Philip Cashian, Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, kindly invited me to give a seminar to the students of his department. The title I chose for the talk today was “A new approach to composing music with live electronics”. I gave an overview of live electronics in practice, and the challenges and frustration that often accompany performances involving technology. Referring to my experience with Luciano Berio’s musical actions with live electronics (Outis, Cronaca del Luogo), I remarked on the sad absence of these seminal works from the repertoire today and outlined the challenged posed by technology in performing works created only 15-20 years ago. I went on presenting the philosophy of the Integra project and its role in developing the Integra Live software, with the intention to address the caducity and unfriendliness of live electronic systems developed using programming languages like Max.
Showing Integra Live in action I was able to demonstrate how the software and its different views tried to mimic the creative process and the workflow of a composer. From an initial exploratory, imaginative phase (Module View), to a more structured stage where events start being organised in time (Arrange View), to a rehearsal and finally performance phase (Live View), where things are fixed and the most important thing is reliability and control of every relevant aspect of the performance.
I hope I conveyed to the students my salient point: always ask yourself why you should use technology, and if you do, make sure it is borne out of your musical ideas, and is an integral part of your musical thinking. I enjoyed very much the interaction with them, they were curious and lively, and asked interesting questions, among others, about the future of Integra Live in a hypothetical post-coding world, and – this one more technical – about using MIDI notes to control partials in the various spectral modules of the software, highlighting the need for a built-in MIDI note to frequency converter in all spectral modules. At the end of the seminar Philip took a straw poll among the students and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of trying Integra Live in their own music. Not bad!
Two days in Graz, the second town in Austria, to meet Gerhard Eckel, who works as a research professor at IEM, the Institut für Elektronische Musik und Akustik at the Kunst Universität, and discuss their participation to the Integra project. We seemed to understand each other very well, and our conversations progressed with – I should hope – mutual pleasure. Gerhard is the perfect host: apart from introducing me to IEM’s facilities and illustrating all the activities taking place there, on the night of my arrival he invited me to Iohan, a trendy restaurant in the centre of the city with a very original, minimal decor and fantastic Austrian/International cuisine.
I’m looking forward to Gerhard’s contribution to Integra, as I am sure that he will bring a very sharp and personal angle to the project. We will probably meet again at the end of May, in occasion of the Integra scientific group meeting in Belfast.
I have been invited by Anders Beyer from Athelas Sinfonietta and Stein Henrichsen from BIT20 Ensemble to present the Integra project to the first meeting of the Ensemble Network, a network of new music ensembles in Europe. The first aim of the meeting was to establish if the setup of such a network was a good idea, and everyone agreed to it.
Among the participants I was delighted to see again Filippo Del Corno after many years. Filippo and I studied both in the same composition class at Milan’s Conservatoire, and share many musical memories… Filippo came as artistic director of Sentieri Selvaggi, an Italian new music ensemble representing an unusual success story in the often dire landscape of contemporary music promotion and performance in Italy.
Highlight: Bent Sørensen talking about the responsibilities of the ensembles: they risk becoming too institutionalized, like symphony orchestras. Innovation and flexibility are the key concepts here: innovation in the presentation of new music, flexibility in the instrumentation, to avoid the “sinfonietta” curse, with hundred of works written for the same instrumental setup and all sounding quite the same.
I met lots of very nice people, and many of them spoke Italian. It is amazing how many musicians from Nordic countries know how to speak Italian! Flattering, really.
I have been interviewed on the Integra project by John Robert Brown. The article was published on the February 2006 issue of Classical Music, a UK magazine. You can read it online.