5. Reports from Three Concert Hall Performances
5.1 Voices of Umeå III: Everybody Scream!!!
In Voices of Umeå III: Everybody Scream!!! the musical idea was to take advantage of the rich capacities of the human voice as a sound source and the possibility to create advanced musical textures with a crowd of non-professional performers. The idea was to compose advanced musical textures, consisting of layers of individual “simple-to-perform” sounds.The individual sounds were supposed to be raw and naïve in contrast to sounds produced by a highly-skilled professional performer, which would probably be perfectly controlled and balanced.
Primarily, extended techniques for the human voice were used for the composition rather than something we could call normal singing. For example the crowd were instructed to; - sing approximate pitches, - speak in various amplitudes (including whispering), - make noise sounds (hiss on “s”, “sch” “f”), - use of isolated syllables/phonemes, - scream, make vocal glissandi and so on. The idea was to use the human voice as a musical instrument making isolated sounds rather than communicating a text with a melody of different pitches. Electronically preprocessed sounds of voices were mixed with the crowd in the live performance. The artistic idea was to combine these two opposite musical elements: - The human voices as the natural acoustic sound source and - The electronic voices as the processed electronic sound source into a new unique musical body.
The premiere of Everybody Scream!!! was performed by a crowd of approximately two hundred residents of Umeå, mainly children/ youths between the ages of eleven and fourteen years old. The composition was organised in eight movements with a total duration of fourty-five minutes and the crowd was divided into five groups. The Max Maestro conducted three out of five groups and the other two groups were conducted by a human conductor and are therefore not included in this exposition. The three groups conducted by The Max Maestro were made up of: pupils in the ages between twelve to thirteen years old, a mixed children’s choir in the ages between ten to sixteen years old and music students from the Department of Creative studies at Umeå University. Two rehearsal sessions with a total length of approximately three hours had been carried out separately with all the three units before the concert. The whole crowd was first gathered all together for the grand rehearsal, which was only two hours before the premiere performance. The visual output of The Max Maestro was projected on the upper left and right sides of the balcony of the stage. One output was also shown on a computer screen not visible to the audience. The composition also included other parts where The Max Maestro was not involved, such as: singing from a traditional written score led by a human conductor and solo parts with the electronic sounds, but as this exposition focuses on The Max Maestro and its artistic possibilities the reflections only include the parts where The Max Maestro was involved.
Movement 1: Sounds of Hej! (Hello in Swedish)
The movement was ended with a crescendo, where the crowd was instructed by The Max Maestro to make a long glissando from each individual voice’s lowest possible pitch to each individual voice’s highest possible pitch. The eight parts of the crowd were instructed to use different vowels as fundamental sounds and their starting points were different. The sum of the sounds resulted in a moving approximate pitch cluster texture ending up with everybody screaming, mixed with a musical climax from the electronic sounds. Since the crowd consisted of a large number of participants the approach of The Max Maestro to conduct approximate pitch instructions within a limited frame was shown to facilitate an interesting artistic output. The instructions were divided into eight individual parts, but since each individual performer selected their approximate pitch within the limited frame the actual output was a thick cluster texture of multiple pitches more than eight. Furthermore, The Max Maestro could conduct these cluster textures in various pitch registers and dynamics with interesting results. The accurate instructions from The Max Maestro on when to trigger and to stop a sound enabled the crowd to perform in sync with the electronic part and the artistic outcome was rewarding.
Movement 2: Umeå
The movement was exploring human speech as musical material and the crowd was conducted by The Max Maestro to read a text at different dynamics going from whispering to screaming. The visual output of The Max Maestro in this movement differed from the other movements, because of the need to show the text the crowd was instructed to read from. The crowd was also only divided into two parts in this movement: Men and Women. The artistic idea was to create layers of both noise cluster formation textures, when the crowd was set to whisper, and different approximate pitch cluster textures, when the crowd was reading using different pitches. These textures were also shown to be excellently executed by the crowd, conducted by The Max Maestro and also in sync with the interactive instruments and the prerecorded voices. The Drawer Septet - an interactive instrument was included in this movement .
