Sound Fragments

score For Fontana Mix – John Cage

A collection of sound bytes & findings taken from recent IP travels – Part 1: Data

Way back in January I uploaded a post on visualized music – sound pictograms. I was interested to discover that Anthony Manning, whose music I’ve been absorbed in recently, utilized idiosyncratic visual notation for his compositions.

‘The samples are taken from a collection of scrolls produced in the few months prior to purchasing the Roland R8 drum machine which accelerated the ideas process and inspired experiments that may not otherwise have come about so swiftly. Each scroll measures between ten and twenty feet in length – they were drawn onto graph paper, and are the finished results of ideas that filled a series of small sketchbooks.’

Unfortunately these pictures are too small for decent scrutiny but, never the less, are intriguing documents to the thought process that brought into existence works such as Chromium Nebulae and Islets in Pink Polypropylene. Both recordings are available for FREE from Irdial – be sure to check out Irdial’s Free Music Philosophy on why it all makes sense to work this way.

John Cage was one of the first composers to make use of a personal graphic language to notate his compositions. The Score to Fontana Mix consists of 10 sheets of paper and 12 transparencies. The sheets of paper have drawings of 6 differentiated curved lines. 10 of the transparencies have randomly distributed points. Another transparency has a grid, and the last one contains a straight line. By superimposition the performer creates a structure from which a performance score can be made. Different constellations of line, grid, point and curve create a time-bracket and a kind of indeterminate generative music can be read from it.

FontanaMixer is a software based version of Cage’s earlier work realized by Karlheinz Essl using the MAX/MSP environment. Karlheinz says,

‘In the program, I strictly adhered to Cage’s given instructions: the chance-based choice of 6 parameter values (ranging from 1 to 20) for each sound event, including the duration and ‘time bracket’ (position in time). The continually changing parameter values influence the character of each sound generator. Based on granular synthesis and chance procedures, sound material is split into the small particles and then re-formed into new and unforeseen sound objects. ‘

The software is available for download.

For more ruminations on generative granular synthesis you might want to check out a good article with the Autechre duo at Soundonsound. In it they outline a history of their working processes paying particular attention to tools and software utilized – they also tackle the old favorite: Generative is NOT necessarily random!

Recently it seems they also have been using MAX/MSP – the MAX/MSP screenshot at the site is a work of art itself, a different, but no less interesting, sound pictogram to be compared with those utilized by John Cage.

If you’ve ever had to deal with Cellular Automata before you’ll be aware of the Wolfram Science book and site. Now you can have an auditory encounter with our favorite life form algorithms with Wolfram Tones. Different CA rule sets are transformed into tones and rhythms resulting in a noodley-machine-bossanova played with basic FM synthesis.

One Response to “Sound Fragments”

  1. mason writes:

    i would also look to stockhausen in terms of developing a notational system that stands on its own merits as lovely data. (one of my favorites)

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