ICMC 2013 registration open!

INTERNATIONAL COMPUTER MUSIC CONFERENCE 2013

REGISTRATIONS NOW OPEN FOR ICMC 2013

Registrations are now open to attend the 2013 International Computer Music Conference. This year will see the conference held in Perth, capital city of Western Australia. Paper sessions, performances, installations, presentation of spatialised works will all take place within the Perth Cultural Centre, situated in the heart of the city’s cultural district, The Cultural Centre is only a short distance away from the natural beauty of King’s Park, the Swan River and some of Western Australia’s famous world class beaches.

Addressing the theme IDEA: International Developments in ElectroAcoustics, this year will feature keynote speakers Agostino Di Scipio (Italy), Haco (Japan), Warren Burt (Australia) and Alvin Curran (USA). The conference will open on Sunday the 11th of August and run until the 17th with a lunchtime conference banquet to be held on the final day.

Register soon to take advantage of early registration discounts.

The International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) has been the major international medium for the presentation of technical and musical research, both musical and theoretical, interrelated to the use of computers in music – since. ICMC travels the globe annually, and will be held in the southern hemisphere and Australia for the first time this year.

Please stay tuned to the ICMC2013 website as news, information and content is being added regularly. www.icmc2013.com.au

The conference will also run concurrently with Tura’s biennial Totally Huge New Music Festival, a ten day biennial festival which incorporates concerts, installations, master classes, young artists’ events and free outdoor concerts.  

For more information visit the Tura New Music Website  www.tura.com.au

Please direct all conference enquiries to: Andrew Varano conference@tura.com.au

ICMC 2013 is presented by Tura New Music, The International Computer Music Association, The Australasian Computer Music Association and Edith Cowan University and is supported by The Perth Convention Bureau, The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, The State Library of Western Australia, The Western Australian Museum and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.

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CD Review: Here (and there), Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi (piano w/electronics)

Here (and there), Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, (piano w/electronics), various composers, Innova (846)

by Robert Spalding Newcomb

Over the past two decades, advances in technology and performance virtuosity have evolved in parallel.  A primary challenge for composers and performers working in contemporary music creation has been to construct architectures which allow for the expression of both these disciplines.  As the notion of genre ebbs with time, we are aware that we, more than any generation to date, have the tools to merge macro-vocabularies, while also maintaining our local, personal dialect of nuance.

The collection of work on this release, in the context of the highly distilled format of solo acoustic piano and fixed media and live electronics, welcomes this challenge!  The artists give us an enticing suite of ‘small pieces’, each touching us emotionally, and uniquely commenting on strategies for managing the boundary between live and recorded human performers and programmed machines.

 Crystal Springs – Piano and Fixed Media (Phillip Schroeder)

I – Reminiscent of early Brian Eno ‘tape loop music’, in this section the piano seems to play the role of background texture, whereas the somewhat plodding piano sampling steps forward in a forthright series of sympathetic harmonic statements, defining the arc of the two layers.

II – Here, the piano part swirls with delicate Fibonacci pitch sequenced elements, sweetly ascending/descending phraseology with oddly ‘jazz like’ tonality; cymbal samples and inside piano strumming remain subtle and effectively sheathing of front layer piano motifs.

III – A dramatic rolling undercurrent of samples mixed with sustained piano bass notes, with a ‘dripping’ of treble piano pitches, not fully linked to the clarity of (II) Fibonacci based fabric, nor truly a restatement or extraction of those elements, leading into … well, softness and silence, after a possible promise of climax.

Swirling Sky – Piano and Fixed Media (Ed Martin)

In the delicate entrance, as the composer shows us the ‘being taken over’ by the immensity of the sky…the dissonant yet overall calm intensity of the piano harmonies splayed against the slightly micro-tonality (2:10) of the fixed media does indeed swirl ‘up’ and ‘around’ into a pseudo-confluence of pitch elements; then to find a clear space momentarily, and almost rhythmic pace for a few equal length piano phrases…yet they again dissolve into (4:40) a chaos, a swarm of intelligently delay-induced replications of processed keyboard arpeggiated ‘clouds’  (5:18).  The last minute backs off into a reflective state, a withdrawal (?) from the loss, or prismatic recovery of, the perspective that comes with the awareness of one’s minute significance amidst the grand design of the universe.

green is passing – Piano and Electronics (Jeff Herriott)

With a stoic beginning of tonal statement, periods of silence that set a landscape of both intellectual precision and visceral intensity…each silence prefacing a further introduction to a tonal element, an expansion of palette.  At 4:00, the subtlety of the ‘electronic reverb’ appears more intentionally present.  Though harmonically suspended throughout, at 6:55, a deeper sense of resolution is allowed to seep through the serenity of spatial separation given the listener for self-reflection and even introspection throughout this piece.  The final 30 seconds deliver a hovering swell of a final piano gesture captured in a subtle resonance.

