Seriously - an interactive graphic notation piece for A/B Duo

January 5, 2018 update: Video from the November 15, 2017 performance at UC Riverside has been added to the end of this post.

"Seriously" Interactive graphic score hanging at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington, VT, right before our show.

"Seriously" Interactive graphic score hanging at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington, VT, right before our show.

I designed and constructed an interactive graphic notation piece for A/B Duo (my flute and percussion duo with Chris Jones). I created one other graphic notation piece in the past (more about Blueprint here) so I didn't want to do exactly the same thing again. This time I wanted to make sure that the audience could see the score even if we were at a venue that didn't have image projection capabilities. It was premiered on October 24, 2017 at the Canterbury Parish House in Canterbury, NH. It was during an outreach concert organized by the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. I finished constructing Seriously while A/B Duo was in residence at Avaloch.

I bought a few yards of durable canvas-like cotton fabric and learned to use a sewing machine. There's fabric paint, metal studs, hand-embroidered bits, buttons, LEDs, conductive fabric and thread (instead of metal wire or solder), and a bit of copper tape that you can see on the front. On the back, there's an arduino board made by Bare Conductive, a few batteries, velcro, and tons of blue painters tape! 

Some of the buttons turn on LEDs while some of the buttons and the conductive textiles trigger mp3 sound files on the arduino board. I sampled and processed vibraphone, cello, and vocal sounds. I originally intended the thing to be a kind of instrument to be played by Chris as another percussion instrument but after a couple run throughs and performances, it seemed to work best if I triggered the sounds and the lights during the performance. 

Because of the nature of graphic notation scores, every performance can vary a lot so I don't want to post one recording of it right now. Unlike Blueprint, Seriously was meant to be performed more than once. I'll upload a few different versions after a few more performances. On October 27th, we performed Seriously with double bassist Gahlord Dewald in Burlington, VT. I don't know if we will have others join us in performing this piece in the future but it's definitely a possibility and it will create many more versions of the piece. 


Next performances of Seriously:

A/B Duo at San Francisco State University
7:30PM - Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Knuth Hall, Creative Arts Building (Corner of Holloway Ave and Tapia Dr.)
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave., San Francisco, CA 94132
FREE

A/B Duo at the Outpost Concert Series at UC Riverside
7PM - Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Culver Center of the Arts
3834 Main Street Riverside, CA 92501
FREE


Premiere of  Seriously  in Canterbury, NH. You can see the LEDs in action in this photo.

Premiere of Seriously in Canterbury, NH. You can see the LEDs in action in this photo.

This piece took me a solid month of work to finish, including a handful of all-nighters. Hand embroidering is no joke and working with conductive thread is infuriating. I don't think I'll ever do this again....but now I know what works and what doesn't so maybe I'll end up incorporating some of the things I learned from constructing this thing in a future project!

 


November 15 2017 performance at the Outpost Concert Series, University of California at Riverside. 

Blueprint - a location specific piece for the Soundwave Biennial

First panel of  Blueprint .

First panel of Blueprint.

Last week, I had the wonderful experience of hearing/performing my graphic notion piece, Blueprint. It was "written" for the Soundwave ((7)) Architecture performance at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to design the piece with the following amazing musicians in mind: Kris King on Contraforte, Michael Hernandez on Soprano Sax, and Kassey Plaha on Flute. 

It's sometimes difficult to hear the contrabass flute in the last movement but the recording came out pretty well! 

Live recording: Friday, August 5, 2016, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA. Meerenai Shim Quartet: Michael Hernandez, soprano sax - Kassey Plaha, flute - Meerenai Shim, contrabass flute - Kris King, contraforte

As you can see from the first panel above, the orientation to the score is different for each instrument. It continues the same way in the 2nd panel. In the 3rd, everyone but the contrabass/bass flute reads the piece the same way. 

Second panel of  Blueprint .

Second panel of Blueprint.

I had a few objectives/constraints for this piece based on the venue, instrumentation, and logistics/time: 
1) In April I found out when/where my piece will be presented so I didn't have that much time to finish the piece or schedule time with my performers.
2) It was written to be performed inside Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which is a very live space, so I decided that the piece should not require interlocking rhythms or tight ensemble work.
3) All of my performers have very busy summers so I needed the piece to work with minimal rehearsal time.
4) The piece had to work with the theme of Architecture. This was the biggest challenge. Since my piece was to be performed at Grace Cathedral, I chose instruments that reflect the pipe organs in the church. I also spent an afternoon sitting in the church and walking the outdoor labyrinth there. If you really think about it, all notated music is like a blueprint for music. I tried to take the blueprint idea and try to marry aspects of architectural blueprints with graphic notation. 
5) The final constraint I gave myself was that the performers should be able to interpret the scores without much written instruction. My pet peeve is when the written instructions are longer than the score or if the score doesn't convey almost everything that the performer needs to perform the piece. This was tough in the last movement and I ended up writing instructions. 😕 I am convinced that I could have gotten away from written instructions if I used animated notation for the last movement.

Third panel of  Blueprint .

Third panel of Blueprint.