Alexander Sigman: fcremap

, composer


The foundation of composer Alexander Sigman’s fcremap project is a collaborative piece with Korean visual artist and animator Eunjung Hwang called Future Creatures. The generative seed of Future Creatures has given birth to this remarkable set of related works represented on this recording.


The foundation of composer Alexander Sigman’s fcremap project is a collaborative piece with Korean visual artist and animator Eunjung Hwang called Future Creatures. Sigman’s approach to these pieces, all reconceptualizations of the original materials for Future Creatures in some form, is appropriately multi-disciplinary. He explores non-traditional scores including real time scrolling electronic graphic notation, experimental methods for triggering electronic tracks, unconventional ways of playing back electronic sounds, and image to sound analysis of the Future Creatures animation to draw fundamental connections between the materials in use in both medium. The overall result, from a musical perspective, is a sophisticated palimpsest, with a conceptual template serving as the frame upon which several variations are layered. Sigman reinforces the relationship of the pieces to each other with his titles — “fc” stands for “Future Creatures”, “remap” represents the “remapping” of the material, and the suffix indicates the instrumental combination. While the opening track, and the first piece in the series, fcremaperc, is austere and sonically exploratory, fcremapercremaflvln for alto flute, violin, electronics, and video is more whimsical, capturing the character of the animated score in the instrumental sounds. Through his innovation in score generation, integration of audio and video elements, and layering of material to create a set of related pieces, this release demonstrates Alex Sigman's place at the forefront of experimental compositional aesthetics.

- D. Lippel

  • Producer: Alexander Sigman
  • Images: Eunjung Hwang and Alexander Sigman
  • Layout: Aquiles Hadjis
  • Recording Information:
  • Track 1: Spectrum, NY, February 11, 2015 (Lawrence de Martin, recording engineer) 
  • Track 2: Residentie Hertogenpark, Antwerp, May 15, 2016
  • Track 3: Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo, December 15, 2016
  • Track 4: PostX, Merelbeke, Belgium, December 18, 2014
  • Track 5: Chiba, Japan, June 25, 2017
  • Track 6: International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA), Yamanashi Gakuin University, Kofu, Japan, December 12, 2016

Alexander Sigman

Alexander Sigman’s award-winning instrumental, electroacoustic, and interdisciplinary works have been featured on major international festivals, exhibitions, institutions, and venues across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. He has been selected for artist residencies at the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart, Germany), the Djerassi Founda-tion, the Paul Dresher Ensemble Artists Residency Center, and Gullkistan, Center for Creativity (Iceland). In 2013-2014, he undertook a musical research residency at IRCAM.

Nominal/Noumenal, Sigman’s first portrait recording, was released on Carrier Records in 2012. In 2017, fcremap, a two-disc set of audiovisual works, appeared on New Focus Recordings. Other recordings have been released on the innova, Urlicht Audiovisual, and Lotus-Open-Factory labels.

Sigman completed his doctorate in Music Composition at Stanford University in 2010. He was previously Associate Professor and Chair of the Music program at the International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA) of Yamanashi Gakuin University in Kofu, Japan and Assistant Professor of Composition at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea. Currently, he is a music software engineer at Amper Music, an AI-driven music technology company in New York City.

Eric Derr

Percussionist Eric Derr is committed to commissioning and presenting new, vibrant, sustainable works for percussion as well as revisiting classic pieces with focus and intensity. About his performances, said that he "was in the driver's seat right out of the gate" and the L.A. Times mentioned that "there is more than a little joy to be found in one percussionist hitting a ball in the air with a ping pong paddle." With the International Contemporary Ensemble, Eric has appeared at the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Park Avenue Armory, and Spectrum (New York City). Eric has also played with Chicago-based Ensemble Dal Niente since 2007 with highlight performances at the Library of Congress and in Residence at Harvard University.

Laura Faoro

An eclectic flutist specializing in contemporary repertoire, Laura Faoro regularly performs in European festivals, both as a soloist and as guest of several contemporary music ensembles. She was awarded the AssAmi Prize 2009 as a young talent and, in 2015, Il manifesto described her as “one of the most promising Italian flutists.” She has recorded for RAI, ORF, and CSR. After her RTSI performance in the presence of Salvatore Sciarrino, Enrico Colombo wrote: “A particular mention for Faoro, for the way she performed the hard articulations of the sounds and the existential anxiety which crosses Sciarrino's music and poetic. I will remember this concert for her amazing performance of Canzona di ringraziamento.”

