One 4 One on 8/4/8

I’ve just added a new album on amiestreet.com. One 4 One is a live recording of interactive electronic music from a performance at the Impulse/Response series in Troy, NY. The title of the album is a play on the direct, one-to-one relationships between performer and computer that I was deliberately avoiding. Plus, the performance took place on January 4, 2001, hence the title. Every 390 days since (give or take) I’ve been meaning to do something with the recordings. Luckily I got around to it before 2013. (Drop me a line if you figure that one out and I’ll send you a special little something.

Check it out on amiestreet, or listen to the tracks below.

The Shape of Music: Lumpy (and I like it that way)

It may be old news now, but Seed Magazine has published a piece called The Shape of Music that describes two mathematicians’ attempt to represent the multi-dimensionality of harmony and melody using “the geometry and topology of what mathematicians call ‘quotient spaces’ or ‘orbifolds.'” The author does a commendable job of making these and other mathematical ideas approachable for the average reader (unordered sets, anyone?) , but does a pretty awful job convincing me, at least, that the result is meaningful in any musical way.

Here’s a section discussing major chords that opens up some of the problems of this type of analysis.

“These harmonies occupy the center of our musical spaces, and are thus able to take effective advantage of its non-Euclidean twists. Remarkably, in the 12-tone system of notes, these are precisely the chords that Pythagoras identified almost 2,500 years ago: the chords that sound intrinsically harmonious. Far from arbitrary or haphazard, scales and chords come close to being the unique solutions to the problem of creating two-dimensional musical coherence. Contrary to the hopes of generations of avant-garde composers, it follows that the goal of developing robust alternatives to tonality may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

The shapes of the space of chords we have described also reveal deep connections between a wide range of musical genres. It turns out that superficially different styles–Renaissance music, classical and Romantic music, jazz, rock, and other popular forms–all make remarkably similar use of the geometry of chord space. Traditional techniques for manipulating musical scales turn out to be closely analogous to those used to connect individual chords. And some composers have displayed a profound understanding of the higher-dimensional geometry of musical chords. In fact, one can argue that Romantic composers such as Chopin had an intuitive feel for non-Euclidean higher-dimensional spaces that exceeded the explicit understanding of their mathematical contemporaries.”

First, there’s the wholly appropriate invocation of Pythagoras; this is, after all, an article about music and mathematics. But there’s no recognition that Pythagoras’ simple whole number ratios which produce consonances (octaves, perfect fifths and fourths, etc.) no longer exist in most music heard today. Thanks to equal temperament tuning, the predominant mathematical concept which most composers “intuit” is actually the twelfth root of two–a number Pythagoras would have found abhorrent. It seems our notion of consonance has more to do with cultural norms than mathematical underpinnings. Which turns out to be a better explanation for why “Renaissance music, classical and Romantic music, jazz, rock, and other popular forms” all share a common approach to harmony and melody.

And that brings up another area where this analysis goes off the rails: it defines a huge practice in a limiting way and then uses that definition to justify why the rest of that practice isn’t valid. Paradoxically, this is a kind of logic shared by so many of those “generations of avant-garde composers” to which this article pays backhanded tribute. Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique comes to mind as a mathematically sound system for making music (pitch class sets, anyone?). But the system alone doesn’t ensure the resulting music is great; neither does it invalidate music produced by other means.

The author concludes the article with a mention that the same geometrical analysis is being applied to economics. I imagine they’re on to something here. Maybe they’ll discover that the market has an intuitive feel for non-Euclidian higher-dimensional spaces, too

Pi is such an ugly number. How could circles be so beautiful?

Universal Instrument Videos

Here are some videos from the Austin New Music Co-op‘s recent Universal Instrument concert. The Behind the Scenes segment is especially nice.

Austin New Music Co-op: Six Bagatelles

Austin New Music Co-op: Behind the Scenes

Austin New Music Co-op: The Becoming Machine IV

Albany Sonic Arts: 4 Solo Sets for April

I never posted a proper announcement for last weekend’s Albany Sonic Arts Collective show at the Upstate Artists Guild Gallery featuring Ray Hare, myself, Eric Hardiman and Travis Johns. Here are recordings of the pieces I played.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Turnover – I improvised the melody and lyrics for this one inspired by Ray Hare’s hair raising performance.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

My Own True Love – an arrangement of a traditional tune

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Telephone Temple – an arrangement of a piece I wrote to be performed with LEMUR‘s musical robots.

Visit the UAG site to view photos from the event.

Nine Tas

I recently heard a recording of the premiere performance of Nine Tas by the Austin New Music Co-op and thought I’d share it here. The singers are Ashley Gaar, Kathy Hatch, Wendi Olinger and Brandon Young

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Nine Tas

The rest of the concert is knockout good. Let’s hope the Co-op makes it available soon.

The Universal Instrument: New Music for Voice

The Universal Instrument

The Austin New Music Co-op is presenting a concert of new music for voice on Saturday, April 12 in Austin TX. The concert will feature music by Chris Cuellar, Brent Fariss, Holland Hopson, Keith Manlove, Josh Ronsen and Travis Weller performed by vocalists Ashley Gaar, Kathy Hatch, Deena Hyatt, Wendi Olinger, Anton Boyd, Brandon Young and Kevin Adickes.

The ensemble will be premiering my vocal quartet, Nine Tas (Download the score). I unfortunately won’t be in attendance.

NMC is presenting a number of related events beginning with an open rehearsal tonight, a radio broadcast tomorrow and a pre-concert talk on the 12th. More information about the concert and all the extras.

Best of ReSiDeNt: The First Two Months

I’m excited to be playing again with the LEMURbots. This time it’s at Issue Project Room on Thursday, April 10 @ 8pm. I’ll be sharing the bill with Taylor Kuffner and Ben Neill. Here’s the rundown:

LEMUR storms Issue Project Room on Thursday, April 10th, with a night of special collaborations. Best of ReSiDeNt: The First Two Months showcases performances by January/February LEMUR ReSiDeNtS Taylor Kuffner debuting the GamelaTron robotic gamelan and Holland Hopson playing his customized MIDI banjo in an Appalachia-meets-robots performance. Then, Ben Neill presents the NYC premiere of new works for Mutantrumpet and LEMUR robots.

Thursday, April 10 @ 8 pm, $10
Issue Project Room @ The Old American Can Factory
232 3rd Street @ 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn

Maps Breaks $1. Maps is Free. Long Live Maps.

The price for my Maps CD on amiestreet.com recently broke the $1.00 barrier (see below). To celebrate I’ve the posted the album in its entirety at grabrarearts.com. Go here for complete information or use the link below to get it all in one swell foop. This is part of my pledge to make more of my music available for download in 2008. I’ll have more coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Download the full album including artwork: hopson_maps.zip