Silent Night

Merry Christmas! In honor of the 200th anniversary of the writing of the much beloved Christmas carol “Silent Night” I have created an arrangement of the song on the Buchla Synthesizer. To accomplish this I used Logic Pro X to record each individual part in a multi-track project. The noise at the beginning was synthesized using the 266 Source of Uncertainty’s noise generator filtered in sequence using both of the 291’s filter. The arpeggios were made using the 259e Twisted Waveform Generator and the 250 sequencer. The bass part was made using the 259 Complex Waveform Generator’s modulation oscillator filtered at the 291e Triple Morphing Filter using the all input. The melodic and harmonic voices were synthesized using the 259 principal oscillator and the 216 voltage controlled keyboard. The vibrato like effect was made by using the 259’s modulation oscillator as an LFO in the sub-audio range. Its signal output was patched to the FM input on the principal oscillator and only enough voltage was added to the principal oscillator to create a subtle vibrato. The major scale used in the song was tuned using fzero~ in Max/MSP to achieve (rather consonant) just-intonation intervals. Reverb and delays were all processed in Logic. Because this was a multi-track project which used many different variations of one patch I have not provided a picture as on many of my other Buchla pieces.
The ratios used for the scale are as follows: 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 5/3, 15/8, 2/1.

Visions

I. Earth was Formless, Void
II. When Jesus Wept
III. Dreaming in Neon
IV. From Dust ye Were Made

Visions is a piece of four contrasting, interwoven movements which explore themes of prehistoric chaos and utopic peace, sleepy surreality and real human catastrophe. As an element of orchestration, it incorporates a wide variety of electronic sounds ranging from sampled sounds from nature such as birds and water, to penetrating drones crafted on the Buchla Analog Synthesizer, which are performed from a patch in the computer program Max/MSP Each movement occupies its own distinct sound world, and a bridge in the Max patch serves to carry the listener from one to the next. In the first movement the Max patch predominates, gradually unfolding into a collection of natural sounds while the orchestra performs with their instruments “deconstructed.” Beginning in the second movement much of the orchestral material is derived from a cannon by the early American composer William Billings called When Jesus Wept. The cannon serves as a symbol of early mankind, initially sprouting from out of a drone, the most spiritually pure of musical sounds. Though the second movement may be lively, When Jesus Wept both by its name and its austerity foreshadows the darkness of the third movement which drifts through mysterious and quiet material between a couple of more intense textures. Inevitably, the dreaminess of the third movement collapses to a cataclysmic and dissonant fourth movement, completely absent until the end, where the orchestra and Max are finally combined into one collective voice. It is the silver lining of rebirth after the apocalyptic nature of much of the fourth movement Ultimately with this piece, I have attempted to abstract a narrative in which we are all a part – the cycle from Alpha to Omega, beginning and end, creation and destruction. Visions was premiered at my senior composition recital at University of the Pacific on November 28th 2018. The orchestra included 19 players and computer.

Orchestra
Micah Vogel, Sabrina Boggs, Emily Criss, Zac Liel – Violin
Krista Swenson, Anne Plescia – Viola
Malcolm King, Laura Robb Martin – Cello
Yuki Nagase – Bass
Carrie Asai – Piccolo
Ellie Rose- Flute
Ben Siu- Clarinet
Mitchell Beck – Alto Saxophone
Chris Sacha – Tenor Saxophone
Thomas Hubel – Trumpet
Josh Dunsford – Tenor Trombone
Eli Maes-Brown – Bass Trombone
Ty Golding, Lok Mann lei – Percussion
Robert Huntington – Computer
Andrew Lu – Conductor and Editor

Notes on the Production of Electronic Sound for the Max Patch:

Almost all of the sounds that were used in the patch were produced by the composer, except for those explicitly stated as having been borrowed. I will list the borrowed sounds and their sources, followed by the sounds which I produced myself.

Borrowed Sounds:
1) Elephants – Two sounds borrowed from Elephant Voices (www.elephantvoices.org)
2) Bears, Coyotes, Elk, and Wolves – Taken from the National Park Service Yellowstone Sound Library (https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/soundlibrary.htm)
3) Laugh of Alan Watts – The laugh of Alan Watts is used in the third movement and is an extract from a radio broadcast called The Art of Meditation which can be found on Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/AllenWattsOnMeditation)

Produced Sounds:

Movement 1: All sounds of birds, bugs and water were recorded using a zoom portable recorder. The opening wind sound was produced by using the zoom recorder while driving a straight shot of road at an average of 60 MPH and then processing the audio in the free program Cecilia – (http://ajaxsoundstudio.com/software/cecilia/) Max’s filter design object is heavily used in this movement, exploiting it’s ability to produce complex Chebeyshev-2 filters with stop-band attenuation. The sounds of animals were arranged in Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/).

Movement 2: The drone for the second movement was produced on the Buchla analog synthesizer, primarily using the 259 Complex Waveform Generator as well as the 291e Triple Morphing Filter. A second drone is introduced in the middle of the piece which was synthesized on VCV-Rack a free euro-rack emulator – (https://vcvrack.com/). The bass sounds which are most prevalent at the beginning of the dance section were created using the resonators object in Max/Msp available as a free download from the Center for New Music and Audio Technology – (https://cnmat.berkeley.edu/). The sounds of people talking were recorded at a Dead and Company concert in Mountain View, California and at one of the 2018 Pacific Music Camps. The sounds of explosives are fireworks heard on the fourth of July and the sounds of cars were recorded on Pacific Avenue.

