Buchla System at KMH (SE), 2013.

Undular was originally composed as an eight-channel piece on the Buchla 200 series with no digital processing.

The idea behind this composition was to inherit and develop certain implications of minimalism and techno, in particular exploring the power of psycho-motor induction that they have in common. In this regard, the composition conjugates features of beat-oriented music with a texture-based compositional attitude, both developed in an immersive and three-dimensional listening environment. The psycho-motor appeal of this compositional perspective simply arises from a meditation on the anatomy of synthetic waveforms.

All made possible and interesting by the Buchla modular system, supplying deep and rich sounds, as well as the unique ability to finely sculpt aural spaces.

Besides generating an immense variety of complex and rich sounds not existing in nature, synthesis gives us the possibility to shape the spectrum on a microscopic level and have an infinitesimal control on acoustic and psychoacoustic effects, further developing our ability to perceive vertical relationships inside a sound spectrum (such as the mixture and the proportions between the harmonics, the aural beats etc).

Immersive listening experiences with multichannel systems greatly advance our cognitive and auditory comprehension of music. After a certain exposure to the sounds, the spectral spaces underlying the fundamental tones, at first almost ‘invisible’, come to our consciousness, enlightening an hidden perceptive dimension, that may not be specified in a score but still exists in the mind and in the body of the listener.

Such a listening process may enlighten the listener to live the music as an infinitely changing experience (not only as a form), where she/he takes an active position, even a performative role. One can investigate the density of the harmonics and the secrets of their variations in time. One can move the skull horizontally and vertically to evaluate how the perception of the spectrum varies in space; cranial movement offers alternative aural perceptions due to the filtering, phasing and reflection’s phenomena depending on the angular incidence of the wavefronts on one's ears.

Undular draws inspiration from all of this in a very raw and stylized manner, crystallizing the dancing of wave cycles in algid architectures of time and space.

This was the starting point to build polyrhythmic and polyphonic patterns, working on the stratification of different layers recorded live on separate tracks.

In this sense, modular systems allow integrative compositional approaches resulting in an intelligent balance between chance and calculate organization, acting as fascinating 'laboratories’ for new musical aesthetics far away from the contradictions and the dilemmas of the digital environment. If the infinite possibilities of digital art distress the composer and stifle balance between chance and structurization, the major limitations of the modular synthesis can instead develop new forms of coexistence between varying tactics of formal organization in the musical process.

This may be one of the reasons behind the incredible renaissance of modular synthesizers in the last decade.

concert notes for Sines and Squares (2014), University of Manchester

 © 2017 Caterina Barbieri

 © 2017 Caterina Barbieri

 © 2017 Caterina Barbieri