Note on Azimuth #3 Concert : a new piece for 32 channels

Rough view of Azimuth #3 setup

Few months ago, I was invited to present a piece for 32 channel system of Azimuth foundation. Azimuth foundation(http://www.azimuthfoundation.net) is an organization of musicians/composers that organize concerts with their multichannel system that its configuration varies every edition. This time, they offered 32 channels: 8 circle outside, 4 quadra up and down at the corners of the hall, 8 circular center up, and down.

Then I thought I must write a new piece for it, although I didn’t have so much time left at the moment. I didn’t want to re-arrange an old piece that is written for a different system as this specific configuration can offer a number of interesting ideas to make a sound journey.

As I have been writing a lot for the WFS system (192 loudspeakers), my brain worked automatically the way I used to when writing for the WFS, which… could be described like : considering the whole space as an opened one, and creating my own ‘drawings.’

It wasn’t too long to realize that I was wrong in my approach, as this system is quite a different one. It is more like a ‘interwoven’ space that is made with a mixed up of different system(quad+multiple octa, and even stereos), accordingly different capacities. I couldn’t say that it is for a diffusion, nor for a spatialization. Rather a mixture of those two, especially with the setup in the center, speakers directing toward the audience, from up to down.

The speakers in the center, 8 up and 8 down toward the audience

The idea had to follow up of the ideal of the speaker setup. Then my composition should have to make sense as well. Then I thought it will be a good idea to have two specific ‘motions’ work together: 1. Some sound sources that are alive, moving, and having strong identities. 2. Clouds that are diffuse and support those main actors.

Previously, actually long time ago, I wrote a series of pieces for the WFS system, called ‘Enfolding Plane(I and II).’ Those are the pieces that I composed in order to study fully what the WFS could do with a variety of different spatial figures, of course with different sound materials. I thought it might be a good idea to add another piece into the series this time, so that I put ‘Enfolding Plane III’ title and gave a subtitle into it, which was ‘Punky Pulse Pool.’

I imagined a giant pool that several selfish pulse-character sounds are trying to occupy the space. It is rather a political fight than a violent one (as sometimes it could end up like that). I created a simple theme with pulse wave that has a small gesture, and started manipulate it into a variety of ways (I called it ‘variations’ in my program note). I had over 200 babies that came out from the theme. I was thinking of categorizing them first, then I thought, why not just trying to listen to them all together. Just out of curiosity.

I randomly placed (threw) all the sound files within 15 minutes time, listened to them, and then I hear a giant mass. (That was the moment that I made the title.) From there, without actually moving the sound files in time, I started cut them off. In other words, I started sculpting it, revealing what’s hidden, and sometimes hiding what’s representative. During this process, I also made decisions of where each sounds or parts of sounds should go and do. Are they staying? Moving? Diffuse? Heavy? Light? Slow? Fast? Overwhelming? Passing by? Supporting? Leading? Timid? And so on.

Localization of sounds is indicated with different colors

After that I moved the result into the WFS Collider, and then I gave them color marks based on my decisions in order to remember and to create the final tracks, and made note of it. This process took quite long. Longer than creating all the sounds.

The tricky part was the fact that I can’t test this in my studio. I wish I had 32 channels myself to try it out but well, I had to use fully my imagination.

Then I made a virtual setup that is similar to the original with the WFSCollider, the software for the WFS system, which, as I mentioned earlier, allows you to create your own space. Then I could have a bit of perspectives how it might sound.

Always very exciting to go for the first tryout with the actual system. This time wasn’t an exception. The most difficult part is to balance all the speakers as they are with different capacity/character. As it was the first time of listening, I spent most of the time making the balance.

Azimuth #3 Concert (22,Apr,2017)

The performance went well. A number of audience of course make the sound quite different, but it was alright. The difference between the WFS and this setup (or course there are many different aspects but if I mention as a biggest part of it) is how the chunk(mass) of sounds is heard; WFS is very good with a sound mass with vivid individuals, while this setup can’t give that amount of detail. However it forces you with much power. It moves you up and down, back and forth!

One of the interesting feedbacks from the audience: “I could feel that I am taking a shower at the giant water fall, but the water came from the bottom, not from the top!”

I feel grateful to have a wonderful experience, not only to compose but also to listen to the system. Multichannel exploration is never boring. There are still a lot to find, reveal. Discovering hidden spaces beyond our imagination.

New Release: Time-Folding V.3.4 on magNIP

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Last summer in Korea, I had this great opportunity to make a mini album published by New.In.Paper‘s magNIP series, finally it came out today (4th/Sep/2016) in Korea!

One of my live performances ‘Time-Folding V.3.4,’ performed at 7th Feb, 2015 in Rotterdam,  is in this small acrylic magnet, and one can listen to the music through the QR code on the back part. Only 40 copies have been printed as it is a special release,  and the price is from 10$ or more.

I’m going to receive 20 copies in The Netherlands soon, planning to sell it and the price will be donation based. If you are interested, you can visit the website below.
http://www.newinpaper.com/

On Notation (with pencil)

I have found this topic on -music- notation quite fascinating. Here I am not talking about the technical or artistic point of view on the music notation, but the process and method in the action of notating.
When I was in University, the composition department kind of encouraged to submit the work hand-written. At the moment very few people were using notation softwares (my very first one was Encore in the mid 90′.) Students needed to submit two copies: one originally hand-written copy, and a photo copy of the original. I learned properly how to notate the score. For example, the space between note, how to make grid on the staff to properly align every object on the score, and so on. However before this process, we need to compose first, and my education of course taught me to do on the music sheet using pencil.

