Combustible (2008-09, 9:30) Intricate combinations of combustible materials (fuels, oxygen and ignitions) are brought into close proximity, sparking processes in the early phases of the piece that sputter and die out, leaving trails of heat and exhaust. The combinations become more efficient and volatile and begin to propel semi-stable processes that strive to connect and evolve. But after a few false steps this theater self-destructs, blowing itself to smithereens. Then nothing; an interlude in a void. But the vacuum gets penetrated and smashed then refilled and pulverized, only to make way for new combustible combinations and processes to flourish.

Squelch (2005-06, 14:10) The title Squelch refers to two things. First, repression. It is about the tendency of forces, both internal and external, to repress or squelch self-expression. One battles and negotiates with these forces, striving to give priority to the creative endeavor but not always winning. The second reference is to the so-called "squelch filter" that was built into higher priced consumer radios during the 1970s and 1980s. Before the squelch filter, tuning into a station meant you had to continuously dial through and listen to all of the "out-of-range" noise and distortion; stuff in the nether-regions of terrestrial signal emission and reception. (It was great fun hearing it, if you were aurally warped.) The squelch filter helped, kind of. It detects when the coherent signal becomes too weak and it mutes (squelches) the radioŐs output. Often the gate came down only after you got a very noticeable glitch of noise or a faint but apparent fuzzing out of the signal. You would hear silence until you dialed into a clearly receivable signal again. I found a metaphor in the two references to "squelching." Inspiration and creation is a fragile state, like the small frequency bands and physical ranges to which a radio station transmits and receives. Concentration and steadiness is required to maintain that state, and it can be so easily interrupted, much like a radioŐs reception is thwarted by the slightest turn of the dial. Inspiration evaporates until it can be dialed in again. In this composition, which is three interwoven pieces, there is some music, representingÉ music. You may hear it. There is also a lot of everyday concrete sound -- real life, interrupting yet fueling inspiration and self-expression. And, there is the noise, fuzzing-out, distortion and breakage, representing the pre-squelch moment -- that point just before the squelch filter kicks, or you reach a new "station" in the composition. The squelch moment can be either the end or the beginning of creation and abstraction. It just depends on how the dial is moving and your reception.

Cycle (2004, 7:22) After 30 years of composing and exploring diverse styles, Cycle is another of my little mutants. This deviant takes the form of so-called "Spectral Music". The source sounds for Cycle are drawn almost exclusively from traditional orchestral instruments -- thanks to The Electronic Music Studios of The University of Iowa . These sounds are processed to varying degrees, from untouched to completely unrecognizable, depending on the function they serve within the piece at any moment.
    After Cycle's initiation - the "breath of life" - the sound at any point in the piece could be classified in one of two states; either in-formation (fluid, evolving) or ossified (a solid block). Transients are introduced that either pulverize, absorb, or cause the current solid to diffuse rapidly. These transients also act as catalysts, influencing the evolution of the next formation.

Note from Patzcuaro (2003, 4:17)   The latest in a series of "audio postcards" (or abstract travelogues), which also includes portraits of Japan, Morocco, New York City, and Dalyan, Turkey. Patzcuaro is a relatively small town (population 45,000) nestled in the volcanic hillsides of the State of Michoacan, Mexico. The cultural center of this town is found in its 16th Century churches, outdoor markets, and Lake Patzcuaro. The piece is assembled from raw and processed field recordings that I made while visiting Patzcuaro in 1995.
    We open on a small church social; the church having a rather boisterous cricket within its congregation. The last half of the piece is drawn from recordings of a strolling mariachi group who, after several minutes of tuning up, rendered our request for Una Vez Nada Mas beautifully, as my wife and I sipped cervezas at a taco stand by the Lake. The middle section utilizes heavily processed versions of some of the original field recordings and is intended to paint some impressions of my 24 hour stay in this lovely town.

nomen plaid (2003, 8:00)   nomen, v.t. To take, to steal, to filch, to pilfer;
n. Name.

An artistically licensed (loose knit) plaid, woven from disparate sonic threads, broadly grouped by bandwidth and density -- from pure sine tones to white noise, from continuous to particulate. Many switchbacks occur and the threads doubleback on themselves as the fabric materializes. But the end reveals the patternęs loop point, and the plaid is complete. This piece is dedicated to Debra.

