NEWS: Robert Scott Pearson Sampler Album on French Label Serendip Just Released
Enchantment Born of Grace (2001)
External Omnipotent Moments, Recalled and Haunting
Purple Martin Morning
Eleven London Bridges
A Free Mind's Land
Luck of Innocent Auras
Glass Electrode Solar System
Joseph Cornell's Television Show
Much behind my music has a theorectical basis. From the titles, to the chordal structure, to the rhythms, there are interesting ideas I am going for. Sometimes these theories reference other modern theories, sometimes they just spring from something I think is humorous, or something I think is meaningful in a heartfelt way, sometimes something in a spiritual way.
Generative music is not the only music that I make, not the only music that I feel is necessary that I make. It is a type of music that I find interesting and aesthetically pleasing. It often allows elements of the unknown and impossible to enter into music. By generative I mean music that is somewhat based on controlled chance, or randomness within pre-ordained constraints.
All great music that benefits humanity in some way "caresses" the listening. In some senses, it is a loose use of the word "caresses", in some ways it is a very literal use. Bach's music often caresses the listening in the same way a lover would caress the listener. Sometimes a massage can be a bit painful and therapeutic, but my belief is that much of the anti-aesthetic and dissonant music produced after the 1950's was really not much of a benefit nor a true intellectual exercise.
The purpose of my music therefor is not to merely create beautiful music, but to create beautiful music that has not been already created. To do this would take an tremendous amount of time without using elements of chance. Because there is math involved in the creation process, and because I am trying to do something new, I wonder if this music would help boost people's IQ. I have had several painters and other artists tell me that they've improved their creativity by listening to my music.
For myself, a large part of my musical career and effort has being staying in the state of mind and cultivating the kind of life that could produce the feelings that would manifest in the music I wanted to create. I saw that no amount of training could produce this quality in music. In fact, it could be inevitable that under duress of training I could have these states of mind "bred" out of me.
Some may not see fully that to create new music that sounds pleasant and is in some way different than all music that came before is an end in itself. It is more important to us to do this, then it is to be lauded by our contemporaries. There is an inner guide in us that lauds us when we create this music that is mightier than the words of our contemporaries.
Music is the language of heaven that simultaneously is also the language of psychology. If you can get music to move in a new powerful and simultaneously pleasing way, you have improved psychology.
I'm writing a book about my music based on the pleasant intersections of chance and regular music. Max Ernst was a major influence and I saw that I stumbled on a way of putting some of his ideas into music.
Some of the things that are important to me are concepts around the titles of pieces. I have studied linguistics, as well as psychology, and have a B.A. in English Composition with an Art History minor. Cultural Anthropology was my first major, and so the world music influence was important to me, but not to sound like someone else, but to use the idea that music could be very different and still be pleasant and hit people at a gut level.
I use humor in my titles. For instance, I'm not waiting for a "Minor but Significant Re-Distribution of Wealth" but at 21 I thought that was a humorous title.
Sometimes, when I play a piece on one of my CD's, it may not be the best performance possible of the work. I envison the work being played better, being arranged or orchestrated (at least by a keyboardist), but I don't have the time to do so myself. I see myself as a composer more than a great instrumentalist. I am more like a painter of songs than a performer at an instrument.
There is no way to avoid the fact that chance adds elements of beauty and intelligence to the arts. This started being openly documented in the 1920's by Max Ernst and other Surrealists but it may have had an earlier history. Tristan Tzara showed us the cut-up around 1917, but there wasn't the rhyme and reason that Ernst gave it by using intelligence and controlled chance as a backdrop which he used his gifted artistic technique on.
Max Ernst's asethetic theories and painting techniques did not really have much of a musical equivalent until recently. Ernst was really a theorist of chance in a different way than John Cage, because Ernst used intelligent and limited chance and then used his masterly realistic painting techniques to create realistic and figurative embellishments on structures that chance created. While I had an interest in Dada and Surrealism since my teen years, I did not aim to ape Ernst's techniques. I actually was creating in this medium mostly because my keyboard's sequencer was a totally unique one, using an algorithm that no other sequencer used.
The music I have been creating has developed along these lines.
At 20, by luck I happened upon a mathematical machine that as an art object ranked up there with any of the "machines" built by modern artists like Marcel Duchamp or Moholy Nagy. At first, I didn't realize the complexity of it and I did not see that using it was a musical discovery that had huge implications. Only as I tried to analyze the music did I see that it brought into bear many concepts in musical mathematics and by elaborating on them (would I be able to grow as a theorist) would I be able to make a contribution to a new aspect of music theory that is just beginning with the advent of computer-processors.
I was able to create music that many people thought sounded very good, and even the work of virtuosos in ways that usual sequencers could never produce. The music I was producing with it sounded more like well thought out and worked out MIDI compositions but it was produced in a totally different way. Since I had some classical training and my aspiration was to be a traditional harmonic composer/musical innovator, producing music that anyone could enjoy, I was able to create music like this with this strange tool that probably no one else was using in this way. I was able to use it in that way because of my early interest in Surrealism, Dada, and other modern art ideas.
Most electronic composers operate in the area of creating new sounds for their composition. Ligeti even emulated the sounds created by electronic means in his orchestral works. However, the aspect of computer augmentation and generative work in intervals has yet to be fully developed. There are many types of ways that this can be done, you could say, there are many "algorithms" if you are looking for a good word, but it may not be the right word.
There is a very interesting type of sequencer that is built on intervals. For instance, you have the digits from 1-10....1-9 are intervals between steps, and 0's are rests. You can have something like 167 steps which then repeat. The most important thing however is that this sequencer is triggered from the keyboard. I have been using this technique since 1983 and it has given me great results in composing music. I would like to bring it to the MIDI age and I'm thinking MAX/MSP is the best vehicle. I have no desire to "own" the application, although in a way this writing here is a type of copyright in case someone creates the application and charges a huge fee for it.