Summer Phantoms: Nocturne – Piano and Fixed Media (Brian Belet)

Immediately intense, with a densely layered electronic palette, taut, yet expectant of a coming release into, yes, piano gestures, equally intense yet oddly playful…rolling gradually (2:27) into an interplay between pianist and rapid stereo image movement of electronic variations (the algorithmic component featured as an embedded conversation within the human/computer dialogue).

Rhythmic artifacts of the algorithms lend a pulsation to the center section (5:30-7:50), which is both mirrored and countered by tightly interwoven piano figures.

At 7:50, the pianist, sensing an opening to expose human musicianship, stylistic instincts and what had been till now a pent up heart energy, is freed to steer the musical direction toward a cadence, with a clear path to a crescendo emerging at 9:10, after a first and singular pianistic expression of diatonic pitch infrastructure amidst the preceding history of tentative interleaving of the two players – media and pianist.  The final 15-20 seconds lean first toward a climactic collision, and then retreat into the ‘shadows’ as a final pianistic chromatic gesture is sunken deep in the final fadeout, whilst rapid scraping attack motifs rail on in the background of the electronic palette.

Confetti Variations – Piano and Fixed Media (Tom Lopez)

The admittedly ‘collage’ and dual source material premise for this piece, gave me more expectation and perhaps hesitation, than others on the disc.  The directly quotational approach to composition immediately sets this piece off from the rest of the album, and requires added criteria for analysis and appreciation.

During the first half of the piece, the nearly continual dual layer of sonic material presentation, separated by spatial and note-basis versus grain/sound based, inarguably delivers a dramatic ‘punch’, but it at times wants of more cohesion and interdependency.  The overall impact is unequivocally that of a musician playing outdoors in a mixture of thunderstorm and wind, generally ignoring it and continuing on despite it.  The use of short repetitive piano cycles lends support to the impression of two boxers co-existing within a shared stage.

There is a certain shared pathos between these two characters as they maintain a safe distance from each other, occasionally stepping back to witness the anomalies of the other’s sound and gesture world.

Piano passages of special beauty live at 6:30-7:10, 7:40-8:20, 9:35-12:15, and 14:10-15:00.

(12:00-14:00) The overarching employ of ‘environmental recordings’, bringing listeners into close contact with deeply rooted nature based memories, and its intermingling with historically recognizable piano passages, retains much of the ‘conceptual art’ lineage, while adding the ebb and flow of tension/release patterning of almost cacophonic tightly bundled piano repeats, with extended periods of soft brilliance from the pianist’s touch.  In the end, the frenzy of storm leads to the calm and balm of a sedated land, filled with moisture and sustenance.  The tree peeper has the last word.

The pleasure of being lost – Piano and Fixed Media (Jim Fox)

Manipulated spoken word lends a deeply human liquidity and phraseology to the frission of the haunting electronic layer, piano sparseness acting as a stairway linking the two.  The introspective poetry, and it is poetry, beckons us into the interior space of the heart, recalling a journey, with the mind attempting to provide signposts of ‘what happened.’

Throughout the gently undulating waves (‘introductions’) of thematic imagery, the piano statements remain positive, optimistic, despite the foreboding overarching shadow of the timbral hue gathering around the innocent sincerity of the passages of text, which push forward against the wall of normalization lent by the electronics.

(5:00) As the textual images expand in abstraction, so too does the sense of connectivity between ‘wall and space’ and piano interludes.  (9:00) The intimacy of the voice, the occasionally sensual images, interwoven with moments of physical details of the body’s journey in the physical plane, amidst the heart’s sacred path toward eternity, become mesmerizing, contemplative and reach a climax of understanding (12:35-13:00) as to the profound meaning and meaninglessness of what we experience within and without.

Robert Spalding Newcomb is a composer, musician, writer, poet, software developer, yoga instructor, and IT professional, living in Ann Arbor, MI, USA. (contact – rsn@partialmusic.com)

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New CD available for review, ‘Silvatica’ by Galactronic.