Takao Hyakutome

After having won many prizes at international competitions, Takao Hyakutome is now predominantly a solo violinist, and regularly premieres works for both violin solo and ensemble. He has been the artist in residence at ChampdAction since 2011 and also plays in many other chamber music groups. He has performed in festivals such as Ultraschall in Berlin, Biennale Musiques en Scène in Lyon, ME_MMIX in Palma de Mallorca, Mixtur in Barcelona, Forum Wallis in Leuk, NUNC! in Evanston, and many others. Besides being active as a performer, Takao also does research on extended violin techniques including subharmonics and rubber band preparation.

Decibel New Music Ensemble

Decibel are world leaders in the integration of acoustic instruments and electronics, the interpretation of graphic notations and pioneering digital score formats for composition and performance. The ensemble has commissioned over 60 new works since their foundation in 2009, have toured Europe and Australia, recorded for ABC Classic FM and SWR German Radio, and released five albums to date on Australian and international labels. The ensemble has developed and commercialized the Decibel ScorePlayer iPad app, a score reading device incorporating mobile score formats and networked coordination performance environments that is sold worldwide.

Decibel are Cat Hope (artistic director, flutes, bass), Lindsay Vickery (reeds), Stuart James (electronics, keyboards, drum kit), Aaron Wyatt (viola), Tristen Parr (cello), and Louise Devenish (percussion).

Frederik Croene

Frederik Croene is a pianist/performer/composer based in Merelbeke, Belgium. He graduated as a pianist from conservatories in Belgium in 1999. Since then he developed several trajectories that all have a (re)searching character in common. He started as an atypical interpreter combining classical repertoire with hard-boiled contemporary pieces. His debut CD release (HA’ Records 2003) was an extraordinary mix of Brahms, Janacek, Bartok, Scelsi and new pieces by F. Gyselynck, B. Vodenitcharov and P. Craenen. Parallel to his solo career (with highly successful recitals on festivals like Transit (BE), Holland Festival (NL) and Time of Music (FI)), he built up a huge expertise as a chamber musician performing with other soloists and with a variety of ensembles based in Belgium (Spectra, Ictus, Nadar, Tiptoe Company, Vlaams Symfonieorkest,...)

Pei-Lun Tsai

A versatile clarinetist, Pei-Lun Tsai has performed widely as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, Canada, China, Korea, Europe, and her native Taiwan. During the winters of 2011-2015, Ms. Tsai was an artist in residence at the Karlheinz Stockhausen Foundation and Banff Music Centre. In recent years, Tsai was invited to perform at ACL-Korea International Conference and Festival, Malaysian Contemporary Festival (SMCC), ASEAN Nanning Music Festival, Thailand International Composition Festival (TICF), Seoul International Computer Music Festival, and ICA Mid-American Clarinet Festival.
06 Nov, 2017

Alexander Sigman hosts CD release for fcremap at Spectrum on 11.12

Commemorating the release of Japan-based composer/sound artist/improviser Alex Sigman’s new two-disc audiovisual album fcremap—out on 10 November on New Focus—the composer is joined by New York-based performers Jordan Dodson, Charlotte Mundy, Hajnal Pivnick, and Lester St. Louis for an evening of works for instruments, live electronics, and video. The concert will feature the world premiere …

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Avant Scena

“fcremap” is a new contemporary academical avant-garde album which was released by “New Focus Recordings” on November 10. The album compositions were created by American composer Alexander Sigman which creates interesting and original experimental music. His instrumental, electroacoustic, film, multimedia, and installation works have been featured at major international festivals, exhibitions, institutions, and venues across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. Alexander Sigman also had been collaborating with various music genres musicians and experimental music composers. His musical language is based on various shocking and interesting musical decisions, weird timbres, strange sounds and special sound effects. Dynamic, full of unpredictable and unexpectable stylistic waves and turns – this music always has adventurous and extraordinary sound. Alexander Sigman works are mostly dedicated for various electronic instruments, films, multimedia projects. Through the years of his musical career, Alexander Sigman had created and masterfully improved original, adventurous and bright musical language and unique composing style.

