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MENC: The National Association for Music Education

Performing with Tape: Music for Clarinet and Electronics Author(s): F. Gerard Errante Source: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Nov., 1985), pp. 49-51+60+63-69 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of MENC: The National Association for Music Education Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3400538 . Accessed: 20/09/2013 21:57
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y the end of WorldWarII, the tape recorder had developedto a degree that composers in France began ElliottSchwartzhas observed,"A creating compositions containing composerin a tape studiocan,ifhe standin the same relationThese were wishes, excitingnew timbres. to of his art as the ship the stuff produced by a varietyof rathersimple tech- painteror sculptor,moldingand his material intoa finished shaping niques: alterationof tape speed, addition of product." mixing of sonorities, To be sure,thiswas an exciting reverberation, filtering,
F. GerardErrante, professorof music at State University, is Norfolk Norfolk, Virginia, a past-president of ClariNetworks InterNaknown tional and an internationally recitalist. Thisarticlewas made possible by a grant from the NationalEndowment forthe Humanities toattend a seminar on "Musicand at Dartmouth Technology" College, HanoNew Hampshire, of thesummer ver, during 1984. It is adapted from an articlebeing serializedin ClariNetwork, beginningwith theFall 1984issue. Photographs are courtesy of ReynoldWeidenaar;workspictured are publishedby Magnetic Music,5 Jones Street #4,New York10014.

As important as the and splicing. new timbral resources was the made possibleby control rhythmic this new medium.The composer, with a ruler and splicing block, could piece together passages of great rhythmiccomplexity that accuratewith would be absolutely This leads to "performance." every anotherfundamental principleof tape music:withoutan intermedithe composeris in ary performer, As directcontactwiththe listener.

... but to many composers prospect there was great amongperformers disconcern. In 1960, Elliott Carter, mucussingthe issue of electronic sic doingaway withthe performer, boundless technical and imaginaa very tivefreedom and eliminates element in music making."2 costly
revised edition 1975), 8--9. Praeger, (NewYork: "Reel 2. Elliott and Vladimir Carter Ussachevsky, Newsletter 2, no. 5-6, 1960,8.

wrote, "electronic music ... allows

A Listener's Electronic 1.Schwartz, Music. Guide,

Orchestra vs.Real," American League Symphony MEJ/November '85 49

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T-

t There followed a period of ex!travagant claims by proponents of the new electronic medium and defensive cries from detractors that "technique was strangling and dehumanizing art." In retrospect, the period from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s saw many naive and amusing charges and countercharges as to the validity of the medium. The American Federation of Musicians was naturally concerned about the apparent threatto the live performer. Articles such as "How's Petrillo Gonna Collect AFM Dues from RCA's Electronic Tooter?" appeared in the trade paper Variety.3 The medium as master As it turnedout, the "infinite possibilities" promised by adherents of electronic music have not yet arrived,even in today's era of sophisticated technology.One of the serious questions, still very much a concern today, is who is in control: How much influencedoes the technologyhave over the art? When one hears a piece of music in this medium, one often is inclined to question whether the composer was controlled by the technology available to him or whetherhe was able to integratethe technology into his own aesthetic and therebyshape a meaningfulwork of art. There continue to be constant advances in technology,creatingincreasingly sophisticated means of producing absolutely any sound imaginable.Ironically,this creates a difficult situation,since it is rare to find a creative composer who also possesses the background and expertise to plumb the depths of the latest technology.As Jon Appleton and Lars-Gunnar Bodin recently have written,regarding the preoccupation with technological advances, there is a "lack of time to do more than the most superficial work since no sooner has one piece of equipment been delivered than the next is already on the drawing board."4
3. Variety 197,2 February 1955,55. 4. "Disposable Music:Observations Concerning 'Aesthetics' ofElectroacoustic Musicas Viewed by Composersvs. Listeners," unpublished paper,7 June1984,2.

