Pole, Steam, Tree, Glass

Piece for solo violin & electronics written for Miranda Cuckson in 2016. Premiered on November 28, 2016, at Lang Recital Hall @ Hunter College.

Pole, Steam, Tree, Glass is the first in a series of pieces exploring the differences in our interpretation of meaning, expression, and genuineness in acoustic and electronic sounds. Here are a few related questions: Do sounds from a speaker flatten or expand space? Are electronic sounds expressive in the same way as sounds made by a person on stage? When a recording is played back, is it a statement or a re- statement? What characteristics make a sound feel real or artificial, and is there something between?

The electronics for this piece are performed live with Ableton and MaxMSP. The violinist stands on the left of the stage, as to blend her sound with the left-panned sounds, and distinguish it from the right-panned sounds. In Pole (mvt. 1), the violinist is amplified with the farther mic and panned to the left (amplification is supportive, only noticeable when it is gone.) The electronics, a sine wave synthesizer, are panned to the right. Real and artificial are maximally separated. In Steam (mvt. 2), the violinist is unamplified, and accompanied by various prerecorded samples of her playing, close or far mic’d, and panned left or right. The samples are person-specific, and should create confusions between the real and artificial. In Tree (mvt. 3), the violinist remains unamplified, and some violin notes are replaced by the electronics. The electronic sounds are randomized between close and far mic’d violin samples and sine waves, and are panned left or right. Depending on the sound and the panning, there are various types and levels of confusion between the real and artificial. In Glass (mvt. 4), the violinist is amplified with a close mic and panned to the right. The amplified sound overpowers the acoustic sound. Our access to the real is only through a microscope. The electronics are once again a simple sine wave synthesizer, panned to the left. The sine waves match the tones of the violinist, entering together, but sustaining without pause for the duration of the piece.

Note on this recording: Due to the placement of the handheld recorder, spatial effects are lost.

Miranda Cuckson Sound Checking at Hunter College, Nov 2016