Album compositions were written by Alexander Sigman and Korean visual artist and animator Eunjung Hwang which is called “Future Creatures”. The compositions is based on free form, not stricly based structure, independent and individual melodies, strange timbres and electrnic instruments sounds. Computer devices, special sound effects, various electronic instruments playing techniques and many other similar elements are the basic of these compositions. Composers try out many different playing techniques – they are twisting together traditional and innovative ways of playing. This wide range of different playing techniques which are highly contrasting with each other. Strange timbres, various computer and electronic devices sounds, electroacoutic instruments timbres make an effort to whole album sound – it brings evocative, innovative, bright and vivid sound. Energetic and striking compositions episodes are connected together with subtle, silent, slow and abstract episodes. The main part of these compositions is based on abstract music elements. This music doesn’t have memorable and expressive melodies, vivacious and emotional melodic episodes which would be contrastingly connected with each other. Separate timbres, all kinds of different types of rhtyhmic formulas are the main and most important episodes of this album. Abstraction, dynamic and constantly changing rhythmic, sudden turns of characters and moods create extraordinary and innovative musical pattern. Composers get out from the zone of traditional zone, expand and explore technique abilities of various instruments. They also use different musical expressions, dynamics, other musical language elements which are masterfully combined with each other in one composition. Original composing styles, wide range of musical expressions and musical language elements create interesting and bright sound of this album.

— Avant Scena, 11.24.2017


Adverse Effect

Mood-shifting sound sculptures utilising electronics, violin, flute and various other instruments in conjunction with Korean visual artist Eunjung Hwang, whose graphic notations were used as a trigger for each of these compositions. Hwang’s Future Creatures animated film formed the starting point to these collaborative reinterpretations, or remapping, of the original material via multidisciplinary means. As with most such work, it is austere and demanding, yet remains playfully shaded as it jostles between the erratic and often brittle arrangements, only compounding that Sigman’s approach to modern composition is one of ever-rewarding returns. Strong, bold and ambitious, fcremap is possessed of a fiery nature impossible to ignore. Also included is the original film, itself a vibrant short of surrealistic and otherworldly hue somewhere between sci-fi commentary and a crude video game perhaps invented by Eraserhead’s Henry.

— Richard Johnson, Adverse Effect, 3.1.2018


Bandcamp Daily - Best of Contemporary Classical

Composer Alexander Sigman worked with Korean visual artist Eunjung Hwang on an animation called Future Creatures in 2013, and after percussionist Eric Derr saw this work, he requested a new solo piece that would include visual and sonic elements from it. The process led the composer to score a series of works—the album title fcremap blends the initials of the animation with “remap”—using a recombinant approach. The various pieces here blend new writing and lacerating electronic layers with actual sound from the animation, as well as sonic translations of Hwang’s visual creation. For Derr’s piece “fcremaperc”—“perc” for percussion, natch—that actualization transmits those translations via transducers embedded in various parts of the percussion setup (metal sheet, snare drum, and zither). Further, on some pieces including two versions of “fcremap’dB,” created for the excellent Australian group Decibel New Music Ensemble, images from Hwang’s animation are projected as an additional, interactive part of the score. Beyond the pieces for Derr and Decibel, there are woozy pieces for flute and violin (played here by Laura Faoro and Takao Hyakkutome) and prepared piano (Frederik Croene). If all of those source ideas seem a bit heady and dry, well, don’t worry, because an academic background isn’t necessary to enjoy this intensely fricative music.

— Peter Margasak, Bandcamp Daily, 2.26.2018


Record Geijutsu

Alexander Sigman obtained his doctorate from Stanford and currently teaches at Yamanashi Gakuin University. He has created a work of experimental music, making extensive use of technology while also engaging in improvised performance.

His second solo CD was derived from a collaboration with Korean neo-pop visual artist Eunjung Hwang. It is a collection of instrumental and electronic works.

As for the title, “fc” comes from Hwang and Sigman’s animated film Future Creatures and “re-map” alludes to the “remapping” or repositioning of the source material. This abbreviation was devised with the instrumentation and other compositional factors in mind.

The album contains a selection of several pared-down, fragmentary pieces that are punctuated by silence. The CD’s first track is a work for percussion with three distinct movements. Tones from a cluster of instruments emitting lengthy reverberations are generated by means of transducers which have been applied to the instruments. The resulting blend of instrumental and electronic sounds is deeply interesting.

-- Yuki Kakiichi, Record Geijutsu, 4.2018 (trans. by Samantha Benjamin)


The Sound Projector

We first heard Alexander Sigman’s compositions on the formidable release Nominal / Noumenal, which appeared on Carrier Records in NYC in 2011. Evidently I was overwhelmed at the depth and complexity of this Californian composer’s work, but I still found much to enjoy. One of the characteristics of that release was Sigman’s propensity for using unexpected information sources as the basis for a musical score; in that case, “surrealist poetry, the typography of Eric Gill, the behaviour of biological neurons” were deployed as starting points, and once fed through the many-layers of his intelligent brain, wild music resulted: “the paths of musical information zig-zag and circuit in highly unexpected fashion.”

