Vol. 30 Issue 2 Reviews
International Computer Music Conference 2005: Music Review

Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, 5-9 September 2005.

Reviewed by David Kim-Boyle
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

With the theme free sound, this year’s International Computer Music Conference 2005 (ICMC) took place at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMuC) in the dynamic city of Barcelona. As in previous ICMCs, a wealth of musical works representing various different styles and performance genres were presented. Each day saw two formal concerts take place, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In addition, two separate listening room sessions in which a large number of “tape” and some DVD works were presented, were running daily, and several interactive installations ran throughout the course of the conference. Notable this year was the particularly interesting off-ICMC program. This increasingly popular and equally stimulating part of the ICMC, representing artists whose work is not typically intended for the concert hall, often presents a more publicly accessible face of computer music and such was no less the case this year, with a large number of artists participating. As these are not official ICMC events, however, they will not be reviewed here.

In all, 67 works were presented in concert and 58 in the listening rooms from a total of 372 submissions. The listening panel included José Manuel Berenger (Spain), Ali Momeni (USA), Joao Pedro Oliveira (Portugal), Michael Alcorn (UK, ICMA representative), Jøran Rudi (Norway), and Elsa Justel (Argentina). From these works, eight were selected for publication on the Conference CD. The compositions chosen include: Ricardo Climent’s The last castrati, Henry Vega’s Idoru in Metals, William Kleinsasser’s (HO)2 C6H3 - CHOH - CH2NHCH3 (Adrenaline), Agostino Di Scipio’s Audible Ecosystemics n. 2 (Feedback Study), Arturo Parra and Francis Dhomont’s Sol y sombra... L’espace des spectres, Chikashi Miyama’s Density, Kim Suk-Jun’s What the bird saw, David Berezan’s Styal, and Marc Ainger’s Annotations

Given the quantity of music presented at this year’s conference, and the space limitations of this review, the author will only mention some of the works that were to his ear particularly enjoyable.

Sunday, September 4.  Opening Night Concert, L’Auditori—Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE)
With two performers bent over a reacTable and another participating through a network connection from Linz, Austria, TeleSon: Invention #8 by Chris Brown had an interesting premise. Appearing to be largely improvised, the performers moved various different objects on the table with these movements applying different types of modulations to a number of primitive sound sources. The movements of the objects were projected for the audience to see which helped to make the relationships between sound and processing more explicit.

José Manuel Berenguer’s On Nothing explored the musical and visual potential of particle systems. Using OpenGL-rendered graphics and drawing heavily on granular synthesis techniques, the work was in three distinct sections, each of which explored various different types of movement and formation. The image and sound generation and the transformational techniques applied to them were controlled by the composer with a game pad. The overall result proved to be a striking synthesis.

Monday, September 5. Afternoon Concert, ESMuC Concert Hall
Henry Vega’s Idoru in Metals for three singers and computer generated sounds received a memorable performance from Gonnie van Heugten, Natasha Morsink, José Kamminga, and the composer. With the latter standing adjacent to the performers and providing several rhythmic cues throughout the performance, the work explored various vocal textures with subtly modified timbres helping to blur the distinction between the real and the synthetic. Synthetic resonances, reminiscent at times of a Greek chorus, and breath-like tones were seamlessly blended into the natural voices, especially effective during some of the sustained vocal textures.

Horaccio Vagionne’s Harrison Variations, for tape, was another highlight of this concert. With source material taken from Jonty Harrison’s ‘...et ainsi de suite...’ the composer articulated a texturally rigorous work with timbral transformations and contextual shifts continually engaging the listener. Other highlights of this concert included Jon Nelson’s Gerry Rigged for clarinet and computer, beautifully performed by Gerry Errante.

Monday, September 5. Evening Concert, L’Auditori
This concert was composed entirely of works presented on DVD. While the program could perhaps have benefited from the inclusion of some video work with live performers, there were nevertheless several interesting pieces. Gordon Delap’s Light body corpuscles was particularly striking, with rapid intercuts of a male and female figure creating afterimages that emerged from the interstices of the film. Ricardo Dapelo’s 2 Studies was also very enjoyable, with complex visual patterns liquefying and absorbing into each other in various generative forms. Chien-Wen Cheng’s Samsara was another especially striking piece with some beautiful transformations of synthetic floral images.