Movement 4: Sss-Rrr-Blbl-T-K-A-O
The exploration of the crowd as a musical instrument continued in the fourth movement. The Max Maestro was directing the crowd to perform different Noise formation textures at the beginning of the movement, making sounds on consonants and consonant formations like s, f, and sch. In the middle of the movement the Wheel Quintet (Voices of Umeå part II: Singing Instruments!!  ) was presented and the crowd was directed by The Max Maestro to perform various Polytempic textures together with the electronic sounds from the Wheel Quintet. At some points in the movement a total of thirteen (five presented by the Wheel Quintet and eight by the crowd) different parts with individual tempos are presented simultaneously. As a contrast to this polytempo section all parts are gathered into one common master tempo at the end of the movement. The Max Maestro was, in the end section, conducting the crowd to perform rhythmical accents to enhance the electronic part and its minimalistic rhythmic musical material. As in the other movements involving advanced musical textures, the noise formation textures and polytempic textures were excellently performed by the crowd, conducted by The Max Maestro. The material where the crowd was directed to perform rhythmical accents, with the aim of being perfectly in sync with the minimalistic rhythms of the electronic part, was shown to be more difficult to execute as intended. In addition to the visual output from The Max Maestro the crowd also needed to hear the audio track of the electronic part to be able to perform this section with a satisfactory result. When the audio monitoring system was off the crowd couldn´t get the performance to be in sync with the electronic part.
Movement 6: Mmm-Aaa-Ooo-Uuu
In movement 6 the crowd was conducted by The Max Maestro to perform static and moving approximate pitch cluster textures. The crowd was, as in most of the other movements, divided into eight parts and instructed to make sounds on different vowels and humming consonants (Mmm), both static and moving in different glissandi figures to create the textures. The sound of the crowd performing live was also mixed with the electronic part consisting of recorded and processed voice glissandi textures. The movement ends with a dynamic climax where the crowd perform glissandi figures in unison from low pitch to high pitch in sync with the electronic music part. The textures of this movement were also shown to work as intended. As in the other movements the approach of The Max Maestro to conduct approximate pitch and dynamic instructions within a limited frame was shown to facilitate an interesting artistic output. However, one reflection was that in rehearsal the performers had an instinct to connect the instructions of pitch and dynamaics, conducted by The Max Maestro. If the pitch was conducted to be a glissandi from low pitch to high pitch the natural instinct was also to follow with performing from low to high amplitude even if the dynamics was conducted to be the same during the same particular glissandi figure (the size of the ball was the same). After making the performers aware of this natural instinct during the rehearsal and being able to rehearse these figures the “issue” was sorted out and performed with a satisfactory result.
Movement 7: Ma-ri-e-dals-Ron-del-len
In the middle of movement the crowd turns into a speaking crowd. The Max Maestro was conducting them to read names of roundabouts (very common in the city of Umeå) in rhythmic eights. The eight parts of the crowd received different starting points, but were still conducted to be in rhythmic sync together with the electronic music part creating a pulsating text canon in eights. The rhythmic text canon was varied in different dynamics and mixed with the electronic music part. As in the end of the fourth movement, were the crowd was conducted to perform rhythmic accents in sync with the electronic music part, this movement also needed an additional audio monitoring system together with the visual output of The Max Maestro to enable the crowd to perform the material as intended. But when the crowd was able to hear the pulsating music material of the electronic part then they were able to perform the text canons in sync. The Tap Quartet - an interactive instrument was included in this movement .
To summarise the analysis of the audio recording and the experience of the author participating in the performance, two positive aspects and one negative aspect were highlighted:
+ The Max Maestro was shown to conduct the crowd of non-professional performers with interesting artistic results. Especially the various advanced musical textures including static and moving approximate pitch cluster textures, polytempic textures and noise formation textures.
+ Considering the fourty-five-minute duration of the performance, very short rehearsal time was needed for the non-professionals to perform in sync with an electronic music part, when conducted by The Max Maestro.
- The rhythmical material to be executed in sync with the electronic music part was considered as more difficult to perform as intended, even though the result was acceptable when the audio monitoring system was included.