mistake event - window prototypes

i have been playing with different scenarios that might work as realizations of the following score, mentioned in a previous entry:

play silences of various durations. if you make a sound, you have made a mistake. make mistakes.

i imagine that in order to properly realize this score, the performer must be doing some action that keeps some event from happening.  this event should have audible consequences.  i'm unsure whether it's necessary that the potential for such an event to occur is predicated by the presence of the performer or whether the performer is merely preventing a typically audible event from taking place.  i could go either way on this, but personally i like the idea that the performer must bring with herself the condition of possible failure, because otherwise the performer is positioned as just a silencer or guardian against some arbitrary event.  i want the mistake to be more akin to personal failure, and for that to happen the event must depend on the performer in some way for its fruition.

another point of ambiguity in the score lies in the interpretation of how sounding relates to the mistake.  there are two possibilities: one in which the mistake generates the sounding and one in which the sounding generates the mistake.

the process of trying to realize this score interestingly feels a bit like trying to solve a riddle.  things can get pretty abstract, so i like to stick to materials that are immediately accessible and appealing to me.  my previous demo for a possible realization was to use a marble in an amplified cylindrical can.  the task was to keep the marble rolling around the can without hitting the edges or causing the marble to bounce.  on the mistake event, the computer read a selected word from a Cage essay on technology to which had been applied a first-order markov chain.  the amplified sound of the marble rolling along a metal surface was also passed through the speakers while the performance occurred, so the 'silences' notated above were taken to mean something more figurative than merely the absence of sound.

for a prototype, i had been considering creating some sort of large metal funnel that would allow me to gracefully roll a ball along its interior, where the angle would be just slow enough as to allow for several orbits before the ball would sink down the shaft.  after considering my options for fabrication, i found that this would be not only terribly expensive but also somewhat arbitrary to the point of the composition i am realizing.  meanwhile, i had come across a large number of old window panes.  i found that the rectangularity of the window pane made it much more likely for my ball to collide with something as i maneuvered it in circular paths on the glass.  also the sound of the glass-marble system itself, when highly amplified, is truly delightful.

this configuration gives us a few solutions for realization.  the performer's task could be to roll the ball along the surface of the window without hitting an edge and causing a spike in amplitude.  this would be an analogous system to the first prototype with the can, only larger and thus somewhat harder and more interesting to listen to.  another possibility could be to track the position of the ball based on relative amplitudes from two piezos.  i'm not sure if this works.  in both versions, a secondary graphical notation could be used to guide the actions of the performer.  in the version where position is tracked, an 'error' could be defined as a significant deviation from this graphical score, perhaps in addition to knocking against the edge.

this is  a possibility for realization i am investigating.  i think perhaps the window speaker idea might be somewhat dangerous.  i actually hadn't been thinking about the danger of working with windows until i described the idea to Rob Moon, who simply advised "be careful!"


there's a picture of the window standing on its own.  i have attached contact mics to either side of the object.


that's the ball.  it's heavy and smooth.  it has a stand.

so at this point i am also considering the possibility of more overt 'musical' statements.  it is still important to me that those statements come from the event of a mistake in procedure.  it occurs to me that if i am to design a composition around the event of a mistake, then my goal should be not only to devise a system in which mistakes are probable and interesting, but also to compose responses to those mistakes that enrich the experience.  the first and most obvious mistake event response was to use the score itself, on some level of linguistic expansion, perhaps with a small amount of commentary, as fodder for each event.  i would like it very much if the target performance space gives us the opportunity to distribute program notes, because then my spoken score would consist of those notes.  this would provide some kind of time structure that carried with it both a sense of linear progression and unfolding.  on further reflection, i think i can make more definitive statements as the piece progresses.  perhaps this unfolding also results in the 'embalming' of the system's silent state (ie ball contact noise) into progressively more conspicuous resyntheses.  this allows not simply the content to progress through the piece, but also some formal aspects as well, where note events are introduced and eventually become more present.

this is the current state of affairs.  there will be more updates later.

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