Tuesday, September 6. Afternoon Concert, ESMuC Concert Hall
Massimo Fragalà’s L’uomo, for tape, applied various processing techniques to a female voice to create sonorous textures exploring not only the literal meanings of words but also their inner mechanisms. Antonio Ferreira’s A romance of rust also explored textural movements with the metaphor of rust being realized in the decay of sounds and gestures while Joao Pedro Oliveira’s Letania for saxophone, guitar, and CD playback explored the juxtaposition of various imitative musical gestures not only against themselves but also against the sustained sonorities established in the electronic domain. Javier Garavaglia’s Ableitungen des Konzepts der Wiederholung (for Ala) for viola and computer, performed by the composer, brought the concert to a close. Repetitive gestures were gradually transformed in timbre and pitch to contrast physical stillness with musical busy-ness.

Tuesday, September 6. Evening Concert, L’Auditori
This concert was one the highlights of the conference with a diverse display of various performance styles featured. Damian Murphy and Peter Heaton’s Reconfigured for DVD juxtaposed various everyday images of offices, schools, government buildings, etc., to explore the effects of contextual displacement. Accompanied by a rich, minimalist-style score, the overall effect was particularly enjoyable. Valerio Murat’s Nuvolari for voice and images received a wonderfully charismatic performance by Gianni Fontana. Particularly refreshing was the use of various extended vocal techniques reminding listeners of the musical power of non-synthetic sounds. Subtly processed at times, the voice was complemented by images of vintage car races, adding to the work’s overall appeal.

Mama Cedar and Liubomir Borisov’s Autopoiesis was a visually stunning piece with a dancer/violinist “dressed” in luminescent tubes incorporating overt physical movements into the performance. With only the outline of the body visible at times the work presented an interesting contrast between the skeletal lines of the musical gestures and the amorphous sonic textures and visual afterimage blurrings. Yuta Uozumi’s Chain for laptop and projection was a particular highlight. With the compositional, performance process exposed for all to see, using the composer’s own software Gismo, Mr. Uozumi’s work set up an environment where various musical agents bounced around and interacted on a two dimensional surface. While the work was musically simple, it had a refreshing whimsicality.

Shawn Greenlee’s Needles(s) for laptop and projection could not have provided a greater contrast to the Uozumi piece, with the performer launching himself into an aggressive exploration of sonic interruption, noise, and fragmentation. The concert concluded with Ludger Brümmer’s Temps du Miroir for piano, computer, and projection. With images of various human forms as a backdrop, pianist Maki Namekawa gave a wonderfully nuanced performance with her sounds sometimes used as a trigger for the various video streams projected.

Wednesday, September 7. Afternoon Concert, ESMuC Concert Hall
With a program comprised mostly of tape pieces, Arne Eigenfeldt’s Stream for computer injected a real sense of physicality into the concert. With the composer controlling the spatialization and processing of various sounds through the use of a data glove, the literal and figural meanings of the title were sonically explored. Kim Seung Hye’s Fluctuations for flute and computer received a striking performance from flutist Kyungmi Lee. Ms. Kim’s work established various fluctuating relationships between the live flute sounds and the computer-generated ones, some of which were captured from the live performance while others seemed to be generated from prerecorded material. The opening was especially effective with the computer spatializing dynamic, breath-like textures in response to the simple gestures articulated by Ms. Lee.

Wednesday, September 7. Evening Concert, L’Auditori
David Berezan’s Styal for tape took its name from the location of an old mill which provided much of the source material for this very enjoyable work. The mechanical, and sometimes noise-like qualities of the source were amplified through various fragmentary techniques but at the same time beautifully contrasted with sustained resonant tones the composer was able to extract from the space. Lars Graugaard’s Concealed Behaviours for bass clarinet and interactive computer established some hypnotic textures in which the timbre of the bass clarinet, performed by Naüm Monterde, was used to control the rhythmic qualities of the sound space. Ioannis Kalantzis’ Antiparastaseis for string quartet and tape was also particularly enjoyable as it explored, like many works before, the aesthetic contrasts between real and synthetic sounds with the latter so hard to distinguish at times from the live sounds that the work almost approached the form of a double quartet.