Since one of the most appealing aspects of electro-acoustic music is the supposed direct contact between composer and listener, it is no wonder that performerssometimes feel threatenedby and hostile to this medium. In the early days of electronic music, performers feared they would be put out of work, much in the same way that many musicians lost their jobs with the advent of the film sound track in the late 1920s. (Today, especially in commercial music, this remains a very real threat.) Even composers are not immune from concern for their usefulness; John Eaton, in speaking about the Synket synthesizer, wrote,"one real danger of the Synket is that it sometimes writes its own music so beautifullythat a composer is led to wonder if he is really necessary."5 It is unusual, however, for composers to be so candid and ego-less. The main concern remains whether the performeris outmoded, given the extent of recent technological advances. Samuel Pellman, in his excellent thesis on the performance of electronic music, speaks in defense of the performer. He says, while it is true "the performermay be technicallyor intellectuallyincapable of realizing the composer's wishes," there are subtleties that arise fromthe human performance of music that often do not emerge fromtape. Pellman goes on to say, "many composers have objected to the possibility of deviations engendered by a performer'sexercise of his interpretiveliberties, or to the risk of having their ideas grossly distorted by an inept performer. Some of these composers have seized upon electronic music because they feel that by puttingthe sound on tape themselves,theycan bypass that third party, the performer."6 In fact, what happens at this point is thatthe composer becomes and, as Edward Cone has performer pointed out, the composer may not
5. "A Portable Electronic Instrument." MusicJournal24, 1966,54-56 6. "AnOverview of Current PracticesRegarding the Performance of Electronic Music,"master's Cornell thesis, 1978,42. University,

of his always be the best performer own music: Composersmay on occasion prove to be the best performers of their own music,but it is by no means logically thattheyalwaysmustbe.... necessary Because of theirintimateassociation withtheir own works, composersoften fail to appreciatethe way these will soundto thoseless familiar withthem; hence they are by no means ideal judges of performances of these works-whether by othersor by themselves.Theirown performances, forexample,mayunderstate pointsthatneed to be emphasizedforthe sake of the while devotinggreat care to listener, subtleties thatmaynotreallybe heard. Such a performance mayteach a lot to one who alreadyknows the compositionwell; but in the case of electronic music it is the onlyperformance of a workforwhich there is often notevena readablescore.7 There is no end to this argument. On one hand, technology may give the composer total control of his musical material, to the extent he can master his equipment.Theoretically a "perfect" performance of a composition can be realized. Furthermore, this composition can contain timbres impossible to produce by any other means, and the level of complexity can be enormous. On the other hand, the absence of a performerpresents certain difficulties and drawbacks, especially in a concert setting. Jon Appleton, writingin a recent issue of Computer Music Journal, has stated, "It has always been the opinion of this author that the limited public comprehension of electroacoustic music was due in part to the absence of performers."He continues, "even the cognoscenti seem restless at tape music concerts these days."8 There seems to be little doubt that the "sense of occasion" of attending a concert demands interactionwith a live performer. If even the cognoscenti seem restless, perhaps it is because the excitement of being present at an event as it is unfolding,of sens7. MusicalFormand MusicalPerformance (New W W Norton, York: 1968), 36. 8. "Live and in Concert: Composer/Performer ViewsofReal-Time Performance ComSystems." MusicJournal 8, no. 1, 1984,48-51. puter

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as he ingthe "tensenessoftheartist withhis establishescommunication public,"9 is lacking from a taped concert. As Elliott Schwartz has observed: be without Whatwouldconcert-going and variations deviations, "mistakes," from to evening? It is intrinsic evening to the notionof publicspectaclethat we observe thehuman animal, singular or plural, confronted withoverwhelmand meeting thesewith ingchallenges ofsuccess.10 varying degrees Matching ear to eye In additionto the sense of immediacy of a live performance,the visual aspect is of great signifithe assocance. For manylisteners, ciation of sound with gesture is In pure tape music, inimportant. or ensemstead of a solo performer ble, the listener sees "motionless and a tape machine speaker baffles witha whichrunsthe tape through and undiffercontinuous,efficient, entiated precision, regardless of whetherthe music is turbulentor tranquil,chaotic or meditative."" This incongruity between what is seen and what is heard presents formanylisteners. difficulty Tape music,then,is perhaps not best suited forthe concerthall and may be betterpresentedby phonoor tapes played in graphrecordings the home. The problem inherent with recordings-and, of course, with all tape music-is that it is fixed and never varies. Roger Sessions has said:

