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Synchronisms

You May Download the Program, Mario Davidovsky Synchronisms - by Zachary C Daniels here:

 Synchronisms

 

Background

            The history of electronic music, though still less than a century old, has several important pieces of music that show the progress over time that composers have made in the pursuit of incorporating electronic media into their compositions. A critical example of this would be the Synchronisms by Mario Davidovsky. These pieces, beginning in 1963 (#1, for Flute and Tape), are meant to showcase the interaction of musicians with electronic sounds across wide tonal and timbral variety while employing counterpoint between the two parts. These pieces, as a series, end with the twelfth Synchronism (for Clarinet) in 2006. This gives perspective into both the evolving technique of Mario Davidovsky, and the change in trends for electronic music composers in general.

            When the OU New Century Ensemble, under Dr. Marvin Lamb and Dr. Jonathan Shames, decided on performing the first and third synchronisms in concert, I was asked to go about acquiring the score and tape parts. I initially thought this would be as simple as any score acquisition I had embarked on in the past, but quickly realized that there is a complicated history to who has the rights to which Synchronisms, and even had to submit a special order for Synchronisms #1 and #3’s tape parts because they were “no longer available” on the publisher’s website. The scores were freshly printed form a master digital version and looked fine. The tape parts, however, were abundant with tears and, despite being digitized in the early 2000’s, was seemingly done somewhat haphazardly which resulted in a tape part that was still designed to be started and stopped as if it were analog, and the tape parts were somewhat damaged by the time they were digitized so this meant the tape parts needed some help. I had several tasks to work on before rehearsals began with the tape part: First, I needed a way to allow the performer to better rehearse the piece. Second, the tape part needed some touch-up. Finally, the performance needed a way to be streamlined and not rely on performers having to start/stop the tapes at exactly the right moments to allow for minor course correction during performance.

           

Audio Editing Process

            Upon receiving the scores and tape parts, I went through each score with the tape part and marked the scores using three criteria: written tape start/stop points, total silence in the tape part, and useful spots for rehearsal of the piece.

            After marking the scores, and studying them alongside their tape part counterpart, I opened each tape part in Pro Tools 12 and marked each cue point for reference. My first task when it came to audio was to listen for obvious tears in the tape part. These tears are more frequent in the earlier Synchronisms (1-4), and were likely only present because the condition the tape part was in by the time it was digitized nearly forty years later in the early 2000’s. As an effort to realize this project to the best of my ability, I sometimes had to leave a tear in place to keep a sound intact on the playback. The next step was to reduce the decibel value of the Synchronisms across the board. It would seem that the digitization process focused more on getting the most volume possible out of the tape track instead of keeping a clean audio signal throughout. After these two crucial steps, the audio editing process was mostly limited to trimming silence and reducing clipping to a minimum.

 

Designing The Program

            The program is coded using Max/MSP from Cycling ’74, is designed to make rehearsing/performance of the Davidovsky Synchronisms an easier task, easily achieved by performers with no prior experience performing electronic music.

            Upon opening the program, the only thing a performer has to do, by default, is use the menu at the right to select which piece they wish to perform. Upon selecting the piece they are wishing to play, the program loads the tape part as a wav file, and adds cues to match up with the points given in the score, or at logical points between phrases of the electronic part. These cues may be played simply by using spacebar, or any USB foot pedal. Alternatively, to rehearse specific parts, the performer may choose to select their cue using the number keys on their computer keyboards (1-9). Certain pieces, such as #6, are meant to be performed straight with no starting/stopping of the tape part, however, should the performer choose, there are break-points that may be used for rehearsal/performance correction purposes.

            There are instructions in the program itself, including how to amplify the instrument within the program itself using a passthrough line for microphone input to mix with the tape in a live setting.

 

Conclusion

            This endeavor is an attempt to allow higher accessibility to performers wishing to perform the Davidovsky Synchronisms. Also, with the rehearsal-friendliness of the program, the piece should certainly be easier to put together even by less experienced performance. This project also serves as a means of preserving the Synchronisms both in a literal and academic sense. These pieces should be easy to perform, in order to make performers want to present them to audiences. This article will hopefully alert people to the fact that the Mario Davidovsky Synchronisms are now easily playable via the program found at the web-link given in the appendix of this document. Anyone hoping to perform these pieces will still need to purchase the scores or acquire them through other means to perform them. A complete list of the Synchronisms included in this project (1,3,4,5, and 6) will be included with information on where to purchase the score and tape part for personal use. This program, however, is free to use.

 

 

Appendix A

The program, Synchronisms – by Zachary C. Daniels, may be downloaded here:

 Synchronisms


Included Pieces, and Upcoming Additions to the Program

Mario Davidovsky Synchronisms included in the program are:

Synchronism #1, for Flute and Tape (1963)

Synchronism #3, for Cello and Tape (1964)

Synchronism #4, for Chorus and Electronic Sounds (1967)

Synchronism #5, for Percussion and Electronic Tape (1969)

Synchronism #6, for Piano and Electronics (1970)

 

Future Versions of this program will include:

Synchronism #7, (Orchestra) (1963)

Synchronism #8, (Wind Quintet) (1973)

Synchronism #9, (Violin) (1988)

Synchronism #10, (Guitar) (1992)

Synchronism #11, (Bass) (2005)

Synchronism #12, (Clarinet) (2006)