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The Approach to Electro-acoustic Processing in Anthemes II In , Pierre Boulez wrote that "from our education within a traditional culture we have learned and experienced how instrumental models function and what they are capable of.
But in the field of electronics and computers - the instrument that would be directly involved [in the preparation for the integration of technology in music] - models do not exist, or only sporadically, largely thanks to our imagination. In Anthemes II live recording is used for two primary purposes: first simple amplification for practical purposes which may include some reverberation , and secondly for processing, where the sounds of the violin undergo treatment of reverberation, spatialisation, pitch shifting, and delay.
Although the precise spatial setup is not specified, a setup using at least ten speakers is implied - two in the immediate vicinity of the violinist and always used only for amplification, in addition to at least eight to be placed in a circle around the audience.
Figure 1: Demonstrations of two possible setups from the technical manual of Anthemes II. Thus the relationship between the electro-acoustic processing and the solo violin is almost that of an "extended heterophony", where it is impossible on at any point to consider the electro-acoustic element truly independently of the solo violin.
Boulez, Orientations. Faber and Faber. Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship. Universal Edition 1 2. The aesthetic implication of this premise of relationships is then that the content of the work, that is to say, where its interest lies for the listener, is, like in traditional instrumental music, an abstract one, as the work contains no concrete elements.
Indeed, when discussing musique concrete in a historical context, Boulez dismisses of his experience of the concrete practice of the collage of pre-recorded sounds as a "musical flea market" where "compositional purpose" has been supplanted by arbitrary choice of meaningless incoherent sounds. The "Building Blocks" of the work The introduction of the work, which comprises of the opening three bars, can be used as a starting point for discussing the role of electronics in the work because it essentially sets out a "kit" of material, both in terms of the violin and the electronics, that recurs throughout the work.
If we take apart the material of these opening bars we can then see that most of the content of the work is based on variation and expansion of these simple but robust opening ideas. Idea Number in Figure 1. Figure 3: Ideas presented in the opening section. With the exception of the recurring Libre sections, all sections of the work use materials to some extent derived from these "building blocks", whether through variation, extension, or juxtaposition.
By looking at these opening three bars, we can see that the electronics are essentially doing two functions: first to act as an extension of the material in the violin and delineating it, and secondly to create multiplicity and antiphony surrounding the violin.
The first function can be seen in idea A, where the downward figure of sampled pizzicatos with infinite reverb serves to further emphasise the similar downward figure in the violin, and also in idea D, where the spatialised lower frequency shift furthers the "splashing" character of the ricochet. The second function can been seen in ideas B and C, where the spatially separate sampled pizzicato runs essentially act as a virtual "second instrument" that plays in antiphony to the solo violin.
Electronics being used to extend the character of the original material Throughout the work, part of the function of the electronics is to extend the character of the original material in the live violin, and in doing so allows for the delineation of structure and facilitates clearer contrasts both between sections and within some sections when there are several different types of material present.
The most macro-scale example of this appears with regards to the "Libre" sections, which appear in between the main sections as a sort of musical "comma". Here reverb is used with a long decay time of 30", each time ringing on for 8" after the violin has stopped — thus the reverb acts to further the character of the ringing, hollow timbre of the original natural harmonic.
For a table showing an overview of the role of these opening ideas throughout the work, see the Appendix. The contrast here is even more marked considering that nowhere else in the work are harmonics ever used, and only in one other brief instance at the end of Section II do the electronics play without the violin playing at the same time.
Another similar instance appears in Section I in the way that the electronics characterise the ricochet figures, or idea D from the opening. This section consists of melodies consisting of numerous trills, or idea B from the opening, separated into different-length phrases by the ricochet. Here the processing, or more specifically, the spacialisation of the frequency-shifted ricochet furthers the "splashing" character of the figure and allows it to be more distinct from the melodic phrases surrounding it, where the spatialisation of their harmonisation is concentrated at the front.
For the ricochet, the spacialisation is a "sweep" around the speakers starting at the back and going to the front via either the left or right side, chosen at random. Note the spacialisation of the ricochet, versus the spacialisation of the melodic phrases surrounding it. A final example appears in the second subsection of Section VI, where the primary interest is created through the successive alteration of four highly contrasting groups of material.
The electronic treatment of the. Figure 4: The four material groups in the second subsection of Section VI 4. Electronics being used for multiplicity, antiphony, and illusion in relation to the violin Sometimes the electronics, especially coupled with spaciality, is used to create the presence of other "virtual instruments" that variously interact with the violin.
The first such instance after the introduction is in Section II, where "the balance should be that the listener could not distinguish the live violin sounds from the electronic sounds"12, or in other words, the effect is that the violin sounds are multiplied and the illusion is created of the presence of a number of violins.
Here the solo violin plays pizzicato while six delay lines are active, each with frequency shifting the shifting the solo violin sound variously up or down, plus the use of pizzicato violin samples. The effect is thus one of a dense, almost granular multilayered texture where the listener cannot keep track of any one sound source, and the illusion is particularly effective given the confusion from the randomly generated spaciality of both the six pitch-shifting delay lines and the sampled pizzicato.
