27.6.15. Live at ECA/Alison House, Edinburgh, UK (stereo mix)
Thor Magnusson - live electronics (live-coded, 4-channel Threnoscope)
Pete Furniss - augmented bass clarinet
Thor Magnusson's Threnoscope is a highly dynamic and configurable audio-visual instrument that allows the performer/composer to manipulate a set of drones by means of live coding.
See a demo here: https://vimeo.com/63335988
"The Threnoscope is a compostional and performance tool, an instrument, a live score. Thor likes to bring improvisers into his performances and we played 2 dates last year in Glasgow (as part of xCoAx 2015) and Edinburgh.
xCoAx 2015, Glasgow: http://2015.xcoax.org/
Fermata is a piece written for a microtonal drone instrument called Threnoscope and an acoustic instrument. It is a framework for improvisation of microtonal music, where both the live coder and the instrumentalist contribute equally to the piece's development.
The Threnoscope is notated through live coding, with sounds being represented on a graphical score next to the coding terminal. Its visual appearance illustrates the harmonics of a fundamental tone, as well as speaker locations. Musical notes move around the spectral and physical space, long in duration, and sculptable by the performer.
Fermata has been performed with Adriana Sá (London), Miguel Mira (Lisbon), Iñigo Ibaibarriaga (Bilbao), Áki Ásgeirsson (Reykjavik), Alexander Refsum Jensenius (Oslo), and now with Pete Furniss on the bass clarinet."
What's missing here is the visual aspect, which contributes significantly to the liveness of the performance. A series of rotating coloured bars represent the various pitches in the electronics - as well as their intensity and geographic position within the speaker array - which creates both a visual focus and a kind of 'score' for both audience and co-improviser to follow, complement, subvert (or ignore). This affords transparency, immediacy and what might be called a 'textual' or perhaps 'semiotic' liveness to the performance.
My bass clarinet is augmented here with a few delay, reverb and distortion effects in Ableton Live. I felt it was a help in bridging the acoustic/electroacoustic divide. Managing feedback and bleed was rather tricky, which led to a rather different emphasis of use in comparison to some of my clarinet performances (I didn't at this point have a direct input fitting for my K1X pickup mic - see other tracks on here).
Managing a 30 minute drone-based improvisation is quite tricky. There needs to be a sense of embarking on a long jouney, without knowing quite where it's going to take you. Both the relatively long duration and the resolute pacing of the drone device require a more measured sense of space than I'm otherwise used to.
There was no planning, except for the approximate duration and a configuration of pitch and temperament for the drones. B flat was chosen as a tonal centre as it suits the range and inherent resonances of the bass clarinet — interestingly, and pleasingly from my point of view, the pitch of the fundamental drone was configured slightly higher than standard (c.58.5Hz as opposed to 58.27Hz). This was great, in that it allowed a) consideration for the particular tuning of my instrument and b) a more 'seated' feel in dealing with the tuning of pure partials of the electronics (which are nevertheless malleable real-time coding).
Quite a good example of 'humanising' in a meeting of electronic and music and traditional instrumental practice.
Thor Magnusson: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/164902
Thanks to Marcin Pietruciewski for the recording and assistance with the event, and to Martin Parker.
- live electronics