Michael Beiert and I have had three sessions in the Music Studios at University of Liverpool now.  The first session was fairly experimental, just playing about with oboe sounds and the patches.  We both felt that, as they stood, the processing time for each patch was too similar and created a rather uninteresting, rhythmic repetition.  Michael then devised a MIDI pedal (which makes me feel like a rock star!) that enables me to record sounds onto a loop which is then diffused at various speeds to the quad speakers.  Through the pedals I can also instigate random changes in the filter, the speed of the looping and control the dynamic.  This was a liberating experience.

Subsequently the interaction between oboe and electronics has opened up all sorts of interesting possibilities for phasing and accumulating sounds.  Even the most basic of events – a key click or the squeak of the reed – when processed produces sound complexes to which we both found ourselves responding with ‘sounds like…’.  Some of these sound masses we could relate to other sounds such as flocks of birds or swarms of insects (metonymic associations that Xenakis also uses in his paratexts); other  responses were more metaphorically orientated towards emotional or spatial source domains.  Electronic treatment of the oboe sound appears to force our inclination to explain non-representational sonic events through figurative means.  The diffusion through the speakers of the treated sounds appears to radically alter our sense of the source of the sound from the literal (oboe) to the figurative.

Now that I am getting used to the technology I find that, as well as building up a ‘menu’ of source sounds that can be used as part of an overall narrative structure, I can respond in real time to the sounds that emerge as part of the processing.  As a performer, this is very exciting.  It also means the duration of the piece can be adapted to circumstance.

This entry was posted in Peter Scott Gallery by Helen C Thomas. Bookmark the permalink.

About Helen C Thomas

Helen has a Ph.D. in music from Lancaster University where she completed a thesis on 'Disturbing Times: Metaphors of Temporality in Avant-Garde Music of the 1960s. She is a Senior Teaching Associate at Lancaster University and an active oboist and cor anglais player. Helen has written for Music Analysis, Twentieth Century Music, Tempo, and Metaphor and the Social World.

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