Today’s record fcremap (NEW FOCUS fcr194), likewise starts from the point of channelling external non-musical information into musical form. In this instance, it’s the work of a Korean artist/animator named Eunjung Hwang, who has made a series of cartoon films called Future Creatures; excerpts and examples of Hwang’s images are provided on every available space of cover art on this trifold digipak release, and inside the booklet. (And watch the DVD too). She has a deceptively simple drawing style (on the surface, some of her drawings have a style similar to a Peter Max or Heinz Edelmann drawing of the 1960s), but the subject matter appears to be highly unusual speculations about biological forms and mutations of the future. Sigman’s tactic has been to transform audio data and video data from Hwang’s films into graphic scores; these are then played by the Decibel New Music Ensemble, sometimes showcasing individual players like Frederik Croene and Erik Derr. Sigman explicitly calls this process “remapping”, hence the title; it involves a range of methods for transformation, such as “real time scrolling electronic graphic notation” and “image to sound analysis” of the visual data derived from the films. Further details – and there are plenty to digest – can be gleaned from reading the booklet of notes.

Even the titles of the six works are part of the overall plan. On the 2011 record I noted Sigman’s gift for compaction, compression of information into small spaces; in his titles, “the use of rounded and square brackets implies intertextuality and compressed meanings within meanings”. Much the same applies here; the main title fcremap unpacks into Future Creatures Remap, while individual compositions contain, effectively, the DNA code of their own making and instrumentation: for instance ‘fcrempno’ is the piano piece, ‘fclremap’ is the one scored for clarinet. Sigman delights in these tight packets of information; one might liken his compositional method to computer coding 1.

  1. I would like to add that Sigman’s remapping is nothing like the simplistic efforts that have been made in recent times by aspiring avant-garde electronic musicians, who merely recast the data found in large image or video files into an audio wrapper, and then “replay” it through their laptop software. I don’t regard that as composition, merely lazy process art, and it invariably results in unlistenable digital noise. On the contrary, Sigman’s work in producing these graphical notations has all the signs of hard work: it is well-crafted, intelligent, and carefully arranged; the remapping aspect is only part of the whole process, not the beginning and end of it.

Until you hear the music, that is…all the pieces here have an other-worldly, near-impossible form to them that is capable of expressing incredible beauty. It kind of helps to understand the method, and the structure, but the sheer aesthetic pleasure and the uncanny emotive sensations will sweep the listener away in short order. My two favourites, and perhaps the “heavyweights” of the session, are the two works scored for the entire Decibel New Music Ensemble, apparently two versions of the same score. Taken together, 20 minutes of eerie bliss; the music roams freely and puffs like a cloud, a cloud of mystery. It’s in several movements, episodes almost, elided together by edits. With the foreground flute work, it sometimes feels like conventional classical-pastoral music meeting up with modern electronics. Synths (I assume) provide pulsations / patterns / structure, while the flute soars wildly and freely, following its own kite-like pathways in the air. Utterly compelling.

The other pieces showcase the talents of individual musicians. The one for Laura Faoro’s flute and Takao Hyakutome’s violin is gorgeous, but also undercut with a sense of urgency; Zen Buddhism meets 21st-century urban anxiety. Gorgeous atmospherics in just five minutes. Further turbulence to be found in parts of the Frederick Croene piano piece; the piano may be prepared in some way, sounding plangent and enriched with extra scrape and percussion. Dissonant and busy composition, with thundery lower register chords. Sigman never misses a chance to layers of scratchy detail when the occasion calls for it. The clarinet of Pei-Lun Tsai sounds forlorn and lost, and is joined by an equally ambiguous synth plaint; five minutes of incredibly emotive music. Then there’s Eric Derr’s percussion kit, leading off the album, another very active and busy composition with no space left unrattled or percussed. Becomes quite Harry Partchian at the end; a rich and sonorous update on gamelan music.

A DVD is included in the package; this reveals (to some extent) how the music is realised, documenting live musicians playing as they watch a huge screen with the graphical score slowly scrolling from right to left before them. The images of Eunjung Hwang are visible, along with grids, numbers, and other data which I assume enables them to process this content into music in some way. Viewing this video in no way demystifies the music or compromises your listening enjoyment (to an ignoramus like me, it’s like magic). Dr. Sigman kindly sent us a copy of this amazing release from Yamanashi Gakuin University in Kofu, Japan, where he holds the position of Associate Professor and Chair of Music. Highest recommendation for this completely unique and wonderful piece of modernist music; it satisfies on every possible level and will reward many future auditions.

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