meta music

february 09, 2003.

Combining the live playing of traditional 'classical' instruments with electronic and/or tape sounds remains a hazardous enterprise. Obtaining a convincing 'melting together' of these worlds is somewhat easier on record, but on a concert stage I - personally - hardly ever can be persuaded of the 'oneness' of the 'two'.

[ By Stockhausen I can, but then I consider Stockhausen concerts - that is, if under direction and personal control of the man himself - to be in a class by themselves. I'm talking of the 'standard' run-of-the-mill 'performers with scores on a stage, with a mixman in the hall' contemporary (classical) music concerts. ]

Part of the failure of the combination is due to many a composer's treatment of the materials, part of it failure of the performers to really 'live' the sounds.

Most of the works at the 'live-electronics' evening last week in the Maison de Radio France (part of the Présences Festival) corroborated this 'long-standing' opinion (prejudice?) of mine, of contemporary classical live-electronics as largely dead born and boring.
[ The evening's opening piece, Henze's 'Prison Song', from 1971, struck me as a chunk of 'old fashion' and very outdated ... but most of the other, far more recent pieces - all of them composed after 2000 - were not really more advanced (except as to the 'quality' of the non instrumental sounds) ... ]

With the exception maybe of Francis Faber's trio for flûte, alto and meta instrument.

Mainly thanks to this curious meta instrument. Of which I had never heard before.

Visually, it's very interesting. Looks kind of like a future big boy's playstation console; or a virtual reality sort of contraption (the two are pretty close in conception, of course). What I managed to gather from some net searching is that the meta instrument is a man-machine interface, developed here in France by Serge de Laubier since the late eighties. (Since a couple of years it's use is taught at conservatories (France only?)...) It continuously measures position, speed and direction of movement of feet, arms, wrists, hands and fingers of the 'player', and hence allows her to simultaneously control many distinct sound and signal processors, synthesizers, projectors, whatever.

It is not easy to find more precise info on the thing.
(I'll have to send out some e-mails here and there and ask questions.)
De Laubier wrote about it in the spring 1998 edition of the Computer Music Journal (the article is not on line).

An interesting development. I guess there is and will be more of this around.

In Faber's trio the combination with alto and flûte was pretty good.

But wouldn't it be far more interesting to use the meta instrument solo?
I'd like to do that.
I will assemble an ensemble of meta instruments.
Then have it play meta music ...

[ Next related SB-entry: bulimia, luilekkerland! :: Earlier related SB-entry: Henze's Ninth (de negende van Henze). ]

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