Hello everyone! I’ve been tasked with writing you a blog post about how I made the music for Transient Harmony.
I think it was Ted who came up with the name of the proposed show for our Art in the Loop performance and I liked it so I used it as a jumping off point for how I would make the electronic part of the piece.
In formal terms my piece is a binary AB form with the use of common voices to give thematic unity. I started by creating 12 organ drones, one for each chromatic pitch, and arranging them in a tone row that allows for a rough consonance:dissonance:consonance pattern to emerge harmonically. The entrance of each drone is staggered by 53 seconds. I tend to like prime numbers which is why I went with that seemingly arbitrary choice.
These drones are not static. I built many EQ automations into each of them, to give the listener the impression that even though nothing much is happening sometimes they still have forward momentum. I also inserted several voices which give rhythmic structure to the time passing, which is what helps us as improvisers all come to an agreement about things like tempo.
After roughing out this section, which shakes out to about 12 minutes I knew I needed more. One of our operating principles as an ensemble is making sonic environments that transport the listener to another place. So I went on a field trip and recorded a trek on the Kansas City bus line and then the streetcar itself. All of these recordings I then combed through and found excerpts I liked which I then digitally manipulated and placed in with my drones. Some of my sounds, like the bus ride turned into wonderfully useful sounds. By stretching the length of my sounds I was able to take the transmission of the bus as it gears up and down through acceleration and deceleration and transform it into a wonderfully spacious vista that, even though you can hear movement in time, feels vast and expansive to the listener.
One of the samples that gets highlighted continuously through the entire 20 minute piece is the streetcar conductor calling out ‘all aboard!”. It goes through several transformations that give anchors to the listener, familiar points in the ocean of sounds that give solidity to what they hear.
Of course this music will be playing outside and combining with all of the natural sounds of downtown Kansas City. I look forward to all of the unplanned synchronicities that might happen when we actually perform on September 2. As of this writing I am currently working out written parts for my fellow horn players, Michael and Ted, to play at specific points in the piece. I will notate these with traditional notation as well as the graphic notations we have developed as a group these past 2 years. I’m looking forward to seeing you all there on September 2, if only in passing. I hope you’ll linger just a moment longer than you normally would, you might find the time highly rewarding.
Check out the preview of Russell's piece, "Transient Harmony"