The creation, performance and general practice of electroacoustic art-music is a rare and unusual pursuit in South Africa. A critical sub-genre of Western art-music internationally, it is an under nourished serious discipline in this country, which means that one does not often come across it in live performance. Having studied the art-form since undergraduate level, and pursued it all the way through doctoral level, has placed the researcher at the forefront of current practice and findings. The researcher has for the last four years been only pursuing electroacoustic art-music composition as a creative output mechanism.
Having a passion for analysis theory within the genre, places the researcher in a unique position to explore timbral and gestural qualities of sound in general. Fascinated by spectromorphology (a method of sonic analysis concerned with the depiction and impression of sound association), has given the researcher further opportunity to explore these properties of sound in compositional practice. The piece presented here is no exception. In fact, even the researcher’s first acousmatic work Across||Lines (world premiere at the 2016 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival), was primarily concerned with the ability for sound to be categorised by not only timbral density but also perceived association of transformed sound with source and how it was created. The theory that musical or sound-associated gestalts can contain properties of form and structure that are inherent in the sounds actually created that we hear is truly a fascinating research field, and forms a critical part of international analysis theory and publication in electroacoustic music. This takes the form of a cornerstone interest within the researcher’s undertakings.
The opportunity to compose electroacoustic music means that the researcher’s interest in the analysis and sound theories outlined above, present a unique opportunity to explore those theories in practice. Because the tools of the art-form provide scope for undertaking such pursuits (computer-enabled and constructed sound creation and analysis platforms), the benefits of composing in this medium are very clear. It is possible that almost every piece created could potentially be used to support research output in the form of written publication. In fact, many internationally famous and highly respected scholars and practitioners of the art-form do so - Denis Smalley, Horacio Vaggione, Daniel Teruggi, Simon Emmerson, Leigh Landy, Trevor Wishart, to name but a few. All of this stems from the practices developed and pursued by early pioneers such as Stockhausen, Schaeffer, Xenakis, Brün and many others. The work presented here is thus situated within the above intellectual canon, context and aesthetic practice.
The work submitted here is Syphon ⍺ - for 1 or 2 pianos, 2 or 4 channel tape and live processing. Composed over the period 2016 - 2017, it received its world premiere at the University of Pretoria Music Enrichment Festival held in August 2017. The work formed part of a presentation entitled the “Music Technology Showcase”, that endeavored to present the offerings and possibilities of the newly established music technology programme at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Music. It should be noted that the researcher has been appointed and tasked with establishing that programme. The showcase consisted of two sections that divided the time between talks and public performances of electroacoustic music. Included in the musical programme was a live performance of Alvin Lucier’s famous sound installation piece I am sitting in a room (1969). The setting provided a unique opportunity to present Syphon ⍺, albeit in one of the reduced versions as allowed for in the score - the 1 piano, 2 channel sound version. Having said that, the reader is directed to the programme notes in the score that detail aspects of the composition in order to help position the work’s narrative and construction within the research practice as outlined in this document.