SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) releases its newest recording in an ongoing series featuring works by the organization's member composers, under the curation of SEAMUS Director of Recordings, Scott L. Miller. EAM2020 contains works by Elainie Lillios, Alex Christie, Ioannis Andriotis, Elliott Lupp, Chris Lortie, Nicole L. Carroll, Panayiotis Kokoras, Per Bloland, Leah Reid, and Nathaniel Haering.
|Elliott Lupp, hammered dulcimer & electronics
|Derek Emch, bass clarinet, Elainie Lillios, electronics
|Alex Christie, voice & electronics
|Alyssa Andriotis, alto flute, Ioannis Andriotis, electronics
|Michiko Theurer, violin, Chris Lortie, electronics
|Nicole L. Carroll, electronics
|Panayiotis Kokoras, electronics
|Keith Kirchoff, piano, Per Bloland, electronics
|Leah Reid, electronics
|Medical Text p57
Medical Text p57
|Daniel Bayot, voice, Nathaniel Haering, electronics
SEAMUS releases its 29th and newest volume in the Music from SEAMUS series with this recording of music by Elliott Lupp, Elaine Lillios, Alex Christie, Ioannis Andriotis, Chris Lortie, Nicole L. Carroll, Panayiotis Kokoras, and Per Bloland.
Elliott Lupp’s Hinge for hammered-dulcimer and electronics uses the instrument’s conventional and extended timbral properties as a basis for an enhanced sound world that pushes beyond its typical boundaries. Lupp bows the dulcimer, combining those sustained sounds with live processing, pitched and non-pitched percussive material. To facilitate a responsive relationship between the electronics and performer, Lupp incorporates improvisatory elements into the notation. Quick, searing crescendos lead into dense industrial cacophonies; pointillistic pitches evoke water droplets falling from a not quite closed faucet.
Elainie Lillios’s Undertow for bass clarinet and electronics, performed here by Derek Emch, opens with two alternating multiphonics, first articulated in a sustained context and then accelerating into a trill. As Lillios introduces new sets of pitches, we hear subtle ambient responses in the electronics before accented attacks make the responsive nature of the electronics more explicit. As the texture becomes more active, Lillios expands the pitch and timbral vocabulary, but the primacy of the initial oscillating idea in the performance remains.
In its original version, Alex Christie’s mouthfeel is a multimedia piece for voice, megaphone, and light bulbs, reinterpreted here for audio alone. An insistent pulse akin to the sound of a timer lurks behind tinkering, metallic sounds and glitchy electronic sounds. After a pause midway through the piece, the pace of the material quickens, culminating in an immersive texture which introduces the first discrete pitch material in the work.
Ioannis Andriotis’ Vocem features a wide ranging amplified alto flute part largely shaped by pitched whisper tones and breathing sounds. Opening with vocalizations processed through a series of delays, Andriotis moves towards motivic material expressed in pitch. The electronics envelop the live flute with echoes of the performed material as well as contrasting timbral responses, such as bells and synthetic sounds.
Jouska, as defined by John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows that chronicles made up terms, is a “hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head…which serves as a kind of psychological batting cage…” In his work Jouska, Chris Lortie establishes an often humorous dichotomy between violently cathartic noise textures between violin and electronics and saccharine passages of Romantic music for violin and keyboard.
Nicole L. Carroll’s Orrery Arcana is both the piece heard on this recording as well as a system Carroll designed for real-time performance that involves custom software and a self-made hardware controller. Mapping various audio parameters onto data from NASA’s lunar research, a system in W.B. Yeats’ A Vision, and the numerology of Tarot cards, Carroll uses her customized performance system to perform a work compiled from analog synthesizers and environmental field recordings.
Of his work Qualia, Panayiotis Kokoras writes, “The composition explores the experiences of music from perception to sensation; the physical process during which our sensory organs — those involved with sound, tactility, and vision in particular — respond to musically organized sound stimuli.” A repetitive two note motive opens the work, around which we hear police sirens in the background, accelerating and decelerating pulsations, and swooping figures as if from a falling firecracker. Kokoras deftly combines these different sounds into hybrid textures, building complex phase structures from the components. By combining disparate sounds that have extra-musical associations, Kokoras manages to disentangle them from their sonic associations.