Thursday, September 8. Afternoon Concert, ESMuC Concert Hall
Thursday afternoon provided another especially enjoyable concert, notable for a diverse display of instrumental resources. Gabriel Brncic’s ...que no desorganitza cap murmuri and Elsa Justel’s Midi de Sable both received wonderfully subtle performances by recorder virtuoso Joan Izquierdo. The first made evocative use of the performer’s breath, very soft pedal tones, and various multiphonics in contrast to a synthetic sound world characterized by gestural precision and dynamic activity. Ms. Justel’s work used a variety of instruments from the recorder family, exploring the timbral space of each. Particularly interesting were the growl-like qualities of the rarely heard bassett recorder, and the wonderful skittering electronic textures that seemed to be comprised of short recorder samples.

Chikashi Miyama’s Density for harp and computer was also most enjoyable. Using a granular technique developed by the composer, the various nuances of the harp were arpeggiated and spectrally processed in various ways. The contrast of harp harmonics against sustained granular textures was especially effective. William Kleinsasser’s brief (HO)2 C6H3 - CHOH - CH2NHCH3 (Adrenaline), for trombone quartet and computer provided a complete contrast in sound quality. With dynamic, fanfare-like bursts, the sounds of the quartet were imitated, and transformed by the computer into background resonances and sound masses which evoked the equally transformative effects of memory.

Thursday, September 8. Evening Concert, L’Auditori
Arturo Parra and Francis Dhomont’s Sol y sombra...L’espace des spectres for guitar and tape employed various extended techniques including taps, scrapes, and detunings, as well as making some overt reference to idiomatic guitar techniques. In what appeared to be a carefully improvised performance against an electronic texture that made extensive use of transformed resonances and other guitar sonorities, Mr. Parra’s performance was powerful and musically compelling. Panayiotis Kokoras’ Shatter Cone for violin and tape was a very enjoyable piece. With subtle timbral transformations achieved by various different bow pressures and positions, the natural violin sounds were complemented by a tape part that seemed to extend these spectra in the delineation of new forms.

Mention should also be made of saxophonist Xelo Giner who delivered wonderful performances of Yasuhiro Takenaka’s Séparé et invisible, Stefan Klaverdal’s Prayer of a King, and Alfonso Garcia de la Torre’s Un caracol manchado.

Friday, September 9. Afternoon Concert, ESMuC Concert Hall and Evening Concert, L’Auditori
The author was unable to attend the Friday concerts. The following works were programmed: Machine Game by Jun Mizumachi, Trois moments précédant la genèse des cordes by Eduardo Polonio, Taedet Animam meam by Colby Leider, O que a menina ouve by Diego Garro, Reflections by Petra Bachratá, Studies for BoSSA: The Lobster Quadrille and Tetha by Dan Trueman, Octant by Jean-Claude Risset, Flute Melt by Robert Mackay, Annotations by Marc Ainger, Dubh Bringlóid (Black Dream) by Troy Rogers, Swallow by Haruka Hirayama, Treno by Carlos Duque, and Tiento by Roberto Mosquera’s.

Listening Room
An enormous variety of work was presented in the conference’s listening room sessions. While there was one session during which DVD works were presented, the remainder of the works heard were either tape pieces or recordings of works for instrumental resources and electronics. The author particularly enjoyed Kyoko Kobayashi’s Wish for DVD, where simple graphic transformations and acrostics were supported by whispered vocal enunciations, Mario Verandi’s Klang-Film, which explored the concept of exits with some well known footage including Lumiére’s seminal “Workers Leaving the Factory,” Dmitri Voudouris’ L22P08M02 [Scene 1 + 3], a politically engaged work with a variety of voices and shouts emanating from full sonic textures, Thomas Gerwin’s Computer Music in which the sounds of computer hardware was used as source material, and Kari Besarshe’s quietly meditative Signs.

For a European ICMC, it was perhaps not surprising that a large number of acousmatic tape works were programmed. It was pleasing, though, that these works, which, however musically rich, are often not as engaging in concert as works requiring live performers, were counterbalanced by a variety of pieces for a diverse assortment of instruments with electronic processing.

Andres Lewin-Richter, Xavier Serra, and the rest of the organizing committee are to be congratulated for putting together a stimulating six days of music. Kudos should also be extended to the technical team for their seamless production on programs that were often complex and demanding. The author hopes that the tradition will continue at ICMC 2006.