Répons (1981–84), the first major work to arise from Pierre Boulez’s involvement with IRCAM, is underpinned by a collection of five chords. Surface details interact with the compositional scheme but achieve a certain independence and spontaneity.
Nevertheless, the density of the music, which is sometimes enhanced by computer-facilitated transformation, at times veers towards a phantasmagoric, seamless web that threatens to undermine the articulation of space generated by the configurations of blocks and individual moments. Boulez’s spatial dialogue of system and idea is illuminated by Adorno’s theoretical attempts to turn systematic thought towards the particular.
This according to “Répons: Phantasmagoria or the articulation of space?” by Alastair Williams, an essay included in Theory, analysis and meaning in music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 195–210).
Today is Boulez’s 90th birthday! Above, part of the score of Répons; below, the composer conducts a performance of the work in a film by Robert Cahen.
The chromochord is a bioelectronic musical instrument that is driven by protein expansion and contraction.
Linked to a laptop computer, the device holds 12 vials, each paired with a different sound. When light shines on one vial the proteins inside swell, changing the wavelength they absorb. A sensor measures the change in absorption and cues the sounds. As one set of proteins slowly expands, the chromochord emits the deep thrum of a bass; as another set quickly shrinks, out comes the sound of glass chimes.
The chromochord was developed by Josiah Zayner, a biophysicist at the University of Chicago, and the composer Francisco Castillo Trigueros. “Scientists see beauty in a well-crafted experiment,” Zayner says. “The chromochord allows other kinds of people to experience that beauty.”
This according to “Biotech’s first musical instrument plays proteins like piano keys” by Nona Griffin and Daniel Grushkin (Scientific American 3 September 2013). Below, a sequence of related and unrelated images is accompanied by the chromochord.
Sonic constructs is an interactive sound installation that uses LEGO Mindstorms™ semi-automata musical robots; it was created by Pedro Rebelo, Franziska Schroeder, and Graham McAllistair.
In Sonic constructs, two robotic devices move and interact while performing trajectories that produce sound as a by-product of the movement itself. Direction, speed, acceleration, position, scratching, and collision characterize an environment for kinetic and acoustic participation.
This according to “Sonic constructs: Robotics and the residue of sound” by Rebelo and McAllistair, an essay included in Systems research in the arts. VI: Music, environmental design, and the choreography of space (Windsor: International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, pp. 58–62).
Images, sound clips, and a video are here.
Established in 1997, Signal to noise is a quarterly magazine devoted to improvised and experimental music, focusing on “the confluence of avant-garde jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation, and left-of-center modern rock, with an emphasis on independent production and promotion.” Recent issues have featured the saxophonist Marshall Allen, the groups Sonic Youth and Cheer-Accident, and the duo Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone.