Trevor Bača, et al.: "Abjad: an open-source system for formalized score control."
Published 2015 in the proceedings of the First International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation (TENOR2015), Paris, France.
The Abjad API for Formalized Score Control (FSC) extends the Python programming language with an open-source object-oriented model of common-practice music notation that enables composers to build scores through the aggregation of elemental notation objects. A summary of widely used notation systems' intended uses motivates a discussion of system design priorities via examples of system use.
Abjad is an open-source software system designed to help composers build scores in an iterative and incremental way. Abjad is implemented in the Python programming language as an object-oriented collection of packages, classes and functions. Composers can visualize their work as publication-quality notation at all stages of the compositional process using Abjad’s interface to the LilyPond music notation package. The first versions of Abjad were implemented in 1997 and the project website is now visited thousands of times each month. This paper details some of the most important principles guiding the development of Abjad and illustrates these with examples of the system in use. The priorities outlined here arise in answer to domain-specific questions of music modeling (What are the fundamental elements of music notation? Which elements of music notation should be modeled hierarchically?) as well as in consideration of the ways in which best practices taken from software engineering can apply to the development of a music software system (How can programming concepts like iteration, aggregation and encapsulation help composers as they work?). A background taxonomy motivates a discussion of design priorities via examples of system use.
Trevor Bača: "Nature, song, transfiguration: the instrumental music of Chaya Czernowin."
Published (2015) by Schott Music GmbH, Mainz, Germany.
Bitingly astringent and deeply beautiful, the instrumental music of Israeli-American composer Chaya Czernowin (*1957) summons the energies and transformations of nature with a delicacy of sound riven by moments of unexpected suddenness and frequently ferocious intensity. Czernowin’s instrumental music includes nine pieces for large orchestra, a string sextet, four string quartets and more than two dozen other works for chamber ensemble. With the exception of only three pieces, the works are scored for western instruments, with the occasional addition of prerecorded tape or live electronics.
Czernowin’s explorations of the classical elements — earth, wind, water, fire — point to moments in the composer’s music that engage the properties of matter according to a regime of the fantastic. This ‘elementality’ of the music — sometimes extended to include a fifth term in the form of electricity and its currents — introduces unexpected types of motion into the composer’s writing, animating details of Czernowin’s music in ways that make it seem to course, surge or suddenly to congeal. The hourlong orchestral triptych Maim (2001-07) explores a music that falls like drops, runs in rivulets, and floods; the title is the Hebrew word for “water.” Shimmering orchestration, analogous to the aerial perspective of painters, combines with an approach to gesture that sets the guitar afloat in Czernowin’s only concerto, White Wind Waiting (2013), invoking both the properties of air and the ways that air may be made to move.
The elasticity of rubber, the growth of crystals, the back-and-forth movements of a pendulum and many of the other investigations discoverable in Czernowin’s scores attest to a central position of importance that the composer gives to the physics of motion as a determinant of composition ...
The article provides a summary to Czernowin's instrumental writing up through 2013. Available from Schott Music GmbH.
Trevor Bača, et al.: "Music composition and the technologies of working together: towards an assessment of technology’s impact on the structure and incidence of collaborative music composition."
Forthcoming (2016) in Ideas Sónicas / Sonic Ideas, Mexico City.
How are collaborative efforts at music composition impacted by the increasing availability of technology? And how is the relationship between composerly collaboration and technology likely to develop in the future?
Attempts at an answer depend on which technologies we mean when we ask the question and, crucially, on what we imagine composerly collaboration to be. In the paragraphs that follow we consider the status of collaborative work in music composition. Then we turn our attention to the ways that the increasing availability of technology stands to impact this work. Our reflections will taxonomize collaborative work by disciplinary orientation and classify technologies according to design. Supplied with this pair of distinction, we sketch a vision of collaboration in music composition that celebrates the social aspects of collaborative work over and above the development of new technologies, whether in the arts or elsewhere ...
