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          "electro-acoustic music by o. powers" 

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1. Ghost Ship (10:48)

2-8. Gamma Orionis (19:08)

Cityscape: Domes—Power Plant—Spires
Dark Forest

9. Improvisation 860822: Lunar Music (3:50)

10. Beta Cygni (9:38)

11. Alpha Eridani (10:12)

Gamma Orionis and Ghost Ship were realized at the Music Engineering Technology Studios of Ball State University, Indiana.
Alpha Eridani was realized in the (then) Computer Music Studio at California State University, Northridge.
The other works were realized in the composer's personal studio.


Overview of an Aesthetic

The singular noun aesthetic means a guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste. For composers, their aesthetic is their particular artistic approach to writing music. Probably no two composers have exactly the same aesthetic—and sometimes they can be as divergent as Copland and Varèse. The pieces on this disc share a particular “style” arising from my own aesthetic, and I felt a brief outline of some of the concepts I concern myself with might be of interest.
As a composer who works primarily with sound-events, as opposed to one who works primarily with pitch-events (traditional “note-music”), I of course am not involved here with functional harmony, singable melodies, or regular rhythms. The listener who has never ventured outside the realm of such traditionally organized music is likely to wonder on first hearing what forms of organization I have employed instead; I believe I can offer a clear description.
First—and operating most perceptibly in the large, overall form of each piece—is the idea of tension and release. In the sort of music being offered here, this is often accomplished in a straightforward fashion: an increase in the density, activity, and volume level of sounds creates tension, and motion in the opposite direction causes a sense of release. There are many, many uses of this idea, and variations of it, throughout my works; it forms what some call the “dramatic” or “narrative” aspect, and for me gives a piece the feeling that it is “going somewhere.”
Second, a good deal of attention is devoted to sound-textures. To be able to explore the very sounds themselves (as opposed to drawing upon the pre-existing tone-colors of traditional instruments—certainly still a worthy practice) is the reason this kind of music exists. Pieces such as these attempt to create aural experiences and sound combinations never encountered before, and it is to be hoped that these sonic landscapes are as fascinating to hear as they were to create.
A third idea I find running through much of my work is a kind of audio mimesis in which sounds resemble the activities of unknown living creatures (possibly on other planets). The attractiveness of these sections seems surely to be related to our pleasurable response to sounds of nature, and I purposely allow the individual events in these instances to proceed in a random manner reminiscent of such phenomena. On the other hand, I also tend to organize these regions at a higher level by giving them an overall direction, such as gradually increasing or decreasing density, pitch range, and/or volume level, among other possibilities. (An example especially pertinent to the foregoing description occurs in Track 10, from 6:42 to approximately 7:56.)
Finally, I often employ a sense of movement and gesture, treating sounds like physical objects that can interact, collide, rise, fall, follow trajectories in space, move up close or recede into the distance, and so on. Virtually all the sound-events in my works were in fact performed on various controllers, giving them a natural gestural feel. (Computers also provide the composer with a marvellous ability to mold and reshape such performances in the manner of a sculptor.) Thus the works on this disc were, in a very real sense, hand-crafted.

Ghost Ship

There are legends surrounding the part of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Sargasso Sea. It is a large area of water where virtually no currents exist; this has allowed miles of seaweed to float undisturbed there for centuries. The legends tell of a fantastic graveyard of lost ships, where ancient galleons became entangled in the weed, their crews perishing. This work, perhaps, has something to do with encountering the ghosts of these long-dead sailors.
Ghost Ship uses natural acoustic sounds throughout, many of which have been extensively transposed, modulated, or filtered. Custom samples include the sounds of a bowl, a cooking sheet, applause, jingling keys, a Slinky®, a guitar string stroked with a pick, several metal grilles, a ruler, and human voices. Factory samples include crickets, a metal pole, and additional voices. Such concrète sources provide not only a wealth of timbres, but many evocative associations that are part of the work’s aesthetic.

Gamma Orionis

 The central metaphor of this piece is that of a journey across regions of sound. This particular journey crosses seven regions, starting in a Cityscape (with its Domes, Power Plant, and Spires) and moving outward through Wasteland, Dark Forest, Mesa, Mountain, Desert, and finally arriving at Ocean. These regions are all quite different from one another and yet exist together in a way that suggests the real-world experience of traveling across a diverse continent.
All the sounds of Gamma Orionis were created with a Yamaha TG77, using Yamaha KX-88 and J.L. Cooper Fadermaster controllers with the program Digital Performer running on a Macintosh IIci, with Lexicon digital reverberation. The Yamaha TG77 provides both FM synthesis and a set of sampled sounds. One of the most unusual of the latter is “Styroll,” a sound made from tumbling styrofoam pieces of the kind used in packing material. This sound became the “water” in the region “Ocean.”

Improvisation 860821: Lunar Music

A single source—a sine wave derived from the resonant filter of a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer—is layered, pre- and post-echoed, and reverberated into a dense, shimmering fabric whose inspiration can be traced to the earliest pioneering magnetic tape pieces of the 1950s.

Beta Cygni

Created with a Fairlight II CMI and a Kawai K-1r synthesizer module controlled by Opcode’s Vision sequencer running on a Macintosh IIx. Again, the work employs a metaphor of travel across a sonic landscape. It was also my first piece to be titled after a star (a potentially endless source of titles).

Alpha Eridani

Composed with the same equipment as Beta Cygni but following a very different course, this piece is tightly structured around the occurrences of a small number of distinct sound-events. Many of the sounds exploit the Fairlight’s ability to move its “loop start” point while the sound is playing. This technique created the opening roaring effect as well as the later sound resembling a bird-cry.

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