Per Bloland’s Los murmullitos is inspired by a novel by Mexican author Juan Rulfo from the 1950’s in which a man returns to a town where his parents lived, to find it having fallen into decay. Los murmullitos opens with an insistent rhythm in the low register of the piano as the electronics accumulate around it. When the repetitive figure moves to the high register, it is occasionally broken up by virtuosic flourishes. The work alternates between these two impulses, stubborn intensity and athletic dynamism.
Leah Reid’s Sk(etch) explores sounds, gestures, and timbres associated with sketching, drawing, writing, and composing. We hear the sounds of paper being cut and torn and lines being drawn, traced, and erased. Reid manipulates the temporal frame of these sounds, speeding them up, layering them, and placing them into a context of an unfolding musical logic.
For his work, Medical Text p. 57, Nathaniel Haering used texts from the educational volume Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine Vol. 1 published in 1845, specifically passages related to the impact of age on the body throughout different stages of life. Haering mixes phonemes and consonants with complete words, teasing the listener to try and assemble the meaning of a full phrase, while linking the halting sound of vocal utterances and extended techniques with a rich vocabulary of similar timbres in the electronics.
Elliott Lupp is a composer, improvisor, visual artist, and sound designer whose work often invokes images of the distorted, chaotic, visceral, and absurd. This aesthetic approach as it relates to both acous- tic and electroacoustic composition has led to a body of work that, at the root of its construction, focuses on the manipulation of noise, extreme gesture, shifting timbre, and performer/computer interaction as core elements. Elliott has received a number of awards and honors for his work, including a 2019 SEAMUS/ASCAP Commission, the 2019 Franklin G. Fisk Composition Award for Chamber Music, and Departmental and All-University awards in Graduate Research and Creative Scholarship.
Acclaimed as one of the “contemporary masters of the medium” by MIT Press’s Computer Music Journal, Elainie Lillios creates works that reflect her fascination with listening, sound, space, time, immersion, and anecdote. Her compositions include stereo, multi-channel, and Ambisonic fixed media works, instrument(s) with live electronics, collaborative experimental audio/visual animations, and installations. Elainie’s work has been recognized through awards, grants, and commissions from leading organizations including the Fromm Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Fulbright Scholar Program, Concours Internationale de Bourges, Areon Flutes International Competition, Electroacoustic Piano International Competition, Destellos Foundation, Concurso Internacional de Música Electroacústica de São Paulo, Concorso Internazionale Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer Competition, and others. Reviews of Elainie’s compact disc Entre Espaces (Empreintes DIGITALes) praise her work for being “... elegantly assembled, and immersive enough to stand the test of deep listening” and as “...a journey not to be missed.” Other works are published by Centaur, Innova, MSR Classics, Ravello, StudioPANaroma, La Muse en Circuit, New Adventures in Sound Art, SEAMUS, Irritable Hedgehog and Leonardo Music Journal. Elainie serves Director of Composition Activities for SPLICE and as Professor of Creative Arts Excellence at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Alex Christie makes acoustic music, electronic music, and intermedia art in many forms. His work has been called “vibrant”, “interesting, I guess”, and responsible for “ruin[ing] my day”. He has collaborated with artists in a variety of fields and is particularly interested in reconfiguring human-technology relationships in physical space. His work frequently combines real-time audio processing, instrument building, light, video, and theater, in order to expand performance environments and modes of interaction. Alex has performed and presented at conferences and festivals whose acronyms combine to spell nicedinsaucesfeeeemmmmmmfogascabsplotnort. He serves as faculty and Director of Electronic Music at the Walden School of Music and holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and Mills College. Alex is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition and Computer Technologies (CCT) at the University of Virginia as a Jefferson Fellow.
Ioannis Andriotis (b. 1983, Greece) holds a D.M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Oklahoma (USA). As an artist, Andriotis is interested in creating projects that bridge the gap between commercial and experimental music as well as focusing on sociological aspects of music emphasizing elements of human interaction, culture, and social memory. His work and research has been presented at various music festivals/conferences and art installations such as the ICMC, NYCEMF, SEAMUS, SPLICE, NAISA, 11th International Cairo Biennale (Egypt), Palace of the Academy of St. Anna (Italy), and the 24th International Biennale of Alexandria (Egypt) among many others. Andriotis is an engineer and member of the steering committee for NYCEMF. He has also assisted as a music adjudicator for the ICMC and SCI/ASCAP competition.
Chris Lortie (b.1993) is a composer and computer musician. His compositions regularly involve the use of live electronics as a means of augmenting and disrupting both sonic and visual cues; as such, Chris’s music often explores the subjects of fakery, deception, and hyperrealism in the electroacoustic domain. His pieces are informed by his interests in spatial audio, performance art, theatre, intermedia, gestural interactivity, and improvisation. Chris’s music has been performed nationally and internationally at festi- vals and conferences such as SEAMUS, N_SEME, Electroacoustic Barndance, SPLICE, soundSCAPE, and MA/IN by artists and ensembles including Quatuor Bozzini, Line Upon Line Percussion, Mari Kimura, Marco Fusi, Karen Bentley Pollick, Ekmeles, Ensemble Proton, and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. Chris Lortie began his musical studies at Bowling Green State University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition. He is currently studying with Jaroslaw Kapuscinski and Eric Ulman as a doctoral student at Stanford University.
Nicole Carroll is a composer, performer, sound designer, and builder. Her work spans improvisation, installation, and fixed media performance. She builds custom performance systems that she performs under the alias “n0izmkr.” Her works have been performed internationally in the USA, Mexico, Wales, Germany, Greece, Australia, and China. She received a Ph.D. from Brown University in Providence, RI, and is currently Lecturer of Digital Composition at The University of Newcastle in Newcastle, Australia.
Panayiotis Kokoras is an internationally award-winning composer and computer music innovator, and currently an Associate Professor of composition and CEMI director (Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia) at the University of North Texas. Born in Greece, he studied classical guitar and composition in Athens, Greece, and York, England; he taught for many years at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. Kokoras's sound compositions use sound as the only structural unit. His concept of "holophonic musical texture" describes his goal that each independent sound (phonos), contributes equally into the synthesis of the total (holos). In both instrumental and electroacoustic writing, his music calls upon a "virtuosity of sound," a hyper-idiomatic writing which emphasizes on the precise production of variable sound possibilities and the correct distinction between one timbre and another to convey the musical ideas and structure of the piece. His compositional output is also informed by musical research in Music Informa- tion Retrieval compositional strategies, Extended techniques, Tactile sound, Hyperidiomaticity, Robotics, Sound and Consciousness.
Per Bloland's compositions range from solo pieces to works for large orchestra, and incorporate video, dance, and custom built electronics. He has received awards and recognition from organizations including IRCAM, SEAMUS/ASCAP, Digital Art Awards of Tokyo, the Salvatore Martirano Competition, and ISCM. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Technology and Music Theory at Miami University, Ohio, and recently completed a Musical Research Residency at IRCAM in Paris. A portrait CD of his work is scheduled for release in fall 2015.
Leah Reid is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music. Her primary research interests involve the perception, modeling, and compositional applications of timbre. In her works, timbre acts as a catalyst for exploring new soundscapes, time, space, perception, and color. In recent reviews, Reid’s works have been described as “immersive,” “haunting,” and “shimmering.” She has won numerous awards, including the International Alliance for Women in Music's Pauline Oliveros Prize for her piece Pressure, the Film Score Award for her piece Ring, Resonate, Resound in Frame Dance Productions’ Music Composition Competition, and residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her works are frequently performed throughout Europe and North America, with notable premieres by Accordant Commons, Ensemble Móbile, the Jack Quartet, McGill’s Contemporary Music Ensemble, Neave Trio, Sound Gear, Talea, and Yarn/Wire. Her compositions have been presented at festivals, conferences, and in major venues throughout the world, including Aveiro_Síntese (Portugal), BEAST FEaST (England), For- gotten Spaces: EuroMicrofest (Germany), ICMC (USA), IRCAM’s ManiFeste (France), Nief-Norf (USA), Série de Música de Câmara (Brazil), SMC (Germany), the Tilde New Music Festival (Australia), and WOCMAT (Taiwan), among many others. Reid received her D.M.A. and M.A. in music composition from Stanford University and her B.Mus from McGill University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia.