Things Frankie Heard (2002, 12:23)   What if we heard the world the way cats do? To start with, our perceptible frequency range would increase five fold, topping out at 100kHz (versus human's measly 20kHz). Our ability to pinpoint the location of a sound source would also improve immensely. Cats can distinguish the locations of two sounds emitted just 18 inches apart, at a distance of over 60 feet.
     Our first reaction to this proposition might be, "Sounds great! Where do I sign up?"  But, imagine how severe and frightening all of that sound might be, especially, if like cats, we were unable to grasp the meanings and relationships of those sounds.  With our new hyper-acute sensitivity to sound, combined with our lack of understanding about their sources, we would react fast and be perceived as quite skittish. 
     Sonic events that we too often take for granted, such as the sounding of a car horn or siren, could be completely unnerving. And simple changes in context of our sonic environment such as a phone or doorbell ringing in a previously "bell-less" room, could send us through the roof, at least the first couple of times. 
     The proposition -- to hear like a cat -- was one starting point for Things Frankie Heard.
I didn‰t attempt to play with the outer bounds of our frequency range or localization capabilities. Instead, I opted to experiment with the effects of context changes on our perception and orientation (or disorientation).  The hypothesis is simple: our reaction or degree of disorientation to a context change is proportional to the discontinuity and abruptness of the transition. To evoke the wits of a cat, I magnified the temporal transitions on multiple time scales. from the sub-phrase level (sound events in the one-quarter to one-second time frame) to the contextual level (sound segments in the thirty-second to one-minute range). 
     The sounds I put under the microscope are a combination of very familiar everyday sonic events, as well as purely abstract sounds. The interplay between known and the unknown sounds are used to either orient or disorient us.  (Curiously, it‰s often the entry of everyday and familiar sounds in this piece that disorient us the most. )
     Most of all this piece is about (and for) Frankie, who died in April 2002 of natural causes.  For 18 years she was my constant feline companion and Miews.  She sat with me, attentively or not, through all my tinkerings with sound, and she taught me many things about listening.

J-Wake (2001, 12:45)   J-Wake was inspired by the gradual erosion of footprints in sand, caused by forces such as wind and repeated waves lapping up and over the shoreline. It is a process of deconstruction; the disintegration of that which was initially whole and identifiable, into that which is indistinguishable from its surroundings. 
     This disintegration process is a continuum.  Only if it is observed from beginning to end can one say exactly when the impression, which was initially distinct from its surroundings, became so deformed that it was no longer identifiable as a distinct entity. At what point does any object that is subject to disintegration, erosion, and decay lose it‰s identity and cease to be what it was? This is the process I attempted to model -- the question I attempted to answer -- when I set out to compose J-Wake.
     This piece is dedicated to the memory of a departed friend, Steve "Jake" Jacobson.  His proactive, exuberant,  and uncompromising personality made an indelible impression on  all who were privileged to know him.

five haiku  (2000, 20:38)    The inspirations for this work came during sittings atop the Broadway steps, overlooking San Francisco's Financial District, North Beach, and Chinatown. Here, numerous "haiku" blew into mind, effortlessly and as naturally as breathing. 
     Written over a two-year period, each of the five pieces interprets a different poem. There are no clear divisions between the poem-pieces, instead the music illuminates each poem through the choices and relationships of the sounds, moment by moment. Rather than literal renderings of the poems‰ rhythms or texts, the pieces are abstract translations from the word-verbal to the abstract sonic realm. In the end, "the voice" of the poems is preserved. (All of the following poems except the last are by Thom Blum.)

old day, café
thoughts and smoke drift out the window
onto the streets below

big city glowing
fingers of light poke through
billowing fog mist

bright day car
taped-up door-window
bakes in the sun

a pin dropping, sounds 
shattering the silence that 
cradles the sleeping drunk

old pond
 a frog leaps in
 water‰s sound

five haiku is electroacoustic music. The raw materials include field recordings made on walks in San Francisco that were processed and mixed using a variety of computer software: U&I Software's MetaSynth, Digidesign's ProTools, Cloud Generator (Roads and Alexander), Alberto Ricci's SoundMaker, various signal-processing and effects software created by Muscle Fish, Steinberg and Digidesign. 