Wecan listen to a recording andderive a maximum ofpleasure from itjust as to a degree unfamillongas itremains iar. It ceases to have interest forus, theinstant we becomeaware however, of the factof literal of merepetition chanical we know reproduction-when how longa and can anticipate exactly is to be held, exactly givenfermata what ofaccent orarticulation, of quality acceleration or retard, will occurat a When themusicceases moment. given Perhaps Sessions is overstating tobe fresh for us inthissense, itceases the case here, and some observers to be alive, andwe can sayin themost have pointed to the fact that a realsenseit ceases to be music.'2 painting or a piece of sculpture never varies yet retains its vitality. 9. JackBornoff, Musicand theTwentieth Century Leo. S. Olschki, Media, Nevertheless,it currently appears (Florence: 1972),89. 10. Schwartz, 156. to be the feelingof most observers 11. Pellman, 70. thatthe presence of a live performPerof Composer, 12. The MusicalExperience er or performers in a concert setNew Princeformer, Listener, (Princeton, Jersey: tonUniversity 70-71. Press,1950) (Continued on page 60)

ithout an intermediary the performer, is in composer direct contact

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ting is preferable to a setting in which only electronic devices are present.Music is an art existingin can best time,and a live performer unfold, manipulate, and decorate thattime. Electronics and the clarinet In the past several decades, clarinet repertoirehas increased enormously. Many pieces have been written, especiallyforsolo clarinet, thatexplore the wide range of timbral effectsdeveloped in the late 1950s and 1960s. This interestin timbreis due in large measure to the explorationstakingplace in the area of electronicmusic. Composers, hearing the rich new sounds emanatingfromvarious electronic studios around the world,began to look to conventional instruments for similar effects.Often,they encountered cooperative performers desiringto trysomethingnew, and the collaboration led to exciting discoveries. Another development was the return of the composerwhichhad been the rule performer, until the late nineteenthcentury. And so a number of performers pieces as vehicles for began writing while themselves, composers polskillsso they ished their performing could play theirown works. well The clarinet is particularly suited forthis sort of experimentation. It is an instrument of great range, capable of subtle dynamic its entireregisnuances throughout allows for a wide ter. Its flexibility all manof effects, variety including ner of multiple sonorities, microair sounds, pertones,timbretrills, cussive sounds, and the like. At the same timeso manyworks were beingwritten, forsolo clarinet the world of electronicmusic was expanding rapidly. The development of the tape recorder,synthesizer, and computertook place in rapidsuccession,leadingto the creationof an enormousbody ofliterature. These tape pieces were in years ago, vogue about twenty-five but interest waned as it became apparent that the live performer ifnot essenwas stillan important, tial, ingredient in satisfyingthe needs of the concert-going public. led This desire forlive performance to the developmentof a genre of on page 63) (Continued

