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Acoustic space: explicit object

Steve Paraskos: di Scipio, Curran

Decibel performing Alvin Curran's Way Out Back Decibel performing Alvin Curran's Way Out Back
photo Brad Serls
Drawing attention to the relationships that constitute musical phenomena is crucial for Agostino Di Scipio, who opened the International Computer Music Conference with a critical discussion on the cybernetic relationships between musicians and technologies as shaped by the acoustic space.

In Di Scipio’s model of composition, the computer affects itself through the performer and the performer affects him/her self through the computer, transforming the acoustic soundscape. Di Scipio addresses these relationships in Condotte Pubbliche (Public Conduct/Conduits), an electroacoustic sound installation where the ambient sounds of visitors are filtered through two brass tubes fitted with two microphones and two earphones atop two loudspeakers feeding back the manipulated sounds via a laptop. This use of the acoustic space as an explicit object of the composition is reminiscent of Alvin Lucier’s 1969 composition I am Sitting in a Room .

Performed by Decibel, Di Scipio’s Texture/Residue (2006) for violin, cello, flute, bass clarinet and computer, explored the detritus of the classical repertoire by having the performers read Brahms without bowing or blowing to expose usually inaudible, rhythmic key taps and string scrapes. These sounds are fed back into the resonant spaces via computer processing, showcasing the underlying factors that bear heavily on any performance.

Alvin Curran’s keynote address was an eloquent call to arms for proponents of new music. Listing styles and influences like a beat poet he derided hackneyed occidental mentalities and business-as-usual compositional devices while recognising the difficulties for contemporary composers competing with the ubiquity of recorded musics of the past, a situation he admits the electronic artists of his generation helped to create.

Curran’s Way Out Back, commissioned and premiered by the Decibel ensemble, echoes the stylistic impasses of Western art music discussed in the composer’s address. The beginning of the work (a synchronised three-note, rhythmically displaced melody) sounds like an ironic take on minimalism. The rhythms fall apart then pick up again, climbing to a shrieking cacophony of murderous screams alongside piercing electronics and strings.

The Key Note: Works by Agostino di Scipio, Alvin Curran, Haco and Warren Burt, The West Australian Museum, 11 August

For Haco and Warren Burt's performances see also Matthew Lorenzon's account.

RealTime issue #117 Oct-Nov 2013 pg. 43

© Steve Paraskos; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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