We will hear the Ciconia canon going through a variety of digital processings during a search for sound abstraction.
The recordings were presented directly in spatialized versions, alongside with versions alienated through digital processings. Sound processing softwares have their implied sound aesthetics, and choosing type of processing is like building an instrument. Helmut Lachenmann has emphasized reflecting around the means and building an instrument, in a narrow and the widest possible sense, as part of the composition process.
"Komponieren heißt: über die Mittel Nachdenken. (...) Mittel - gemeint ist damit das musikalisches Material zunächst im engeren Sinn: jener Vorrat von Möglichkeiten, auf den der Komponist verwiesen ist, also jenes Weithin vergesellschaftete Instrumentarium von Klängen, Klangordnungen, Zeitordnungen, Klangquellen: Instrumente also in engeren und im weiteren Sinn, ihre Spielpraxis, Notationspraxis, Aufführungspraxis, bis hinein oder hinaus in die Institutionen und Vermittlungsrituale - dieses ganze Musikmobiliar, wie es der Komponist nicht nur um sich herum, sondern ebenso in sich selbst vorfindet, kurz: jenes polypenhaft alles umschlingende und in alles sich hineinschlingende Monstrum, das ich anderswo den "ästhetischen Apparat" genannt habe." 1
When composing for an orchestra of musicians, it is part of the process to imagine which instrumental sounds are parts of this musical project, and which are not.
I used Csound as a main tool for treatments of sound, through a Csound orchestra consisting of instruments, which can be performed through Csound scores.
For my Csound orchestra, I needed to take into consideration the format of the sound sources (mono, stereo or ambisonic recordings in first or third order), a long menu of possible processings, each with a set of parameters and controlling curves, and finally nuanced spatial distributions for each sound, to be decoded into many possible concert venues and speaker setups.
Csound is being developed as free open source software used by a large community. For the interested readers, I will provide technical details and sound examples from the "Wheels within wheels" sound installation, and finally attach the Csound code of this instrument. I will refer to the online csound manual for each function. This can allow the reader to go through similar explorations. Readers with less specific interest in these sound treatments may listen to sound examples and go ahead to other chapters of this exposition.
The final Csound instrument had 81 potential parameters for each note. A processing function (Csound 'opcode') often has parameters that are changing dynamically through each sound. I have used randomized curve shapes within computer assisted composition, to shape materials. Multidimensional flux has been key in finding richer treatments. It seemed natural to extend this flux to how the sounds themselves are developing over time. Ircam released the application Cleese in 2017-2018, referred to as a "Ministry of Silly Talks". I find this approach to random flux related. It is a common approach within sound synthesis to add randomized elements to make sound phenomena richer.
Let us in chronology see what my attached Csound instrument is doing.
Initially a sound is read. The options are mono, stereo, quad (1st order Ambisonics) or 16 channels (3rd order Furse Malham Ambisonics). The sound can be read in two different ways.
- At different speeds, with sample interpolation, using 'diskin2'. 2 Lower pitch will always mean stretching the sound.
- With independent treatment of time and pitch, using 'sndwarp'. 3 A time pointer can create granulation effects. This uses spectral analysis. Settings of window size and overlap gives a chance to either restore the original sound as closely as possible, or intentionally introduce artifacts.