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WITHTAPE PERFORMING from page 60) (Continued works for live performer and electronics. The electronics can take the formof prerecordedtape or,as has recently become more comofthe sound. mon,live modification The latter is often referredto as electronicsin "real time." Humanizing the tape deck The combinationof live performer withelectronictape seems to be a happy union of resources. The audience can respondto an individual "makingithappen,"and a sense of spontaneity is restored.Furthermore,all the resources of the everexpanding world of electro-acoustic music are available. The medium is not without its problems,however, and the great piece for clarinetwith electronics Oftenthereis has yetto be written. a lack of coordinationbetween the live and tape parts.This may result in what seems to be a conventional clarinet piece withelectronicsound effectsin the background. There are notable exceptions; David Olan's Composition for Clarinet and Tape, OilyWilson'sEchoes, and the opening section of Roger Hannay's Pied Piper are examples of of live clarisuccessful integration net and electronictape parts. the Anothermeans of integrating clarinetwith tape is the so-called "live-ensemble" piece. This inof one or more volves the recording tracksby theperformer priorto the performance.During the concert, live against the performer performs As Samuhis recordedbackground. el Pellman points out, "this situationexploitsone of the mostidiomatic featuresof the tape recorder- I its abilityto bringthe Past into the juxtapoPresent,and the resultant sition can be a fertilesource of compositionalideas."13 Elliott Schwartz, in describing thistypeof composition, says: don't "Electronic" necessarily parts or even prochave to be synthesized essed from natural sources.... andthetape liveperformer using....the can) createan (thecomposer together could thatneither aura,an ambience, enablesus separately....It accomplish to hearthesoundofone soloist magniin ensemble fiedmanytimes, playing as many I from heard with himself, being spots in the hall as thereare loud114. 13. Pellman,

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WITHTAPE PERFORMING

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Or we can hearthepast respeakers. a passage previously played captured, livenow "echoed"overthesoundsysnew.14 temagainst something Successful examples of thistypeof composition for clarinet and selfpreparedtape are For Lady Day by Edward Diements (for any instrument and tape), Phoenix-Windby Joseph Kasinskas, and Soundspells No. 6 by MeyerKupferman. There are further advantages to the combinationof live instrument and tape. Economic factors,unfortunately always a consideration, come into play. It is certainlyless expensive to presenta concert,for example,forclarinetand tape than it is to presentone forclarinetand piano. And there are no worries about dealing with an accompanist who hasn't learned the part or is to rehearse. reluctant The recorded juggernaut On the otherhand,thereare obvious disadvantages. Since the tape part is fixed,there is no true interaction between the live performer and the electronic portion. Obviously, the tape cannot bend and shape phrases or participate in a in any way. But contestor struggle a creativecomposer can workwith A notable example this dichotomy. is Jacob Druckman's Animus III, drivis finally where the clarinetist with the stage after en from battling the comthe speakers throughout position. On the other hand, the clarinetist is victorious in Tom Johnson's For Clarinet and Tape (adapted by this author fromFor Piano and Tape), as he cuts the speaker's cord at the end of the work. Since there is no variance in the electronic portion, coordination with the tape on the part of the soloist is crucial. There is no standard notation of electronic music... nor is therelikelyto be one, given the enormous varietyin the medium and the vagaries of the composers workingwithinit. However,several standardpractices for coordinating the live instrument with tape have emerged. One is a time line, so that by using a stop-

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watch the performercan coordinate eventspreciselywiththe tape. One of the drawbacks of thismethod is the slightvariance in speed fromtape recorderto tape recordto be several er; it is notuncommon seconds offby the end of even a shortwork.This can be catastrophic if precise synchronization is required.The best solution seems to be a time line in conjunctionwith some sort of notationforthe tape portion. Dependingon the natureof the electronicsounds,thisnotation or graphicalcan be conventionally ly represented. Michael Horvit'sAntiphon II is an example of a work that uses both graphicand conventionalnotation.While it does not employ a time line, timings are given for some individual sections. Several hearings of the tape with a score the to familiarize will be sufficient withthe simple graphics performer employed.Perhaps the best example of a composition usingcarefully conceived graphicnotationis Gerald Plain's Showers ofBlessings. Some compositionsuse a variety in of devices to assist theperformer withthe tape. For excoordinating ample, Olly Wilson's Echoes employs a time line along with both and some graphicnoconventional tation of the tape part. Should a timelinebe used, itis best thatitbe continuous throughoutthe piece. Echoes uses a timeline,witha few seconds for exceptions, of fifteen each line of score. Since each line it beginson one and goes to fifteen, becomes confusingif the player is usinga stopwatch.It would be simpler to mark line two "16-30 seconds," the third "31-45 seconds," instead of "1-15" for and so forth, each line. In this work, however, the tape part is notated so clearly thataftera numberof practice sessions the stopwatchshould not be necessary. The onlyconstantabout thepractice of indicatingthe coordination oflive and electronic portionis that there is no consistency.Compositions such as Vladimir Ussachevsky'sFour Studies for Clarinet and Electronic Valved Instruduets forclarinet mentare in effect and a monophonicline on tape and thereby notated as any standard duet would be; Stephen Dembski's Digit is notated much in the same manner.David Olan's Composition for Clarinet and Tape, thoughus-