Maroc (1998, 21:13) is an audio postcard, or abstract travelogue, composed from over 500 found (live) and imaginary (constructed) recordings, which were drawn from a trip I made to Morocco in December 1997. The sounds include many street scenes made in the medinas (old cities) of Fez, Tanjer, Marrekesh, and Chef-chaouen. Both secular and sacred life of the country is represented. 
     The piece represents roughly one day in the life of Morocco, compressing 24 hours down to roughly 20 minutes. The piece traces my December 1997 trip to seven cities in Morocco in quasi-chronological order, however Morocco is not the least bit "linear," and therefore the work makes no attempts at one-to-one correspondences between the original and compressed time scales. The resulting piece is much like the country itself: Getting one's bearings and staying on course are not easy tasks, but trying is a lot of fun.

 1. Night train from Casablanca
 2. A thousand welcomes/Alf-marhabat
 3. Outdoor reception/The Pond
 4. First call to prayer
 5. Door's open: rocked innocent & pure
 6. Inculture shock
 7. Second call
 8. a'maze'in' Medinas (Fez & Chaouen)
 9. Third call
 10. A twist in the maze -- mint tea & kif
 11. Square ecstacy (Marrakesh)
 12. And so it goes, In'sha-Allah
 13. Last call
 14. And on it goes, Allah willing

     All of these raw recordings were digitized into an Apple Macintosh computer, and then mixed and processed by the composer using a variety of sound-processing software including Turbosynth and Sound Designer II (Digidesign), Cloud Generator (Roads & Alexander), Hyperprism (Arboretum), Deck II (OSC), and MF-DSP (Muscle Fish). The work was realized over a four-month period, from December, 1997 through March, 1998.

To My Son Parker, Asleep in the Next Room (1996, 9:34) The poem To My Son Parker, Asleep in the Next Room was written by Bob Kaufman sometime around 1960 as an ode to his son, named after Charlie Parker. Although less famous than his cohorts in the Beat movement (Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Corso, McClure, etc.), Kaufman was nevertheless held in high esteem by them and with good cause. 
     Parker is an awesome and apocalyptic poem, almost biblical in temperament. It's an epic work in scope, though not in length. In the course of its brief duration, the poem offers a startlingly comprehensive history of Humankind. It focuses both on our seemingly innate desire to enslave and conquer each other, and on our need to succumb to some forces outside our self: some god, idol, totem, or monolith. 
     But more than an epic, this poem is a prayer for an evolved humanity -- what else would we expect from a Father to  his son.  In the final stanza, Bob Kaufman sketches a new faith based on freedom, self-determination, and mastery of self rather than of others.
     I would like to thank Vic Bedoian for graciously agreeing to send me his cassette tape recordings of readings of Bob Kaufman's poetry.  Roscoe Lee Brown provides the reading of the poem used in this piece. Two books of Bob Kaufman's poetry, both published by New Directions, provided the inspiration.These are Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness and The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956-1978. 
     Source sounds for this piece consist of natural field recordings and voice. All sounds were processed on an Apple Macintosh computer using a variety of software, including Turbosynth and Sound Design II (Digidesign), Hyperprism (Arboretum), Alchemy (Passport), assorted DSP algorithms (Muscle Fish),Cloud Generator (Roads & Alexander), and Deck II (OSC).

Japanese Postcard (1995, 14:18) is the first in a series of "audio postcards". It is mixed from on-location recordings I made in Japan in the late 1980s and early '90s. Japanese Postcard is somewhat narrative in that it attempts to document the impressions, before and after the visits. The source recordings were made in Tokyo, Hamamatsu, and Kyoto.  The sounds are intentionally left in a somewhat raw, unprocessed state so as to capture the actual Japanese soundscape. In general, my "postcard" pieces are more documentary than musical but, of course, that opinion may vary from listener to listener depending on  the ear of the beholder.

Three Studies for Pedal Steel (1995, 9:07) "Pedal Stolen", "Stedal Peel", "Sample Bash Rag". These brief pieces, each approximately 3  minutes in duration, are a culmination of the composer's life-long love for the pedal steel guitar, and the  genres in which it is typically heard.  The original content for these pieces consists entirely of recordings of pedal steel which were digitally processed using Turbosynth and Sound Design II (Digidesign), Hyperprism (Arboretum), Alchemy (Passport), and Max (Opcode). 
     The forms for the pieces are quite simple and are derived from typical Country & Western songs. Only as the three studies unfold do the more traditional sounds of the pedal steel guitar reveal themselves. 
     The composer acknowledges Peter Siegel  and Buddy Emmonds, whose pedal steel playing served as both the source and inspiration for these pieces.


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