One of my very first handwritten scores from the university life

Before going into the story of composing with the pencil, I’d like to talk about my preference on writing with hands. I am programming a lot, and quite amount of hours of a day, I am sitting in front of computer, typing on keyboard (I can also talk about ‘keyboard!’ well, next time.) but I cannot let handwriting completely go away from my life because I love that process. I am slightly obsessed of some types of pen, pencil, and paper because of that. If I have a right pen and piece of paper, I can really enjoy writing. However, if not, I have a big trouble on writing. Because of that, whenever I find a nice piece of notebook or the pens I like, I must buy them and put them into my notebook collection. I was wondering why I have this tendency. This has happened since I was a young student, a middle school student probably, that I found myself enjoying writing more than anything else in the school life. My notebooks were quite popular in the class because of that. I was also trying to make a nice handwriting that goes nicely with my nice pen and notebooks. I have kept writing my diary also since then. Some of them are written with more care, and some are written not so nicely. And I have kept them all. Even when I read books, I write them down quite often. Just move the words from the book to my notebook. Yes I love writing, the physical process of writing: the feeling of my strength goes into the pen, and the pen smoothly touches the paper skin, and the letters are engraved on the paper, and after lines, it becomes a paragraph of letters, also looks beautiful to me, the beauty I don’t feel the same when I am reading printed books. Probably because printed letters don’t carry the strength, the very momentary strength whatever it is.

Of course the content is the most important one in terms of writing. However the writer should be able to enjoy the process. When composers create music, there are many different processes before a piece of music to be born: Searching for the idea, thinking about form, searching for the sounds, and so on. Then mostly those are notated. There are also many types of music that need a very little amount of notation, or no musical notation at all. Some of my compositions do not have a musical notation but a documentation. But this obsession on writing also gives me a number of challenges on finding out a new way to notate especially when working with a new instrument, or a completely new way of performing. Here in this post, I am probably more talking about more conventional writing.

I know a lot of my colleagues these days use notation programs during composing. I find it amazing. My brain somehow doesn’t allow me to do so. It is for me to jump between multiple dimension in different thinking/physical processes. It has lots of advantages: most among them could be that it saves lots of time. However, probably because of my education, where I needed to submit 6 pieces per year for 4 years, -considering that the school year without vacations only take 7 months- and all those times I was training to write notes on the paper. This was for me the fastest way. Later of the school year, I started using the notation program for submitting which was allowed from the 3rd year. But I needed to write first on the paper and in a couple of days before the deadline, all days and nights, I needed to move all those notes to the computer. This is completely a labouring job.  Almost no creative thought involved, and that was completely welcome and needed after heavy composing period.

This habit has followed me till now. I am doing the same: writing first on the paper, then transcribing all the notes to the program. I have tried to compose with the software, but it just doesn’t work for me: I already forget what I was going to put in when I put the cursor on the screen on the right spot.

Several benefits come when it comes to handwriting composition:

-The time between thinking and writing becomes minimal. You can directly move your thought into the paper.(This can be very different from writing letters -story- on paper, which can be slower.) Rarely the idea or the thought come as the smallest fragment-notes-, but as a big chunk. I write that image first into a piece of paper, try to draw that idea, and indicate with the words what it is about. (This happens a lot more when it comes to electronic music composition. )  Then this drawing goes into the next step: sometimes goes straight into the sheet, or it probably needs a bit more details with more drawing, more indications and so on. This can be called as sketches. I wish I could just go straight into the sheet paper. Never happened.

-There always the second chance to look at what I write when I transcribe the piece into the computer. Since it is a very practical process, not really a creative one, I can easily find errors and mistakes, and can have a certain type of freshness on viewing the score. There some corrections follow in that process. It is quite difficult to find when directly composing with the software.

-Also you can do it wherever you want. You don’t need to carry your laptop. Actually you can get out of your online life for awhile and going back to somehow old fashioned working process that there is no distraction from any notifications; you sit with a pencil and a paper, and your idea.

There are several habits when I compose using pencil. I first sharpen the pencils. I have a set of pencils and I sharpen them all before starting working. Most of time I use those set till they get blunt and I finish the days’ work. So that tomorrow, I need to sharpen them again, and it is the start of the work. This became a rule and a ritual for me. The most painful moment before starting composing today, I sharpen them as slow as possible so that I can work a bit later, because when they are done, I need to start working! So this is the time for my mindset. I become ready to work, and it gives me a bit of time to remind myself what I need to write today.

my pencil set for composing

my pencil set for composing

When I finish sharpening, I draw bar lines (if necessary) and mark each beat on the top of the staff with very small dots. (For example, if you are writing in 4/4, I divide a bar into 4 using dots.) This mark gives me the sense of time flow like a metronome.  Often just 1 minute of music can take several pages of sheet. Depending on the tempo, it is a time-consuming process. This is quite a tricky process; you need to keep the sense of the whole duration of the passage, and this is mostly decided in the planning -the big chunk drawing- and when moving into the sheet, you need to have a clear point on where it needs to start, speed up, and end. Marking the right time duration is essential because you need to go into micro second after all, writing each note when your actual time is much longer than what you write. Fascinating. Isn’t it?

I am not trying to chant on the handwriting process. It is a very personal choice. I only wanted to share my own perspective on the process, how important it is for me as the process of composing. It is important because I can feel the moment of writing later on. It delivers a kind of mood of the moment. It is a personal tracking system of the moment. It is important because it drags myself into the music. -No no, I am not trying to be spiritual here.- It holds my concentration and brings it even deeper. It makes me actualize my thought, from the drawing and planning, to the music. It gives me some kind of satisfaction, oh that can be quite a personal satisfaction since I like writing with hands.

Call me old fashioned, boring if you’d like. That’s okay because for me it is more important to find a joy of what I do. As long as I like writing with hands, I will probably continue composing, with pencil.