5. Reports from Three Concert Hall Performances
5.2 Animated Notation for Mixed Orchestra
The main artistic idea to explore in Animated Notation for Mixed Orchestra was the potential of using short percussive hits performed in multiple parts to create various musical textures. The ambition was to mix the preprocessed sounds of the drum machines and analogue synthesizers with the musical textures of the schoolchildren’s percussion orchestra and the professional chamber orchestra. The schoolchildren’s percussion orchestra was divided into twenty-four individual parts and conducted by The Max Maestro, which was displayed at the back of the chamber orchestra visible for the audience. The schoolchildren were instructed to play on various small percussive instruments and the animated music notation gave instructions when to trigger the sounds and at which dynamics. Furthermore, the chamber orchestra was reading traditional scores and conducted by an electronic conductor displayed on three TV-monitors placed at the conductor stand on stage. The electronic conductor was synchronised with the animated notation of The Max Maestro to enable the two orchestras with different backgrounds to perform together .
The premiere of Animated Notation for Mixed Orchestra was performed in the spring of 2016. The composition was organised in three movements with a total duration of 15 minutes. The schoolchildren’s orchestra was a combination of two school classes with pupils in the ages between nine to ten years old and pupils in the ages between seventeen and eighteen years old together with their teachers. Two rehearsal sessions with a total length of 130 minutes were performed with the schoolchildren and electronics only. Furthermore, two rehearsal sessions with a total length of 90 minutes were performed with the chamber orchestra and the electronic conductor. The two orchestras were first gathered for the 40-minute grand rehearsal, which was performed three hours before the concert.
In the first movement the second percussionist (drumkit) was performing polyrhythmic patterns along with the schoolchildren’s percussion orchestra and the electronic sounds. The patterns were performed as individual lines creating polyrhythmic textures as a result when they are all mixed together. The chamber orchestra is holding the movement together by accentuating different chord textures on the first beat of the bars. The schoolchildren were performing the single hits with approved precision. The analysis of the audio recording results in an estimation that the hits in general were performed within an approximate timeframe of 200 milliseconds and probably less. When performing high-density textures divided into twenty-four individual parts the non-accurate precision was not noticeable to the ear, but when the hits were supposed to be synchronised the result was a percussive hit with short before and after hits. However, the large amount of performers not performing the hits in total sync actually made the long sounding percussive hits quite fascinating in the context. Furthermore, the medium density polyrhythmic textures performed with various congas by the schoolchildren came out as an interesting expression. Once again the non-accurate precision had more a positive than a negative effect on the artistic expression.
The second movement was guided by an electronic beat in the tempo of 110 BPM. The schoolchildren were predominantly performing synchronised single hits as rhythmical accents to the beat. In the rehearsal with the chamber orchestra there were some problems getting the orchestra synchronised together with the straight pulse of the electronic beat. Based on the experiences of the author having similar issues working with an orchestra and electronic sounds the action was to adjust the monitoring system containing the electronic music part. In particular, the percussion and brass sections had their monitoring system adjusted, so they could lead the rest of the orchestra. The result was much better even though the final section of the movement became slightly out of sync. The analysis of the empirical data including the responses to the survey showed that the issue was a consequence of having the electronic conductor leading the chamber orchestra.
The final movement explores the possibility of combining various multilayered textures between the chamber orchestra, the schoolchildren’s percussion orchestra and the electronic sounds. The chamber orchestra performs a harmonic chord texture with individual crescendo and diminuendo figures. The schoolchildren perform mainly high-density polyrhythmic textures in various dynamics using claves as instruments. Furthermore, the electronic part consists of various granular textures of snare drums and a pulsating synthesizer with randomised pitch. Once again the animated notation of The Max Maestro was shown to facilitate interesting percussive high-density musical textures in multiple parts performed by the schoolchildren. The long sounding single strokes with claves as instruments was also in this movement a fascinating artistic expression.
As a summary of the analysis of results from the concert hall performance of Animated Notation for Mixed Orchestra, two positive aspects and one negative aspect were mentioned:
+ The Max Maestro was shown to organise the twenty-four individual parts of the schoolchildren’s orchestra in the performance, resulting in interesting polyrhythmic textures with various densities and dynamics and unique long sounding percussive hits.
+ Only 130 minutes of rehearsal time was needed for the schoolchildren to participate in the performance when conducted by The Max Maestro.
- The chamber orchestra saw the electronic conductor as uncomfortable to follow, which probably affected the artistic output of the chamber orchestra.