Together with trombonist David Purser and composer-technologist Jonathan Green, we’ve been working since late 2005 on a user-friendly Max/MSP environment to let performers improvise with technology. To capture performance data we have been using a microphone and a flexion sensor, measuring the angle of the arm to track the position of the trombone slide.
Flectar, a Latin word meaning “to bend”, is dedicated to David Purser, whose help has been invaluable during both conception and writing of the work. In Flectar we set to explore how the physical gestures of the trombone player – and in particular the movements of the arm to change the slide position – can be made to control in a subtle and musical way the electronic transformations of the sound of the instrument. The trombone becomes a sort of hyper-instrument reverberating in space, with the performer in control of shaping and projecting the sound all around the audience.
Flectar is in four parts. In part 1 and 3 a series of cues correspond to individual electronic events. In part 2 and 4 a verbal description identifies the link between the performer’s gesture and the resulting sound. In most cases the position of the slide, combined or not with sound attacks, controls the triggering of electronic events or the nature of the transformation. Therefore, it is very important to use always the slide positions indicated in the score.
First performance by David Purser on 19 January 2005, Birmingham Conservatoire, Recital Hall.
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Technical requirements for the performance
The performance of Flectar requires a person to operate the computer and control the sound diffusion.
Computer (Mac or PC) running Max software
2 in/8 out audio interface
Kroonde Gamma wireless UDP sensor interface with flexion sensor (now deprecated, equivalent systems may be used with minor modifications to the Max/MSP patch)
1 miniature microphone, DPA 4061 or equivalent
6-point sound diffusion system with 6 speakers: front L/R 1-2, sides L/R 3-4, rear L/R 5-6.