Session 9

Presenters: Adrian Sherriff, Lindsay Vickery

04:00pm: Adrian Sherriff Time Scale Modulation in Electroacoustic Mridangam Performance

The primary challenge of non-traditional mridangam performance is defined by the narrow range of short durations which are typically produced by the instrument. This sonic characteristic lends itself towards a dense rhythmic texture, which is typical of traditional performance style. When a mridang ist participates in music which is not organized by temporal periodicity, traditional rhythmic textures and tropes can lack vitality, as these materials are typically framed by their relationship to periodic structures.

A secondary challenge found in non-traditional mridangam performance is found in the dominance of particular pitch classes in its sonic vocabulary. In traditional performance, these pitch classes align with and reinforce the tuning of the accompanying drone instrument. In the absence of pitch centricity within a given musical context, the dominance of a particular pitch class creates discontinuities between the sound world of the mridangam and a broader musical context.

One solution to this challenge is in the exploration of digital signal processing to expand the sonic resources of the mridangam. A promising area of investigation is in the application and modulation of delay lines to transpose sonic elements from the sound object time scale (generally sounds in the time scale between 100 milliseconds and several seconds) into the meso time scales (sound masses, textures and clouds) and/or micro time scales (sound durations that traverse the boundary between audio and infrasonic frequencies).

Correlations to these transpositions of time can be found in the traditional vocabulary of mridangam performance styles. This includes both the transposition of sonic elements within the sound object time scale and transposition into the micro time scale. In relation to the micro timescale, mridangists both can and do physically produce streams of sonic elements up toa tempo of30 Hz and above. However, the implementation of variable delay lines allows for a significant expansion of musical expression of this range these techniques into non-linear tempo domains.

04:30pm: Lindsay Vickery Musica ex machina: integrating the sonic pallet of machines with acoustic instruments

Californian composer Robert Erickson was one of the first to directly search for the “music in non- musical sounds” as the inspiration of music with acoustic instruments and electronics. He pioneered the use of analog spectrography to visualize the shapes of complex sound objects. This paper examines the evolution of the practice integrating of pre-recorded mechanical sounds and acoustic instruments. The foundations of the practice of exploring mechanical sound as a subject for ‘musical’ investigation is discussed in relation to Modernist developments including Futurism and Musique Concrète.

The discussion will focus on works from the last 50 years by Robert Erickson (1917-97), Barry Traux (1947-) Peter Ablinger (1959-), Annie Gosfield (1960-), James Saunders (1972-), Joanna Bailie (1973-) and the author. Techniques employed by composers for combining mechanical sounds and acoustic instruments including spectral analysis, sonification, transcription, resynthesis and transformation will be considered. Issues regarding coordination and sound projection of live and pre-recorded elements will also be addressed.