The interest in this section relies upon the fact that until that this section is differentiated from the much of the remainder of the piece by the fact that the solo violin is not predominant. It is interesting to note that in the corresponding passage in Anthemes, the basic overall premise of this passage is the same but each of the four groups of material are much shorter than they are in Anthemes II, with each material group only occupying a bar.
This allows the material to be felt more distinctly because they are more closely juxtaposed. In Anthemes II, where electronics can be used for accentuation and characterisation, the groups of material do not need to be as closely juxtaposed to be felt as separate units.
Universal Edition 7. Figure 5: Opening of Section II. Another example is the use of so-called "chaotic processes" and "cloud processes" throughout the work. Essentially, these processes involve playback of samples being randomly selected from a given set of pitches; in the "chaotic processes" the randomly chosen samples may be either pizz or arco, whereas in "cloud processes" they are always a "pizz doux" doubled with a "long" In the "Nerveux, irregulier" passage of Section III, the "chaotic processes" create a similar effect to Section II, whereby the listener cannot distinguish between the live violin from the electronic sounds, whilst simultaneously the "cloud processes" provide a backdrop.
Particular attention should be given to balancing the sampler dyads with the live violin as of bar Note the boxes of pitches from which samples are randomly chosen, most of which duplicate pitches in the violin part. If the setup is such that the violin is at the front, this is the longest possible spacial distance between the violin and electronics.
This is the culmination of the antiphonal idea from the opening and the clearest instance where the violin and electronics are most deliberately separate. Figure 7: Opening of Section VI.
Much of this is achieved through the use of the violin as a true solo instrument rather than as one half of a duo or as a part of a larger texture. The non-concrete approach to electronics, on a whole, means that the details in the complex and difficult violin part have musical and acoustic space to have meaning, and in this way effectively resolves the issue of the electronics and the violin getting in the way of each other or rendering each other redundant.
Boulez, Pierre Trans. Faber and Faber, Walsh, Stephen Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship. Clarendon Press, Oxford, Boulez, Pierre Anthemes 2. Michael Barenboim. Used in pizzicato rather than arco; towards the end the idea of double stops where the upper note is static reappears twice.
C: Staccatissimo semiquavers VI, Subsection 2 Calme, regulier D: Ricochet Notably, this section contains an arpeggiation pizzicato idea that bears no relation to the building blocks set out in the opening C: Staccatissimo semiquavers. Altered into staccato single notes Used as musical punctuation that occasionally divides phrases of the other three ideas in this section Pizzicato, always in triplets. Unusually, this final Libre section uses the trill idea from the opening, which dissolves into the harmonic idea that recurs throughout each Libre instance.
A look at the use of electro-acoustic processing in Boulez's last electro-acoustic work, Anthemes II for solo violin and live electronics. Universal Edition 1 2 The aesthetic implication of this premise of relationships is then that the content of the work, that is to say, where its interest lies for the listener, is, like in traditional instrumental music, an abstract one, as the work contains no concrete elements.
C Staccatissimo semiquavers, in double stops, where there upper note is static Sampled pizzicato, runs getting longer and alternating in direction in antiphony D Ricochet in double stops where the upper note is static with a glissando on the lower note.
The remaining infinite reverb ringing on Figure 3: Ideas presented in the opening section. The electronic treatment of the violin, in extending the character of this material, facilitates contrasts by giving each group of material its own spacial characteristics.
A: Running legato demisemiquavers Varied through different articulation, and combined with the semitone trill idea B: Semitone Trill, to an extent No Section Marking Libre B: Semitone Trill Unusually, this final Libre section uses the trill idea from the opening, which dissolves into the harmonic idea that recurs throughout each Libre instance E: Col legno battuto The second and final instance of this idea.
Chen-Yang Xu. Published on Jul 21, Go explore.
Boulez: Anthemes 2 - BBC Proms 2012
Expansion and revision of earlier works is common in Boulez's compositional process; see also Structures. Boulez creates two similarly distinct sonic worlds in the work: the Hebrew enumerations become long static or gliding harmonic tones, and the Latin verses become sections that are contrastingly action-packed and articulated though Boulez says that the piece bears no reference to the content of the verses, and takes as its basis solely the idea of two contrasting sonic language-worlds Goldman , The piece begins with a seven-tone motive, and trill on the note D: these are the fundamental motives used in its composition. It is also in seven sections: a short introduction, followed by six "verses", each "verse" preceded by a harmonic-tone "enumeration". The last section is the longest, culminating in a dialogue between four distinct "characters", and the piece closes with the two "languages" gradually melding into one as the intervals finally center around the note D and close into a trill, and then a single harmonic. A final "col legno battuto" ends the piece in Boulez's characteristic witty humour, a gesture of "That's enough for now! See you later!
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