In order to create a new tape for solo voice and tape for my next piece, I made the choice of checking the firsts narrative electronic pieces in order to understand the roots of this field. What where the tools of the composers within their electronic limitations.
Serene for flute and soundtracks, Ton Bruynèl, summer 1978, Utrecht.
The piece it has a slow tempo fill and the flute player has some freedom in bringing the rhythm of the melody. The score for the player is annotated in tempo and pitch and with some verbal instructions.
The main musical material of this tape, is deriving from the harmonics series. The composer used the pitch D as a root and used different tonal and modal scales.
The main role of the electronics here is to create an imaginary place.
Description of the sounds:
Is the one which represents the hoots from the owls. They are pitched in three tones: D C# and F#. The D and F# are natural harmonics of the tone D, the 8th and the 9th respectively. Short sound.
It is accompanied by soft white noise to represent the wind.
Is a a D on which the composer plays with it’s harmonics, focusing on the root, the 3rd, the 4th, the 6th and the 9th. In the first part (till minute 2:55) the main harmonics are the 1st and the 6th. The apparition of the pedal tone comes and disappears with the 1st harmonic. In the second part (from 4:05) the pedal tone appears first with the 3rd and 2nd harmonics consecutively, and the pedal tone fades out with the lowest harmonic (1st).
The sound is freeze, and the composer varies the timbre by making louder the harmonics involved, and the volume of it.
Is a sound that remind me to a string section (viola and violins) and during the piece appears as a single pitch with its octave, The order of apparition of the pitches is:
D – F – D – B – F# – D and it is alzo a frozen sound which basically varies in volume.
This sound is pitched with the highest harmonics of the root and most of the time it appears with a long duration and accompanied with the Crickets sound. The timbre and the volume is changed constantly.
This sound also is builded from the higher harmonics, and is more rhythmical compared to the Moonlight sound and it has a short duration.
This sound is a mix of sounds which develops from Moonlight and Crickets and it appears just once. This sounding part has also some sounds that will appear in the B section, like the Hammer one.
This sound is pitched in 4 notes: C# D B E which are the mix of tones between A and B section. They are a short sound which has an internal groove which is shifted. Filtered sound by using a low pass filter which makes the sound dull.
That’s the low sound of this section, pitched in E and it has two main elements: The rhythmical very low E and the pedal tone.
That’s the last sound which I think is an evolution of Crickets, I hear this connection from 3:25-3:28. The sound starts as Bubbles and develops to Crickets. The first one it has a different attack and a longer duration, and is manipulated in a way that sounds a bit different by using the envelope shaper to alter the articulation of the sound (the attack and the decay)
All the sounds are created with an Analog Modulator.
Overview of the tape:
At the beginning appear the Owl sound. After 18” the pedal tone (which sets the modal mood to the piece) and the Strings shortly followed by Moonlight and Crickets.
In minute 1:16 the composers introduces the pitch F (in the flute and the Strings) and in that part, he brings the Alien material. Once this one disappears (1:42) the pitch D in Strings comes back to the road, and the composer keeps the same material as before.
In 2:30, Wooden Marbles makes it’s apparition while Strings will change their pitch into B. The other new sounds related to E make their apparition and they disappear right before the big change.
The main pitch is F#. The melodically material from the flute triggers the listener to hear different harmonies or modalities involved.
At the end, there is a slow transition to D and the outro/coda is the material from the intro, what makes the composition a circular one.
Relation between tape and flute:
For the annotations from the composer, the flute symbolises a bird who communicates with the owl. The interaction between the flute and the tape it varies, sometimes the tape brings the new material and the flute reacts on it or viceversa.
1-From minute 0:50-1:10, the flute and the pedal tone are interacting with the pitch A.
In minute 1:16 the Strings bring the pitch F and the flute has it between 1:20 – 1:25.
2-Between minute 1:10-1:15 the flute part enhances the 9th harmonic of the root (E) which will become the root pitch of section B.
3-During the interruption, the flute doesn’t play and wait till the tape establish again the pitch D.
4-The flute part between minute 2:15-2:20 is bringing material of section B.
5-Between 2:20-2:30, the flute anticipates the material from section B (E and F#).
6-In 2:40 the Strings bring the pitch B and after few seconds, the flute has written down in its score to perform it and recreates on the B and the E tones which from the B section.
7-In 3:29, moment where the tape makes a sudden change to the F# pitch, the flute is playing the pitch C# what that means the tape and instrument compliment each other by each one being responsible of on of the notes of the 5th interval.
8-Before coming back to the A section, the flute is playing the tone D as a call to the owl (written down in the score) and then the section A is set up on minute 4:30 and the owl comes and the piece is over with the hook from the owl.
Narration and the use of electronics
To me the composer achieved an understandable and clear narration in his tape and there are two main narrative functions:
The first one is the use of the character of the owl which communicates with the flute. Even they do not interact together, there is a clear interaction among them. A part to see it in the score, the first and last pitch that the flute plays is the D, main pitch of the owl. The second important pitch is the C#, which with the flute starts playing.
The second one is the use of the tape as setting a scenario. This one is achieve thanks to:
Creating representations of existing sounds (owl and cricket).
