Joshua GROFFMAN | US |
Dialogue—Duet—Monologue is a work for instrument, soundscape, and live electronics. The piece stems from some intellectual tensions that I found at the core of my relationship to music and sound. Foremost among these is a tendency to instinctively hear music as a “filling up” of an empty void. In fact, musical sound is an addition, even a “covering up,” of the pre-existing soundscape. I believe this innate stance on my part is related to a similar tendency to equate “sound” with “human” and to hear “silence” in a soundscape when human sounds are absent. Another tension: the role of technology in soundscape studies. I have frequently deployed recording and sound technology in the hope that it can create an unmediated image of natural sound. I speak of “recording” soundscapes, which will somehow allow me to capture, or preserve, natural sounds that are themselves free of electronic (and/or human) elements. I think in binaries: of outdoor or “natural” spaces as ideally pristine and free of machine-based sounds, while indoor spaces are the provenance of technology, of computer-based sound. In thinking about this piece, I found myself asking: what role might there be for computer-generated sound in an outdoor, soundscape-based performance? In three sections, this piece addresses these tensions. The soundscape where the piece is performed is, of course, somewhat unfixed and aleatoric, its characteristics based on the site of performance, the time of day, the organisms present. Nevertheless, it SOUNDS: the instrumentalist proceeds as an addition, a covering up, of the already-present soundscape. The live electronics—running independently, driven by pre-programmed algorithms in Max/MSP—add another type of soundscape, one that originates in the soundscape-inspired gestures of the performer but which evolve to displace and cover up that soundscape, before evaporating and uncovering the soundscape once more. In the first section, based on Pauline Oliveros’ idea of an “environmental dialogue,” the performer listens; she may respond to or reinforce some aspect of the soundscape but mostly allows the soundscape to speak. In the second section, the performance becomes more explicitly musical. The performer builds on musical ideas suggested by the soundscape. Meanwhile, the computer processes and alters the performer’s gestures; it has also begun to “listen” and records, at set intervals, aspects of the performer’s music. In the third section, the performer breaks off; an automated computer script takes the pre-recorded material from the previous section and presents it in a dense, processed form that covers up the existing soundscape almost completely. Dialogue—Duet—Monologue is open-ended. As the computer texture winds down and disappears, the soundscape reappears and the cycle can begin again as desired.
Joshua Groffman Associate Professor and Chair of Music, Southern Connecticut State University Education Cornell University (BA, 2007) Indiana University (MM, 2009; DM, 2012) Compositions (selected) Halcyon, place-based opera, pre-premiere workshop produced by Vital Opera, Millbrook, NY, June 2021. Lemur for baritone and chamber ensemble, premiere at the Fordham University Voices Up! series, April 2021. Hear Here, community-based project of recorded soundscapes, live electronics and chamber ensemble, premiere at University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, March 2019 (postponed). Summer Wind(s) for flute/piccolo and clarinet/bass clarinet, premiered Cedar Falls, IA, October 2019 Summer Wind (Why so slow?) for soprano, baritone, and piano, premiered in Millbrook, NY, August 24, 2019. Dialogue, Duet, Monologue for electric guitar, live electronics, and soundscape, premiere at Quiet Village 2,0, New Paltz, NY, May 5, 2019. Environmental Dialogues for live electronics and open ensemble, premiered at Beacon, NY, August 2018. Publication (selected) “Between Soundtrack and Soundscape: Toward an Integrated Hearing of Natural Spaces.” Ecomusicology Review (forthcoming) [with Olusegun Titus] “Approaching Environmental Communication through Music and Sound.” ICA Handbook of International Trends in Environmental Communication. New York: Routledge, 2020 (forthcoming). “In Truth, the Forest Hears Each Sound: Nature and Ideology in New York’s Hudson Valley.” Music & Politics13(2):2019