Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CD reviews / Portfolio

Hi readers,

Sorry for the long delay between posts. A lot of non-music work happening around here lately. Anyway, a few updates:

1. My friend Brian Skutle was kind enough to review my CDs. Nice to see what people think of my stuff - as you'll read, it is a fair and relatively unbiased review.

2. I have to take the GRE in 11 days! AAAAH! I shouldn't worry too much - I got a decent score last time (12-something). But I really want to do well, and I keep getting tripped up when I go through my math review book.

3. I'm getting my portfolio together. I have narrowed it down to the following choices. If any of you want to take the time, I would be interested to hear feedback on which pieces seem the strongest or most interesting (even "non-musician" perspectives!).

Gallery (fl, cl, bsn, hn, tpt, tbn, perc, vln, vla, cb)

This is inspired by abstract expressionist paintings. 8 miniatures - I think the writing is pretty strong, although it is a collection of miniatures and therefore doesn't display much developmental skill. Still, it shows some skill with orchestration.

Score Recording

Obedience School (tape)

This is one of my favorite of my electroacoustic pieces, and I think the most technically accomplished. It uses a lot of algorithmic editing, as well as other processes like "improper noise reduction."


Petrichor (clarinet and tape)

This piece has a decent tape part and decent clarinet part. I still like listening to it, and it has become my most-performed piece (... 7 times ....)

Score Recording

Five Pieces for Laptop Quartet

This was a big project, and it displays technical skill with Max/MSP as well as my interest in improvisation. You can listen to all of the pieces at the link above. I also did a video for "Baffin Bay."

Three Haiku (fl, gtr, vla, perc)

This is a 3-movement, 15-minute chamber piece. Some parts need a little improvement, but overall I think it's an interesting piece. I'm really proud of my timbral development, and I think the haiku form works well.

Score Recordings: Mvt I Mvt II Mvt III

Five Movements on Mondrian (video)

This is a little older, and isn't my most technically accomplished piece, but I still think it's very creative.

More Money Than You Know What To Do With (video)

I may include this one to show more improvisation, as well as experience with live electronics. It's fun, too.

Promenade de minuit (sax and harp)

This was commissioned by Turdus Merula (France). They haven't had a chance to perform it live yet, but they made a great demo recording for me. This was written intuitively, unlike a lot of my pieces, but it's still in a similar style to my other chamber works. One of my favorites to listen to...

Score Recording

Searching for Coincidences (flute duet)

This was written for rarescale. It is written for two flutes (they played on altos, my preference). It is an indeterminate piece - they are given 5 choices to play at all times, and create their own paths. It is written in proportional notation as well. Turned out pretty well, although its certainly not the most impressive thing I've done, compositionally. Interesting experiment, though.

Also, I need to fix up the score a bit...

Score Recording

Pachamama (perc. trio)

This was commissioned by the Cerberus Trio. It shows a different side of me, as it is very rhythmic and repetitive. It is all based on 8th-notes, but has different simultaneous meters. The form is based on a magic square - each number corresponded with a number of bars in which a certain rhythm, dynamic, or instrument would occur. Haven't heard it yet, but I think it will be cool.


Thanks for your input!


David said...

What the hell, is everyone too scared to give feedback? Or maybe they're having as hard a time finding time to listen to the material as I did.

I try to give each piece two listens because some pieces grow on a person. File my opinions as feedback from a non-com.

Two categories, each ranked by importance:

Five Pieces for Laptop Quartet - I consider this your most important work to date. The paper is good, the pieces are good. The variety of styles, sounds, and inputs available for performers is wonderful.

Gallery - Good variety of sounds and styles and very listenable. Entertaining, exciting, and mysterious by turns. Easily my favorite piece in the lot. Please write more of these vignettes, even if you have to turn to bizarre topics like microbiology for inspiration.

Three Haiku - I like the percussion especially, though the other instruments help cradle it in a presentimental thicket. For some reason or another, my mind keeps jumping to the witch in the woods in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. I'm not sure if the music sounds like it belongs there geographically or if the music suggests the score of that film.

Petrichor - Include it for its fame or whatever. I have no strong feelings toward this piece.

Searching for Coincidences - I like it more than Petrichor, but this one doesn't really push my buttons, either. If you had to choose one of the two, go for Petrichor.

Don't include:
More Money Than You Know What To Do With - Puerile samples harm this more than I think you want to admit. The video presentation also seems too cutesy, but maybe art music people in general aren't turned off by that kind of thing like I am. As far as technology goes, I think Five Pieces is a better foot forward than this, especially as this idea has been done and done. (I'm referring to the use of small microphones or similar devices to trigger another instrument. If you ignore the coin, French performer Duracell has been using this technique to perform video game music for a few years now ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QfwKqy3LyY ).)

Obedience School - "Improper noise reduction" isn't the kind of thing I'd brag about, but maybe that's just me. From a pragmatic standpoint, this kind of piece confuses me. Why bother sampling an animal and using those sounds as your base when you can only tell at about 4 intervals in the song that the animal was sampled at all? As it is, it seems like you wasted your time and annoyed the horse, er, dog.

Adam Scott Neal said...

Thanks for the comments, David! Actually, Mom wrote some comments to me in an email. I really like "non-com" comments, as they can be a lot fresher and more honest, in a way. Both your and Mom's comments reiterated some gut reactions I have to my own music, so it helps me see if I'm on the right track.

Some responses:
I agree on the laptop stuff, definitely going in there. I love listening to Gallery as well. In Three Haiku, I am the most proud of the percussion part, and I actually adapted it into a percussion solo!

Petrichor may or may not be included. It is my best example of live instrument with electronics. I think Searching is an interesting experiment, but probably won't make the cut as it's pretty simple, really.

MMTYKWTDW: I agree it's a little childish, and mainly have it as an option because it shows that I made a contraption work, and that I can edit in Final Cut Pro. I will probably throw in Mondrian as an example of my interest in video (though unfortunately not an example of skill...).

Obedience School - this is willfully improper noise reduction, done to see what will remain after 10 passes of noise reduction (with the sample itself as the noise print). The piece is intended to be an abstract soundscape - I hear machinery, seagulls, etc - and the title is more of a clue to the source than a description of what you will hear. Besides the noise reduction, most of the processing is temporal, so you can still hear the basic timbres Trapper produced.