They describe it as “Womping odd-meter, just intonation, nested rhythmic figures, and breathing electronics, Galactronic weaves in the magic of the Hang with the grit of the California underground electronic scene. The Result: Dance music like you’ve never heard before, healing and weaving into your DNA eternal truths through the interplay of frequencies and rhythms.”

Please email us at if you are interested in reviewing this CD.

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New CDs for review

New CD available for review. Please email us at <array dot journal at gmail dot com> if you are interested in reviewing this CD.

Pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi’s new release Here (and there) features works for piano and electronics by Brian Belet, Phillip Schroeder, Ed Martin, Jeff Herriott, Brian Belet, Tom Lopez, and Jim Fox. The CD is a January 2013 release on the Innova label.

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CD Review: Resonating Universes, Erdem Helvacioğlu, Şirin Pancaroğlu

Resonating Universes, Erdem Helvacioğlu (composer), Şirin Pancaroğlu (harpist), Sargasso

by Alistair Zaldua

Sargasso’s latest publication is a set of eight pieces presented by composer Erdem Helvacioğlu and harpist Şirin Pancaroğlu. Helvacioğlu is a very successful young Turkish composer whose (now somewhat outdated) website reveals his having composed for film, theatre, dance, as well as for video and sound art, and that his work has been performed at many international festivals for computer and electronic music. The equally successful Şirin Pancaroğlu is described on her own website as “Turkey’s most renowned harpist”, and that for her “discovering a variety of musical identities for the harp is one of her constant endeavors.” On the evidence of this disk, these interests are clearly borne out. From the information given it appears that Pancaroğlu not only performs on the harp, but also on the çeng (an ancient Turkish open harp), and the electric harp, whilst Helvacioğlu commands the electronics.

Most of the music presented is reliant on reverberant sound reminiscent, whether conscious or not, of middle-period Cocteau Twins or even the instrumental tracks on David Sylvian’s Gone To Earth album. There are also echoes of the dark and percussive textures of James Dillon’s L’œuvre au Noir, and the ever-present drones even suggest Indian Classical music; the echo chambers here are as much cultural as they are stylistic. The CD consists of eight parts of unequal duration, each with their own distinctive character, all of which serve to describe the ever changing resonant universes referred to in the title. There are many things to listen to here that a single listening would do little justice to. Lasting merely an hour, the impressions are of expansive, lavish, and sensitively sculpted sound landscapes. The sonic environment is often inventive and idyllic, and the gentle layering and combination of the sounds are at times playfully non-directional.

Pancaroğlu displays a tour de force of listening and of the delicate choice and uses of playing techniques at her disposal. It is not always clear if the sounds are all derived  from the harp itself, amongst the harp sounds can be found what sounds like distant distorted guitars (although this could be Pancaroğlu’s electric harp), and percussively metallic and wooden pulses—especially what sounds like a percussive beater being stroked against the tuning pegs. In amongst the rather chaotic-sounding soundscapes appear sudden moments of clarity, which often come as a relief to the ear. Regarding Pancaroğlu’s extended playing techniques, the resonant universes displayed here attest to a considerable amount of experiment and excavation in the possibilities offered by the harp and in how both performers interact. The sounds Pancaroğlu produces go well beyond those found in Helmut Lachenmann’s scores. The close micing of much of Pancaroğlu’s sound intensifies the experience and it often feels like the listener’s ear is adjacent to her harp. Acoustically, the notes at the lower end of the harp tend to take a short while to project, but the performers demonstrate that they are aware of this and the danger of creating dull and aimlessly muddy textures is keenly avoided; the reverberant techniques used create distance and add dimension to the whole.

The pieces range from three to eight minutes in length. The shortest piece, part 4, in its use of crashing metallic sounds serves to creatively break the main flow of the music until then. The work achieved in these shorter forms is to my ears more successful, especially the extended acoustic harp solo, the stopped harmonics in part 3, and the concrete sections of part 5. The pair do seem to have a little difficulty while working on the longer form. The seven pieces accumulate in energy to provide a well sculpted pedestal for the final work, running over 15 minutes. This final essay, part 8, provides a somewhat drawn out cadence to the whole, and seems a little labored. Despite my misgivings about this final track, it is as if here the origin of the enormous palette of sounds are finally revealed. There seems to be a scale running between the extended sounds of the distorted guitar through the plucked harp resonances towards the noisy, granular, and metallic tuning-peg sounds. The final aspect of the recording to address is the role played by the electronics. These tend to occupy several different functions at once: to provide a drone-filled backdrop, to provide constantly shifting reverberant clouds of sound, to provide sympathetic resonances at times deliberately understated, and then suddenly to take centre stage as the main ‘instrument’. A source of the seduction of this CD is that the roles both harp and electronics have are never static.