Nathaniel Haering is deeply interested in the use of live electronics to expand the artistic capabilities of traditional instruments and augment their timbral horizons while enriching their expressive and improvisational possibilities. He has collaborated with and had works performed by Grammy Award-winning Vietnamese performer and composer Vân Ánh Võ, Trio Accanto, Ensemble Mise-En, Mivos Quartet, and members of WasteLAnd, Ensemble Ipse, and Ensemble Dal Niente. Winner of the 2019 ASCAP/SEAMUS Student Award and the mixed media Award of Distinction from MA/IN festival in Matera, Italy, his work has been featured at numerous international festivals and venues. Nathaniel is pursuing a PhD in Music Composition at the University of California San Diego.
For background information on who and what SEAMUS is all about, please see my review, adjacent to this one in the print edition, of Volume 30.
Volume 29 contains several examples of how electro-acoustic music still can involve traditional instruments, whether or not those instruments are played in real time or sonically manipulated in some manner, prior to or during the performance. Elliott Lupp’s Hinge, which opens this CD, makes use of an instrument that many associate with traditional music, the hammered dulcimer, yet Lupp uses it in non-traditional ways—and by that, I mean more than simply electronic manipulation. Instead of strumming the instrument, Lupp also bows it, and the dulcimer’s sounds are altered in real time. I doubt that most listeners would identify the sound source in Hinge as a dulcimer, and no listeners would mistake it for folk music. It is a virtuosic and noisily dramatic work, of undeniable interest to those who want to explore new sounds and new means of expression.
Undertow, by Elainie Lillios, includes a bass clarinet, and here the instrument’s sonic identity is preserved despite its alteration in real time. Moody and mysterious, the music makes good on the title’s aquatic implications. In Jouska, Chris Lortie gives Michiko Theurer’s violin a starring role. “Saccharine” music in a neo-Romantic style is set against “violently cathartic noise textures” in which the violin remains identifiable. The title, by the way, is an invented word by author John Koenig, who, in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, defined it as “a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head ... which serves as a kind of psychological batting cage where you can connect more deeply with people.” (I know the feeling.) In Jouska, although we may not understand every aspect of the story, we know that a story is being told.
Implicit or explicit story-telling is a feature of many kinds of music, of course, and we can hear other examples of it here. My favorite, on this CD, is the concluding work, which is Nathanael Haering’s Medical Text p.57. True to its title, the text used in this work is taken from a Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine published in 1845, and the text is a description of the effects of aging, from birth to senescence, on the human organism. The booklet note characterizes this work as “aggressive, virtuosic, and remarkably vulnerable.” Vocalist Daniel Bayot uses a variety of extended vocal techniques to deliver the text’s meaning, and Bayot’s voice is further manipulated electronically. Recognizable words emerge only occasionally, and the impression given by this work is one of panic and horror—specifically over the loss of control (as if one ever really has such control) over one’s body. This brings me back to the Cronenbergian body horror that I alluded to in my review of Volume 30. Medical Text p.57 ends in fevered panting and a sense of physical collapse. I find it interesting that electro-acoustic music, while it can create new possibilities in sound and stimulate the imagination, often leaves us feeling more, not less, aware of our physicality and its limitations. One might say that computers and other forms of electronics now know how the human body “feels” even better than we do. The two most recent compilations from SEAMUS present music that feels darker, generally speaking, than what we have heard previously in this series.
Maybe these new sounds are necessary to help us to understand the new realities under which we exist. As I wrote in connection with Volume 30, much of this is not what the average person would call “music,” but the “average person” has been making similar comments for at least the past several centuries. (Although we often lag behind, at least it can’t be said that most of us are standing in one place. We’ll get there eventually, although the avant-garde will have moved on to new pastures by then.)
By the way, many of the works presented on these SEAMUS discs also can be seen in performance on YouTube, and the added visual dimension enhances one’s appreciation. I’ll also add that listening to these works on headphones has a similarly expansive effect. In other words, this is not for casual listeners.
— Raymond Tuttle, 12.15.2021