of experts and consumers, in which we are working and connected, promises different creative results than if each person is working on his or her own. To proof that theory I have to undertake much different collaboration in various forms and test it against different models of creativity research.

STEIM has repeatedly supplied me with studio space, technical equipment and last but not least a guestroom to enable composers coming from abroad or other cities to work with me for the duration of several days.

Work done at STEIM:

First of all John and I used our time at STEIM to check the viola part for feasibility and flexibility of playing. Secondly we were working at the electronics themselves and my response in playing to them. Already before I had sent John a recoding of the first sketches of the piece, which he had used to develop Max-MSP patches that were specifically designed for this piece. Now the patches had to be tested in terms of functioning and aesthetical results on the technical and acoustic conditions  of a life-situation. We took time to sort out the necessary sensitivity of the patch, to find practical solutions for pitch detecting and to discuss what the electronics do with the live-part of the viola and how I accordingly might react to it. This is work that is most efficient and inspiring if done together on the spot. The life-situation cannot be adequately replaced by working with a pre-recorded tape part of the instrumental material. Also, the immediate collaboration between composer and performer enriches the creative process by bringing together the experience and knowledge from two different domains.

STEIM is consistent in offering composers and performers the possibility to make such collaborations happen, not to speak of the technical and human support they give. Therefore I want to thank again, also in the name of all composers I have worked with at STEIM.

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