Wouter and I have spent the last days to find our very own version of Nono’s violin solo “La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura”.
The publisher delivers a score with Nono’s handwriting and a tape with 8 sound tracks, paired in two. The tape uses material which is derived from an extensive working period which Gidon Kremer and Luigi Nono spent together in the late 80s in Berlin. Nono recorded Kremer’s improvisation and additional noises from the studio they worked in. The first two tracks are processed versions of Kremers improvisation; track 3 and 4 mainly use violin sounds in extremely soft dynamic, porous, fractions of sounds; track 5 and 6 consist of material from the studio, Kremer’s and Nono’s voice, bangs and chairs moving on the floor, and track 7 and 8 deliver the nostalgia by using material and gestures from the classic romantic violin literature. The score relates to the improvised material and also uses typical ‘Nono’-sounds like ‘ppppp-col legno sul tasto’ on a long note or almost inaudible melodies which will last for 5 minutes.
Our task is now to put these two parts, tape and violin, together within a time frame of 45 – 60 minutes. It is up to us, when exactly we place the 6 parts; the choice, dynamic and the spatialisation of the different tape parts are specially Wouter’s task. We went through the different pairs of tracks and combined them one by one with the 6 violin entrees (of approximately 3-6 minutes length), to get a notion of what happens on the tape and which combination will work best.
Of course this varies in each performances, since my spacing of the violin parts will be slightly different every time, Wouter will shift the buttons of his Korg differently every time and I will react to what I hear from the tape in my own playing, using different timbres, vibrato or non-vibrato, different tempi etc. The performance will always be in flux.
To get to know the material, we needed a longer time period to work together, and a studio where we could place the 8 speakers which are necessary for the performance of the piece. Both was being provided by STEIM. We are having a good and fruitful time in studio 1.
The actual concert will take place on 20th of April 09 at the Biennale Zagreb in Croatia.
Barbara Lüneburg: violin
Wouter Snoei: electronics
– Macbook Pro (MacOSX 10.5.6)
– RME FireFace800 (soundcard)
– Korg nanoKontrol (MIDI controller)
– 8 speakers (6 x Mackie SRM450, 2 x Meyer Sound UPA-1P)
– DPA mic
– Logic Pro 8
– SuperCollider 3.3a
– jackosx 0.81
The tape tracks were played back in Logic, and then routed via JACK to SuperCollider. SuperCollider took care of the levels (controlled via the nanoControl), channel routing and equalisation (using a global EQ on all channels). Next to that a 3-second feedback delay was runned in SuperCollider, for which the input signal came from the DPA mic, which was directly connected to the soundcard. This delay was used to capture and hold the last note of the piece, as written in the score.
The outputs of the soundcard were connected directly to the speakers, as a mixing desk was not really required for leveling. We will probably use a mixing desk in the real performance though, just for safety.
The directions in the score point out that the sound engineer has to decide which of the 8 tape tracks should be on and off at which times during the piece, and which tracks should sound on which speaker. The speaker ordering has to change 3 to 7 times during the piece. We noticed after listening to all 8 channels together the material on the tape seemed to be too dense and the tracks didn’t seem musically connected to each other. So we decided that only a few tracks should sound at a time in the performance (and the directions in the score seem to confirm this). Using the MIDI controller Wouter was able to accomplish this in a very fluent way. As the piece will be different at each performance this level of control is very important. It is also sometimes nescesary to tamper with the loudness of passages from the tape, to be able to fully interact with the violin parts.
To get control of the speaker configuration Wouter designed a small utility in SuperCollider giving full graphical feedback over the patching of channels. As the sound engineer is supposed to react to the position of the violinist (which changes at every of the 6 parts) throughout the piece it became a very handy tool, since it shows which tracks sound where, and which of the stereo-paired tracks belong together. The system features drag and drop capability to change tracks, and automatically moves other tracks to make sure every track remains connected to one of the speakers. The “use” button sends the new configuration to the SuperCollider server, and an equal-power crossfade of 8 seconds is used to make the change as smooth as possible (the score states that the tape playback should not stop during these changes; in the original performance this proofed to be impossible with the technology of the time, resulting in the addition of the word “utopica” to the title of the piece). Playing with this tool in every run-through of the piece helped discovering what settings work best at which times.
Altogether we are happy with the results of one week living inside this piece. The period at Steim really helped us to discover and understand how La Lontananza works, and to create our own interpretation of it.
Wouter Snoei & Barbara Lüneburg