The Moonlight is an imaginary sound from the composer, which can be easily related for it’s bright and lightness.
The Pedal tone relates to a meditative or a sober/serene state.
The interruption for me it was an Alien, for someone else it could be something completely different. What is sure is that there is a sudden interruption which brings back to the landscape in an organic way.
Part B is clearly a transition which builds up tension and bring section C, which is quite unexpected and contrasting in musical material. In my with the F# after all the previous context, I visualise warm colours (orange/red/yellow) compare with the landscape from A part.
Due the flute is the main character which represents a bird, maybe could symbolises that the Bird got lost or went somewhere else. At they find each other.
Variations pour une porte et un soupir, Pierre Henry 1968
00:00 Timbre treatment of the sigh regular rhythm: I make a connection with the sound of a bass drum. On the right. Another sound is in this part: Water in a pot. Very high pitch.
1:15 New timbre of the sigh. Higher frequencies. Cymbal/hi-hat. On the left.
Playing with the Pan
2:49-> apparition of the door (2nd character). Irregular rhythm.
4:00-> Water in a pot (flexatone). reminds the first high sound which was appearing in together with the sigh.
4:34-> door. Higher sound, longer values. Sounds like a speech because of the different pitches, duration of the sound and the space between each sound.
6:03-> Water in a pot appears again. Also reminds to a speech.
6:35-> One door on the left and then another one on the right. They are having a complementing dialog.
8:35-> Door + reverb which reminds to the sigh on the left. Previous door. Appears door 2 on the right. Shorter values and more space. In 9:28 the reverb sound of the door from the right brings the sound of the sight clearly. It sounds like a pin pong game in slow motion. The dialog sounds a bit angrier.
10:18-> back to the funny conversation, a bit of pan on the left, but basically the door sound is coming from the middle, so it sounds like only one door.
PAN-> Gives the felling of two different instruments.
12:00-> Water in a pot comes back on the left and after a bit the door joins from the right, with short values. Slowly the pan of the door moves to the middle and after a while, looks like come back to the right but goes to the left instead, to follow the other sound. The other sound was staying all the time on the same position and when the door arrived, escaped to the top left and stayed there till the end of this section.
14:24-> two doors, one from left and the other one from right. The left one at the beginning is more impatient (faster and shorter values) and the right one is more lazy, playing longer values. During this section goes on, the right door follows the left one imitating some rhythms of the door from the left.
15:54->Water in a pot, divided in left and right, 2 different characters. In some moments sounds like a cannon.
17:36-> the door comes back. The pan is moving to different places and after a while appears the second door. On the left in some moments appears the sound of footsteps.
19:30-> the doors are tired. Long values and soft.
22:10-> Water in a pot + sight. One sight sounds like with a closed mouth (is the sample in reverse?) and the other one with open mouth.
24:11->Doors. Addition of lower frequency sound, like the wooden sound, not the ‘creak’
29:04-> Water in a pot. high register. At the end a fast and more intense sigh appears, then the door sound follows and the Water in a pot sound disappears.
3:19-> The sight appears again. Reminds to the sound of the sea (pan on the middle right). There can be hear some high register sounds (most of the time on the right side), very soft, and also a male voice in some of the sights (most of the ties appears on the lefts side, reverberating on the right one). Use of reverb and treatment of the reverb. The apparition is quite regular.
33:00-> Water in a pot. Middle register, divided in 2 left and right.
34:00-> doorknob on the left and after a bit appears the normal sound of the door. On that moment, the right door joins. The rhythm and values of the sounds are quite regular.
36:43->Door + water in a pot + sigh together. The sigh is an expiring one and inspiring one. The vowels that can be heard are ‘a’ and ‘o’. The pan of the sigh varies. The Water in a pot and the door they go together, they stay long in one side and then switched to the other one.
38:58->Door. Pan in the middle left, even when appears the second door is on the same place. A sight appears on the same place (left-middle). Sound of inspiration and expiration, timbre treatment by using low/high pass frequencies filters.
41:34->Water in a pot. Med-high register. Reverb. High is on the left, mid-low on the right. The second one has longer values.
42:35-> Door + reverb which reminds to the sight. the sight starts on the right and ends on the left, even we cannot completely follow the movement.
44:10->the sounds start to become drier, with less reverb.
I’ve chosen this piece because I thought that there will be more sounds related to the sight. The sounds are quite raw and not so much treated. Neither the transitions. The piece is presented like different chapters which are clearly separated by a silence except in a couple of sections, where there is a soft transition, by adding contrasting sounds, and after not so long, the section ends with a silence.
The narration to me worked. I did fill a conversation with the sound of the doors. That was thank you for the panning and how the sound was appearing, which was the duration, the register and the volume. Due the nature of the door sound is quite funny the dialogs between them made me laugh, unless when the reverb or drier sound where used. The glissando sound was also an acoustic element which is funny to me in this piece.
I found a bit of limitation with the possibilities of the door sounds and the voice sounds. I did not understand why the Water in a pot. I suppose it has been used in order to have a contrasting sound, for the pitch maybe. And also the attack and duration is completely different.
I missed accuracy on developing the sight, and also conversation between the sight and the door.
The sight could also have different approaches, I heard not so many. could be a sad one, a release, a scared one etc..