The article assesses the state of primarily open-source collaborative technologies as they may be made to apply to the work of music composition. A consider of historical cases of composerly collaboration motivates a discussion of the tools and technologies available to composers today.
Trevor Bača: "Breath, blood, network of nerves: an accidental body poetics."
Forthcoming (2016) from CedarThorn Press.
Consider the body of the flutist and the instrument together in the production of sound. Arms raised, flute upright, muscles of the face drawn tight or else left slack. Breath passes out of the lungs, through the throat, over the tongue, past the alveolar ridge of the gums. Lips are engaged and spread. Breath spills forward from the mouth and rushes over and into the lip plate and its opening. Tendons tense and tendons release as fingers work in coordination with silvered keys and with the mechanism in which the keys are set. Shoulders move forward towards the center of the phrase and then draw imperceptibly back in a series of motions that cause the cavity of the chest first to tighten and then to open again. The body of the flutist and the instrument are together a special machine ...
The article arrives at a statement of belief about the in-motion body and is parts. The method of the article uses the details of the composer's experience writing for the flute as a type of phenomenological field of investigation. Secondary concepts explored in the article include a network and graph theory of anatomy; Sanskritic categories of the breath; details of phonetic production and the status of the phonetic segment prior to function as signifier; human and animal bodies as sites of divination; the body's role in the experience of wonder; and the chemical basis of botanical time.
Trevor Bača: Critical introduction to Aki Nagasaka's If on a winter's night a traveler.
Published (2013) by Aki Nagasaka, Osaka, Japan.
Japanese visual artist Aki Nagasaka exhibited the first installments of her work If on a winter’s night a traveler at Vienna’s Kunsthalle Exnergasse in June 2011. Conceived according to a principle of structured open-endedness inspired by Calvino’s novel, the artist added to the work over the course of the following year and a half during installations in Germany, Austria and the UK ... Borrowing from the language of the novel, we can describe Nagasaka’s If on a winter’s night a traveler as comprising chapters. The first four of these center on a collection of objects and on the artist’s (real and imagined) recollections of their (personal and historical) provenances ...
Nagasaka’s If on a winter’s night a traveler proceeds according to a discourse of objects. Round objects made smooth inside the body of an animal. Misshapen objects made bumpy in the application of syrup. Cottony objects held suspended in a jar. Tiny objects imagined at the tip of the tongue. Our encounters with the objects Nagasaka brings together in her work engender in us a network of images active in the mind all at the same time. Differences of shape, centering, placement and meaning are all let to resonate in a collection of shifting stories...
The text provides a critical introduction to the series of installations If on a winter's night a traveler produced by Japanese artist Aki Nagaska during her work in Europe between 2011 and 2012. Published simultaneously in Japanese and English.
Trevor Bača: "Unremitting ambiguity: A partial reading of Steven Kazuo Takasugi's The Flypaper."
Published (2009) in the Search Journal for New Music and Culture.
Reprinted (2011) in The Second Century of New Music: Search Yearbook Volume 1, available from Mellen Press.
Steven Kazuo Takasugi's The Flypaper (2005), is an electroacoustic work based on Robert Musil's prose piece of the same name, "Das Fliegenpapier." The source text for the work was read in English and German by the composer/poet Wieland Hoban.
Fifteen seconds into The Flypaper, a gap of barely a second opens amid the cut-up tumble of mixed German and English words. This unexpected breath—ghostly, barely audible—rises up from below, in a crack between sentences. Back up and listen carefully, to just this one sound, many times, in isolation. In so doing, a fundamental ambiguity arises. Is this inhalation or exhalation? A taking-in? Or a letting-out? After only fifteen seconds, The Flypaper forces a choice ...
The article provides a reading of Takasugi's piece The Flypaper that considers the status and function of the work's simultaneous German / English presentation of Musil's text; the polyvalent meaning of the work's electroacoustic source materials; the overlapping aural and compositional processes exposed to the listener; and an account of both the lyric and analytic qualities that the meaning of the piece accrues as the music develops.