Electroacoustic composition for 8, 4 or 2 channel playback; 2008 ; Duration 12:47

Vivre (Fr., "to live," or "be alive") is the first electroacoustic work I have written specifically designed to be played over 8 loudspeakers arranged in a cube around the performance space. With the use of ambisonic signal processing and compositional software, this enables one to position sounds at various perceived heights, as well as at arbitrary left-right and front-rear locations surrounding the listeners.

Vivre is a layered and primarily contrapuntal work, in which musical threads and textures move through and past each other (illustrated in mp3 excerpt 1 below). An 8-channel 360 degree horizontal and vertical soundfield helps to clarify this motion and to make it more transparent. In quad and, especially, stereo versions of the work, which also are available, the textural quality tends to sound denser, more crowded and somewhat shmoosed or collapsed, somewhat like looking at a photograph of a scultpture or landscape.

Most of the piece employs standard 12 tone equal temperament, although with many microtonal inflections. However, during the final 3 minutes the music moves into 31 tone equal temperament, which provides very pure thirds, sixths, fifths and fourths, and standard major and minor scales (like this C major scale), but also many intervals that tend to sound "stretched" or "compressed," and which to my ear can have a haunting melodic and harmonic quality. (For an example, listen to mp3 excerpt 2 below.)

It is also quite easy to write music that sounds very bad in this tuning system. I am still just beginning to learn some of its secrets.

A 90 second passage beginning around 3'50" incorporates numerous melodic fragments of 2 to 6 seconds in length from several of my earlier electroacoustic and film/musical compositions. This was not intended as a "retrospective," but I did have fun reworking these accumulated jigsaw puzzle pieces and scraps into new combinations, and giving new life (and sometimes new expressive qualities) to these odds and ends.

Ironically, the original musical ideas that set me working on Vivre, intended for a concluding section, turned out never to make it into the piece. This piece did not come easily and I ran out of time, with deadlines for two other commissioned works looming ever closer. In the end this may be for the best. I hope that Vivre leaves one with a sense of expectation rather than finality. And the concept that gave rise to this piece ultimately may still be realized, albeit at another time and in another work, and thus probably also in a manner different from my original conception.

MP3 audio excerpts :

    excerpt 1 : Duration : 28 seconds ; size 888 KB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo
    This excerpt, which begins three minutes into the work, exemplifies layered textures of contrapuntal fragments, a technique that pervades much of this composition.

    excerpt 2 : Duration : 42 seconds ; size 1.3 MB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo
    In this excerpt, which begins 11 minutes into the work and employs 31 tone equal temperament, a gradually ascending melodic line frequently splits into 2, 3 or more notes ("chords"). In such passages, my intention was to try to fuse melodic and harmonic elements into a single, indissoluable thematic "thread."

Vivre was premiered on a March 27, 2008 concert at the Interfaith Chapel on the University of Rochester campus.

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