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WITHTAPE PERFORMING ing an involvedelectronicscore realized at the Columbia-Princeton Therefore studio,is pitch-oriented. the notationof the electronicscan be indicatedas precise pitches,and is critical.On the othcoordination er hand, there are works such as Fur Goethe by Jude Quintiere in the tape is with' whichcoordination much less crucial, so rathervague are provided. instructions Real-time electronics One of the most excitingalternatives to tape music, eitherby itself or in conjunctionwith a live peris what is usually referred former, to as "live-electronics," or electronic sounds happeningin "real time," as opposed to those created in an electronicstudio.(For an overview of developments, see GordonMumma's "Live ElectronicMusic" in The Developmentand Practice of Electronic Music.) Recent developmentsin technology, along withthe apparentincreased interestin seeplayingelectroing live performers acoustic music, bode well for the future of this medium. Two especiallyexcitingadditions to the live-electronic clarinetrepertoireare Love ofLine, ofLight and Shadow: The BrooklynBridge and Night Flame Ritual by Reynold Weidenaar.These are works utilizing live processing of the clarinet vidalongwithcomputer-processed eo. NightFlame Ritual was specifiwith callydesignedto be performed an MXRDelay SystemII and a pitch Love ofLine ... can be transposer; with any delay system. performed The video, altered by the use of digital processingdevices including a Z-2 computer with a CAT-100 The audio frame is stunning. buffer, portion has been processed by means of a FairlightCMI, a digital synthesizer designedforcomposing and performing. These works create a powerfuleffect due in part to the relativenoveltyof the medium. It is expected thatothercomposers willbegincombining processed video withlive performance. Here the visual aspect of the presentation is broughtto a maximum,but it is importantthat these pieces can stand on theirown as purelyaural experiences. The demands of the technology in some pieces using live electron-

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Stockics can become burdensome. of his in two compositions hausen, for unspecified solo instrument, Solo and Spiral, requires an enormous array of equipment.Anyone these workswould need attempting assistance fromat least one technician-Solo, in fact, requires four Less compliassistantsto perform. cated is JonathanKramer'sRenascence,but his 1974 version of this piece is still quite involvedand requires a tape delay system and a tape, both operatedby prerecorded an assistant. Not every musician has access to this equipmentor to an assistant with the expertise to runit,thereby makingperformance In 1977,Kramerdevised a difficult. method where this work can be as a straight tape piece performed with the performer listeningto a click trackover headphones. Of works involvingtape delay, Kramer'spiece is one of the more difficult. Simpler arrangementsof two or three tape recorders that record and then play back the live player are used on William O. Edward Smith's Soliloquy, McGuire'sSolo for Clarinet(s), and Micro-Electroecho. Paul Steinberg's Elliot Schwartz'Dialogue No. 2 is work requiring anotherinteresting a self-prepared tape that is altered duringthe course of the performance. This requiresan assistantfor performance,and the clarinetist will probably want to use a good sound studio to preparethe tape. One of the more involvedpieces to use clarinetwithlive electronics is Dodgson's Dream, by the Australian composer Martin WesleySmith.This work uses prerecorded tape, live processingof the clarinet sound, and two slide projectors. The clarinet sound is fed into a dissolve unit triggeredby pitchthe Electrosonic ES 69 unit works on this principle-which in turn For thepercontrolstheprojectors. formance,the clarinetist, wearing of a screen on standsin front white, which slides are projected. The clarinetist controlsthe changingof what he playsthe slides through one projector, high pitches trigger low pitchesthe other.It is possible with some multiple sonorities to turnboth slide projectorson simulThis piece is a fineexamtaneously. of ple technologycombiningwith to produce a colive performance hesive whole. Othernotable compositionsthat