Movement 3: Throughout the third movement there are chords which are doubled from the strings or woodwinds in Max/Msp using the noise object filtered using the cascade biquad filter. At the end of the movement there is a bridge which begins with a noise sound similar to that used for doubling the strings and winds, except that it was synthesized on the Buchla using the 266 Source of Uncertainty’s noise generator filtered on the 291. The siren sounds were synthesized using the 259 and 259e Waveform Generators timed with 281 Quad Function Generator, and filtered using the 291e. The large explosion sound heard at the end is the same noise source sent to the 291 but with a carefully timed envelope shape from the 281. The explosion is also heard backwards which was made as simple as the click of a button with the warping engine in Ableton Live (https://www.ableton.com/en/).

Movement 4: After the explosion at the end of the third movement, the max patch remains silent as the orchestra plays the most dissonant and cataclysmic material in the entire work. However, in the final section of the movement, a new drone is heard which was synthesized on the Buchla using both the 259 and 259e filtered in a similar way to the drone from the second movement using the 291e.

Recorded Live at Faye Spanos Concert hall
Produced by Kevin Swenson
Engineered by Professor Jeff Crawford
Microphones used: 2 Neumann KK 133s as overheads, 2 AKG 414s on strings, 2 1/4 inch outs from Focusrite scarlet interface for electronics

Quadrangularis Reversum

Quadrangularis Reversum is a piece inspired by Harry Partch’s marimba-like instrument of the same name which is a real-time interactive duet between a solo violist and six unique FM synthesis sounds crafted in Max/MSP. The ratios available on Partch’s instrument, situated so that the player can easily play them in sweeping arpeggios, are here rendered as frequencies in the free just-intonation program Scala and stored as a list in a coll object in Max. The chords are first tuned to the C subharmonic series, and then to the F harmonic series. After a meditative introduction, the Viola player chooses to play various notated figures in a semi-random order they wish, triggering different “chords” from the C subharmonic series in Max, each one related to the original arpeggios found on Partch’s instrument. These choices are stored as an independent list and are recalled by Max to trigger the same “chords” retuned to fit into the F harmonic series when the violist exists the stage, and the material which was layered in the beginning returns as if a phantom version of itself. Thus the subtitle What’s Inside the Mirror relates first to the form of the piece, as well as to Partch’s construction of the Quadrangularis which was itself a mirrored version of an older instrument he designed called the Diamond Marimba. It is a mystical piece, which hopes to find the listener reflecting on the present moment, the eternal now – to find a quiet moment with themselves outside of the mad rush of the human world. Quadrangularis was premiered at my senior recital at University of the Pacific on November 28th 2018.

Krista Swenson – Viola Solo
Recorded Live at Faye Spanos Concert Hall
Produced by Kevin Swenson
Engineered by Professor Jeff Crawford

Ritual Dance in a Buchlidian Temple

Ritual Dance in a Buchlidian Temple is my first fully performable patch on the Buchla system without the aid of additional processes inside of Max/MSP (except for fzero~ for tuning and a bit of reverb). The piece is based on a drone and uses a sequence which is primarily built on the Dorian mode, a scale heard in many religious musics worldwide. It is not notated, but instead improvised on a basic formal structure which is predetermined. It begins slowly and gradually builds into a ritualistic dance. The term Buchlidian is one that I have borrowed from Todd Barton and Dr. Robert Coburn, which is used to describe the sonic realm of Buchla instruments. I performed the premiere of this piece during my senior recital at University of the Pacific on November 28th 2018. A screen shot of the simple Max patch used for tuning and reverb is available at the bottom of the post.

Recorded live at Faye Spanos Concert Hall
Produced by Kevin Swenson
Engineered by Professor Jeff Crawford

Distances

Distances for Trumpet Octet is a piece which entertains concepts of distances in various musical ways. Throughout the piece the listener will notice spatial changes within the ensemble, so that parts which compliment one another are sometimes heard close together, and at other times from across the ensemble. Spatial considerations are used to enhance rhythmic figures broken up among the 8 players. Another obvious distance is found in the pitch immaterial of the piece. Distances played a large role in the formation and crafting of the piece itself. For example, when I first began, I charted out all of the possible valve combinations on the trumpet from E4 to C6, numbering them 1-53 (making Eb4 to F#3 0 to -9). I then applied 5 recursive sets of integers to my chart of valve combinations, giving me 5 individual series of notes with specific valve combinations. I assigned one set to each trumpet (set 1 to trumpet 1/5, set 2 to trumpet 2/6 etc.) and leaving set 5 for use among all 8 trumpets. This informed my writing in terms of voicing, and disbursement of alternative fingerings throughout the ensemble – one instance of this is the very beginning of the piece. Ultimately, this is a “trumpetey” piece, which plays off of the tradition of trumpets being used to call across great distances; signaling victory or defeat, a call for help or a dire warning. For many throughout history, who fought in the countless wars of a time long past, the sound of the trumpet foreshadowed whether they were to live or to die. So if this piece seems at times dissonant – perhaps uncomfortably so, ask yourself one question: was it a beautiful sound which brought down the walls of Jericho?

All parts performed by Professor Leonard Ott, Lecturer in Trumpet at University of the Pacific
Recorded in the Owen Hall Recording Studio
Produced by Kevin Swenson
Engineered by Chris Sacha