I create sequences like this
(we'll call this the loop)
and for each note I play on the keyboard, when the sequence
starts, it goes in a loop and assigns the 1 to the first key pressed down, the 2 to the second, and so on. If there are 9 different intervals all used in the loop, but only 3 keys held down the program will play the octaves of the notes, so that 123 would be abc, and 456 would be a'b'c'...and so on.
You have to isolate everything I'm talking about to get the full algorithm and why it's so interesting:
1) the full interval pattern 1-9, and then 0 for rests, is
looped -- this creates a living pulsing sequencer
2) the fact that this loop is triggered by an accomplished
or just lucky person's playing of the loop on the keyboard
3) the fact that the interval loop will do interesting things
if less than the number of original keys are held down that
are in the loop (the loop becomes "intelligent").
4) You do not have to create full 167 step sequences, and in fact,
creating smaller ones create different contexts for new musical patterns. Small
sequences can create different accompaniment structures that can
change just like regular ones do (that is, I IV V type changes).
Longer sequences tend to have complexities in them that can be
fascinating to listen to because they develop different sub melodies.
These sub melodies can actually change within a piece.
For some reason, when different keys are held down different submelodies
come out. One reason why this happens is that different notes are combined
in what seems like different rhythms.
The loops I create take on visual aspects or patterns.
For instance, I would create patterns like
135 4321 111 123 123
135 4321 222 123 345
135 4321 333 1357999
This would be an example of one using no rests.
Here is one, in which the 0's are rests
Of course, such patterns can create totally unique rhymic structures.
Art history was my minor in college, and I had planned on getting a masters degree in linguistics (which I decided against pursuing), so all these areas came together in some interesting ways.
There is something core about this concept, something about it that relates to the nature of music...it's like working at a genetic understanding of what can be good music structure. Those into "generative music" I think will be very interested in this.
I do not have a background in mathematics but I imagine if one started to look at some mathematically theory and patterns one could use this in creating patterns. The repeating pattern is a part of the structure of much great music. One can see it especially Baroque music, such as Bach. Since the keyboard changes the notes that the pattern plays in, it is not the repeated "over and over again" pattern one often thinks about when one thinks of sequencers.
The interesting thing about my generative music technique is that it's built on a pattern, and that pattern is put into an environment, and then it produces something of value. The environment has a skill aspect to it, and the interaction to has a skill aspect to it, and so does the pattern, (or what I should say, the creation of the pattern) So there are three degrees of intelligence. And this could be put into any area, and so there is a science based on this, which could have a name, and I could write a book on that.
1) The creation of the pattern - the numerical aspect of the pattern, and the mathematic aspects of this 2) then how it changes when different notes are being played. 3) The creation of the environment that it is played against - the chordal landscape, the soloing on top, the different fugal voices being played, or different loops or other sequences that are played.
Before I purchased the keyboard with the unique sequencer, I had ten years of synthsis behind me. The most similar experience I had was with the arpegiattor on the Roland Juno 6, which I had used for about a year and discovered interesting ways of augmenting my keyboard abilities. Sound synthesis has been in music since Varese, but what I was doing was actually "interval synthesis" or using computers to augment the human ability to put together interval patterns. Although it had been done before in various ways by experimental composers, my aim wasn't in creating a type of academic music, but instantly exotic music that people of all backgrounds could relate to. I had my own theories behind this, but they were no different than what Stravinsky, or people like John Adams wouldd. I already had Philip Glasses Einstein on the Beach, his most adventurous work, in which I heard how modern music could be very powerful and innovative, and only use the traditional 12 notes.
We have to be able to experience the music of the past masters as the mathematical expressions that they themselves conceived their music to be. What I mean by mathematical expressions are simply the purest form of musical expression that can only exist in the mind and the heart. If we can only experience music as it is in sound, as it exists in waveforms, we lose the most vital experience of music, as a living breathing rapture that takes all of us in. After it becomes expressed through the instruments, it is already a secondary expression. Not only has 200 or three hundred years past since the works were composed. Not only is it now the interpretation not only of a conductor but 200 or 300 years of musical interpretations. We should listen to the music as it is being played ,but we should then give it an additional life in our own mind, hearing the music as it can best be possible. We should remake the music in our own mind, and then perhaps we can understand what the composer intended by the music. In this way, music of the greats which can now seems somewhat stale can be given new life, and the idea of a modern music can no longer be needed to be dissonant and uncomfortably abstract, but can have a mental, emotional and physiological resonance with us.
One could talk about two waves of electronic music. The first wave of electronic music was the creation of new sounds, the second wave is the creation of new interval relationships. There has been computer music that has created new interval relationships, but at this present date it is still very obscure and who really knows if it has a pleasant manifestation in the same way as Pre-twentieth century music was pretty much always pleasant.
Playing and creating patterns that are too hard for us to play or impossible to create shows musical evolution, one that is already happening in some way naturally. We of course would not believe this is a superior music, just a different music, a music that has a right to be explored and appreciated. I also believe that when it is playable, it's preferable to be reinterpreted, and re-created outside of the electronic sphere, into perhaps interpretations by pianists arrangers, or orchestrators. It should also have other electronic realizations, especially music created on the Casio 1000P, because it is such a simple keyboard.
The trick is to use the generative sequences or arpeggiators in ways that
do not sound mechanical.
All music and texts by Robert Scott Pearson. All rights reserved. Copyright 1982 to 2018
Contact at regenerativemusic (at) yahoo . com