Quintessentially electroacoustic

The composition is complete, the phrasing is complete, the beginning, middle and end are all sorted… but I’m still finalising the textural quality, the timbre, of the sounds that make up this (un-named) piece. I think this is a quintessentially typical electroacoustic state of affairs.

Unlike classical or orchestral composition, where the timbre of source sounds has long been determined, here I am at the end of the compositional process and the only thing left undetermined is the timbre of my source sounds.

I can illustrate exactly what I mean. I have already presented the compositional idea. Below are three renderings of that very same compositional idea, entirely finalised, but with 3 distinctly different sounds. These are stereo renderings, ofcourse, and so are pale versions of the original 3rd order ambisonic renderings.

Note: this piece is a collaboration with Kraig Grady who has designed a ‘just intonation’ grid which makes up the mass of sounds that the listener flies through.

Using Xenaki’s Gendyn algorythm:

Using Sine oscillators:

Using Sawtooth oscillators:

Each rendering has a quality which makes it worthwhile. The first, using Xenakis’ Gendyn algorythm, creates an uncanny ‘orchestral’ aesthetic when the sounds are far away. When the individual sounds come close to the listener, they expose their ‘chaotic’ or ‘stochastic’ character. They are not pleasant to listen to when close. Nothing is revealed with proximity other than an ugliness amongst the minutiae.

The second is the most ‘listenable’. It uses very simple sine oscillators, but the lack of texture means that the tones lose their identifiable locality in space.

The third uses sawtooth oscillators which are very easy to locate in space. There is something about the roughness of a sawtooth that facilitates the perception of its location in space. But the sawtooth sounds are neither particularly pleasant to listen to, nor interesting in texture.

… and so my search continues. I must have tested at least a dozen different sources of sounds. One thing I have not yet tried is using sampled sounds … recordings of real instruments. The challenge here is that the just-intonation tuning that Kraig has designed will require an instrumentalist to ‘bend’ to extremes.

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