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PERFORMING WITHTAPE use live electronicsare MortonSubotnick'sPassages of theBeast and MarilynShrude's Drifting Over a Red Place. Subotnick'swork uses a "ghostbox," which must be rented from the publisher. The clarinet sound is fed into this box, and a varisignal withinthe box triggers ous processingdevices, thus avoiding the necessityof an assistant.In Marilyn Shrude's piece, a dancer dressed in white improvises in a space illuminatedby a performing series of slides of an abstract expressionistpaintingby Ohio artist Linden.The clarinetist Dorothy performs a series of events that are then processed by a delay system. The natureofthisdelay is leftto the In rediscretionof the performer. cent years the digitaldelay has begun to replace the somewhat cumbersometape delay. Withtechnology advancing so rapidly, much becomes obsolete rather equipment the MXR quickly.At this writing, Delay SystemII has provento be an excellentpiece of equipment, espeIt has a ciallyforlive performance. maximum 3.2 second delay and very clean sound reproductionfar superior to tape delay using two tape recorders.It is easy to operate and involves virtually no set-up time. live elecCompositionsinvolving tronics are limited only by the and energy oftheircreimagination ators. Oftenpresentationsof these works take on the aura of a "happening"and can only be produced by an involvedcollaborativeeffort. An example of this type of presentationusingclarinet in a solo capacity was an event coordinated in 1979 by Wesley-Smith to commemof orate the hundredth anniversary a national park in New South Wales, Australia.This outdoor presentation involved film, slides, dancers,mimes, puppets,scuba divan instrumental ers,solo clarinetist, ensemble,and a varietyof synthesizers. It was a joy to be part of such a unique experience and hear the processed clarinet sound projected across the Australianbush. Live electronics, albeit usually on a smallerscale, appears to be a major music. direction of electro-acoustic
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Working with electronics It is apparent that the extrava-

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II

gantclaimsmade forelectronicmusic in its earlyyears were exaggerated. The infinite possibilities promised in the early 1950s never really materialized. Perhaps this willalways be the case, but we now appear to be on the thresholdof a new era of increasingly sophisticated technological advances. The abilityof digital synthesisto produce amazing sounds is already with us, and futureadvancements will no doubt proceed at a rapid rate. While this technology may in resupplant the live performer commercial it corded, music, is unlikelyto do so in a concertsetting. If more electro-acoustic works were performed, an air of excitementand adventure could return to what oftenhave become dull and predictablerecitals. This will help create a more informedaudience. Without either alienating or coddlingaudiences, it should be possible, with performers, composers, and technicians workingtogether, to revitalizeand coalesce what apand pears to be a rather fragmented occasionally apathetic music public. A creative fusion of art and could possibly lead the technology music a vitalforcein wayto making the lives of all of us. As computer music specialist John Chowning has said, we now have a "window on the infinite." By working together we can help make that window an open door.
Ernst, David. The Evolution of Electronic Music. New York: Schirmer, 1977. Paul. A Guide to ElectronicMusic. Griffiths, New York:Thames and Hudson, 1979. Gordon."Live-Electronic Music."In Mumma, The Development and Practice of ElectronicMusic, edited by Jon H. Appleton and Ronald C. Perara. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1975,286-335. Neubert,David. "Electronic Bowed String Works:Some Observationson Trends and Developments in the Instrumental/ElectronicMedium."PerspectivesofNew Music, Fall-Winter 1982,Spring-Summer 1983, 540-566. Schrader, Barry. Introduction to ElectroAcoustic Music, Englewood Cliffs,New 1982. Ai Prentice-Hall, Jersey:

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