Ps[c]yched, for string quartet, bikes and electronics

Fells, N. (2014) Ps[c]yched, for string quartet, bikes and electronics. [Compositions]

[img] Archive (Performance materials including fixed score, Processing script for live score generation, and MAX patches for sound processing and networking) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


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ps[c]yched is a work for string quartet, bikes and electronics, commissioned by the Coull Quartet and Third Ear Music with support from the PRS Foundation. It was created for Sound of Sports Glasgow, a day of performances and sports workshops centred on public engagement leading up to the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow in 2014. Subsequently the piece was performed at Derry's Walled City Music Festival in 2014 and the Cheltenham Music Festival in 2016. The performance materials comprise a score, Max patches and Processing script. A live audio recording is provided. In performance, the piece requires three Mac laptops and other hardware resources to run; a single machine is sufficient for testing or demonstration purposes. Instructions for running a test or demonstration performance on a single machine are provided. The zip file contains all the files comprising the ps[c]yched project. Note that the project can only be properly accessed on an Apple Mac platform. On a Mac, open the 'start here' file located in the main project folder. This will open an html microsite outlining the research process and linking to the instructions, performance materials and recording. If viewing the project in a file browser, the folders are organised under html: contains an html microsite explaining the process and linking to materials; and media: contains all the project files. The brief given by the commissioners was to create a sport-related piece that would be suitable for public and family workshops surrounding the Commonwealth Games. The ensuing creative research process stemmed from a decision to focus on cycling, given that cycling seemed to offer potentially fun and accessible ways for public workshops to engage with sound-making, and that it shared some parallels to musical activity. The starting point of the research was an exploration of the range of sounds that could be sampled from a bike using contact mics, aiming to maximise the level of detail captured from clicks, clunks, and whirring as well as the timbral complexity inherent in bowed spoke sounds. Various approaches to electronic processing were explored: bowed spoke sounds provided rich inharmonic and microtonal material, which when artificially extended led to interesting tonal aggregates; and gating and filtering clicks and clunks in different ways led both to clean, crisp clicking textures, and dense, noisy rumbling and metallic impacts. Ways of hybridising the bike sounds with live quartet sounds were explored, whilst keeping the quartet sound unprocessed to form a point of stability or focus within the sound world. Spectral information is extracted from the captured bike sounds and translated into microtonal pitch information fed back to the performers in real time. This enables them to match pitches they play to those arising in the noisy textures generated by the bikes. The aim is for quartet sonorities to emerge from, or blend with, the bike-generated textures through varying degrees of spectral and pitch-based congruence. The composition is structured through the design of different modes of interaction between the bike sounds and string sounds where the players move from bike to instrument and back again and was developed through a collaborative workshop process. The Max patch samples and processes material from the four bikes and analyses its spectral content; this spectral information is then selectively translated into real-time staff notation and conveyed to the players via two laptop screens. The laptops run a Processing script (called notercycle) that receives OSC messages from the Max patch, translating these to noteheads rendered to the screen in a simple form of proportional notation. OSC messages are also used to transmit cue numbers and other performance instructions from Max via the Processing scripts to the players. Because the real-time notated material is derived directly from the spectra of the bike sounds, much of what the quartet plays effectively mirrors the bike timbres, creating a kind of perspectival or spectral crossfading of string sounds and bike sounds in the performance space. In addition to the real-time notation system, a fixed score provides overall direction and cueing.

Item Type:Compositions
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fells, Professor Nick
Authors: Fells, N.
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > M Music
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Nick Fells
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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