Composing for Integra Contemporary Electroacoustic Ensemble

by Morgan Krause

Composing for the Integra Contemporary Electroacoustic Ensemble can be a great challenge when you consider the diverse interests of the members. The group can have people who are very skilled in electronic applications and computer music, people who are skilled at an instrument, people who are great composers, or people who are interested in a wide variety of other things. The diverseness of the group means it is difficult to write a straightforward symphony piece or a rock song but, it is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and test the limits of your compositional reach with the different styles and skills of each performer.

A year ago, with the help of my colleague Ethan Lentz, I created a piano piece that when I started my degree I never would have believed I would perform. We plucked the strings with guitar picks, slammed the lid of the piano to create intriguing harmonics, banged on the low end strings to emulate thunder, and even screamed into the piano for the resonating harmonics. All of these elements were enhanced by my computer driven system of looping piano sounds controlled with my iPad. This piece was a terrifying endeavour for me to compose and then perform as I had never written such a piece before and it was definitely not a classical-style piano piece. The response from the ensemble, and from the audience we performed it for, was encouraging and made my second attempt at writing for this ensemble all the more exciting.

This year I’m composing a piece that is sample based using iPads and pre-recorded samples as the instruments to be performed at “Computer Blues” this November. The piece consists of different blues rifts played by different members of the group. Three iPads will be used to control the musical elements of the composition. Each player will stand between two speakers that create his/her stereo field and they play their individual riffs to get the audience familiar with the sounds that will eventually be layered together to create the larger image. Bit by bit the sounds compete harder with each other and eventually fall into place to create a cohesive sound unit.

The piece is a difficult one for me to put together as I’m trying to gather samples of blues riffs that will coincide together to create a larger picture than they can create themselves. I am adding a theatrical component that is meant to appear as though the performers are at war with each other in the beginning as the piece is more dissonant and appears to be out of sync, but then it falls into rhythm and harmony to create a cohesive sound unit.

Releasing a piece into the hands of a performer is always difficult as a composer. Composers have a vision in their minds about how a piece should play out and performers have their own interpretation. However, performers can add that extra input that the piece needs which excites me greatly and working with more different people through Integra Contemporary Electroacoustic ensemble creates a new perspective that helps me as a composer expand and explore my own pieces opening new doors in my own mind.

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Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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