In view of these achievements, Sargasso chose to print their own label name on the front of the CD inviting us to ‘take a plunge in the Sea of Sound’, unfortunately without mentioning the musicians themselves. It’s only on the back and sides of the CD where both title of the disc and names of musicians are revealed. Neither do the sleeve notes disclose anything: all that is presented is the total catalogue of other CDs one could order from Sargasso. [Update: Sargasso have since contacted us and provided the correct CD booklet, the review will be updated shortly to reflect this - ed.] On the plus side, this choice of minimal information might be sending the healthy message of ‘think for yourself’ rather than allowing the overload of biographical and extra-musical information commonly seen on many recordings to influence a listeners opinion. Despite this I feel it does these musicians a little disservice as the music offered on this CD is both as rich in content and craftsmanship as the listening experience to be gained from it. For example, I was curious to learn about how these musicians may have worked together; the music recorded sounds more improvised than composed, and how much of this was the result of some outstanding collaborative work? The musicians were obviously concerned to allow the electronics to reveal the deeply sensuous nature of the different harps played. Whether the result of a collaboration or of a worked through composition both Helvacioğlu and Pancaroğlu have produced a recording that contains many hidden subtleties to discover and admire. For the discerning listener not put off by the ever present reverb but curious to hear an introductory portrait of two outstanding Turkish musicians, this compact suite of eight pieces is highly recommended.

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ICMC concert reviewers wanted

This year’s ICMC is just around the corner, and we’re looking for attendees to review the music: talks and paper session reviews would also be considered for review where applicable.

As conferences go, ICMC has a relatively wide musical remit, and always attracts people with divergent tastes and opinions. With that in mind, it seems that the best way to present a picture of the music of ICMC 2012 is by presenting the multiplicity of viewpoints. Rather than just one review of each concert, we would prefer to host multiple  and possibly contrasting reviews, and whatever debate this may generate in the comments (reasoned and civil of course). It is trivial to note that the same piece will sound different to people with different interests, but we would like to dig a little deeper and take advantage of the focus a conference brings to explore different responses.

So, if you’re interested in being involved then please get in touch, email <array.journal+reviews@gmail.com> to let us know you intend to submit some reviews so we have an idea of possible numbers. Or, if you attend a concert that you’d like to review then just send a review in to the same address, you don’t need to have let us know in advance.

Reviews will be posted on the blog as fast as possible, to keep discussion live, and a selection of the best reviews will be included in the next issue of Array Journal. Here’s the daily schedule of events. Each review should include the concert details (time/day/venue), and be signed, no amusing pseudonyms please.

Lastly, some good practice guidelines:

  • Reviews should be concise. There’s no word limit, but aim to be coherent and avoid rambling explanations. That said, as reviews will probably be written quickly, the style can be fairly informal.
  • Review titles are at the discretion of the reviewer.
  • For clarity, be clear about names of pieces, composers and performers where possible.
  • Try to say something about each piece in the concert, to give a sense of the whole event how/if pieces related to each other.
  • Feel free to include some links to other content (pictures, audio examples, videos of other performances, on-the-spot interviews with composers/performers, papers or descriptions of technology and techniques etc.) where relevant. For obvious reasons, blatant self-promotion is discouraged.
  • If you have a response to a previous review then please use the comments rather than writing a response review.

The editor reserves the right to make minimal edits to correct typos/misspellings. If anything requires serious editing it may be sent back with comments/suggestions.

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New CDs for review

We have two new CDs available for review. Remember that if you write a review, you will be able to keep your review copy at no charge. Please email me at <array dot journal at gmail dot com> if you are interested, and specify which CD you would like to review.

- Erdem Helvacioglu and Sirin Pancaroglu: Resonating Universes (harp/ceng/electric harp and electronics, Sargasso 2011)
– Matthew Malsky: Music for String Quartet (string quartet & electronics, Centaur 2010)

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