Monday, September 19, 2005

'October Sequences' performed 2 September 2005

On September 2nd, Kansas City's professonal new music group New Ear performed 'October Sequences,' a multi-media work that was a collaboration between myself (the electronic score) and my daughter Rachel (the video). Originally a tape piece, on this occasion I was asked if New Ear could do a version with their members playing along with the electronics. It seemed like a good idea, and ultimately improved the piece in many ways. (Thanks Paul!) This concert was a sneak preview of New Ear's regular season, and thus a loose assemblage of the sort of stuff that they play. And now, apparently, McIntire's music is lodged amongst "that sort of stuff." The concert was well-attended, in a funky old building that's currently an Oriental rug store. Speakers were set up on the sidewalk outside the store, so many folks were listening and watching from the outside. Aside from the somewhat noisy atmosphere, which made a lot of the players' nuances impossible to hear, the piece came off quite well. Rachel and I got a lot of positive feedback, and it was fun to present it together in public.

In the long genesis of 'October Sequences,' the music came first. The original sound material was realized and recorded back in the fall of '85, while I was an undergraduate at Nazareth College of Rochester. I used to go into the electronic studio there and fiddle with the synthesizer that was the centerpiece of the studio at that time (an EMS Synthi A "Putney," the same one that Brian Eno used in Roxy Music). I discovered that by feeding back certain frequencies through a tuned filter and reverb, I could get overtones to unfurl that would mix nicely with the original material. I would try and create settings and patches that would simply run on their own, without any intervention on my part, once I'd set the synth in motion. Each parameter would control every other parameter in some way, so a sort of organic interaction would ensue. Because of the inherent instability of the Putney's circuitry, things would not remain static. I always liked this material, but it seemed too bare and minimal to call it a piece, and I never figured out a way to use it in anything else. It sat for nearly twenty years. In the fall of 2003, I was digitizing some old electronic material from cassette, and listened again to the strange throbbing of the material. This time, a shape and a direction for a piece emerged and I put the final work together fairly quickly, without a lot of fuss. I did it all in Pro Tools Free, so that I could work at home. The audio quality is not pristine, but seems consistent with the '70s aesthetic that created the sounds in the first place.

After I'd finished this new version (the piece was always called 'October Sequences,' even back in '85), I liked what I'd done, but thought that it could use a visual component, something that rarely happens to me. So I mailed a cd to Rachel, to see what she could come up with. I had a vague suggestion for an image, which she realized very nicely, but it was inferior to the two visual realizations that she came up with herself. The one that was shown on September 2nd is called "Branches," a very slowed-down and abstracted shot of bare branches against the October sky. It's very slow-paced, but has a powerful dramatic profile that sneaks up on you. I like the fact that the video material completely mirrors the process of the music, with a beautiful final moment that (for me) compares to the ending of any film by Andrei Tarkovsky.

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