An Evening of Electronic Music

On Sunday October 21, 2012, the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios presented a captivating recital of electronic music.  I will admit, until this recital I had never heard electronic music performed in a concert setting, so naturally I was a somewhat nervous.  I did not know what to expect.  I was absolutely blown away.  The music was fascinating especially because of all the different sounds achieved with very minimal use of traditional instruments.  Most of the pieces on the program sampled sounds found in everyday life, which I believe helped make this recital more accessible to people not accustomed to electronic music. 

The program started with Unhinged by Stephen David Beck.  This piece was originally written as a study piece for his students.  His students and him went around their campus and recorded various different sounds.  In the end, they decided to use samples of a squeaky door opening and a dysfunctional elevator door slamming.  I really liked the juxtaposition of the high frequencies from the squeaky door and the low frequencies from the slamming elevator.  The sounds are delivered through different methods, which distort the original samples and turns them into floating, weaving lines.  The squeaky door transforms into sounds reminiscent of a fire engine sirens, and the slamming elevator morphs into a rushing train.  The second piece on the program was Densité by Benjamin O’Brien.  In this piece, Benjamin O’Brien sought to convey the interactions between the density of samples and the dimensions of the space they were realized in.  Throughout this pieces sounds of rain, rattling glass, church bells, banging pipes, marimbas, and tambourines can be heard all twirling together.  The following piece was Memoir of a Daydream by David Ikard.  This piece was by far my most favorite of the entire performance.  Listening to this composition with my eyes closed, I truly felt like I was transported to somewhere else.  I felt like I could actually see the daydream happening.  The piece is presented in a stream of consciousness style.  It starts out with water splashing, and then sounds of a baby laughing, taking a bath emerges.  Slowly the atmosphere transforms into what sounds like a meadow.  Buzzing insects, crunching grass, thunder, rain, and far off train whistles all can be heard.  Slowly, the piece ends in a cyclical fashion, ending with the same sound of splashing water, which started the piece.  The fourth piece on the concert was Three Acousmatic Miniatures by Daniel Weymouth.  This piece is comprised of three small movements titled “A Breath for Rob”, “ No Rest”, and “having to do with motion”.  Inspired by Rob Voisey’s “60×60” project, each movement is approximately sixty seconds long.  “A Breath for Rob” is a tribute to this and features sounds from a production of Macbeth.  “No Rest” is comprised of samples of piano and metronomes, and “having to do with motion” is made of birdcalls and people talking.  The next composition was There Are Ghosts by Brian Hernandez.  This piece was set to a video with images of hallways, doors, and glimpses of a man talking.  Brian Hernandez has stated that piece is about a soul wandering as it hopes to re-enter the living, but eventually forgets what it once was.  Naturally, this piece was a little more out of the ordinary than the other pieces, and the sounds reflect the eerie character.  Sounds of chimes, white noise, moaning, and a man whose voice has been altered electronically give this composition an unnatural quality.  The video and the music definitely make the piece together.  It would not have been near as strong if it were just music or video.  The sixth and final piece on the program was Emergence by Hubert Howe.  Unlike the rest of the program, which was presented in stereo format, this was presented in a four-channel format, meaning that the music alternated between four different speakers set in various locations throughout the room.  It made it feel like the music was travelling throughout the room.  The main purpose of this piece was to have many different independent pitches sounding and travelling to different speakers, which gave the impression of changing fundamentals.  The piece employs up to thirty-two different harmonic partials.  It is really quite interesting the tricks it plays on the ears.  At different times I thought I could hear whole-tone scales, pentatonic scales, and other various modes. 

This concert was an amazing experience for me. It was a great performance for electronic music aficionados and neophytes (like me!).  I loved every moment and the wide range of sounds, which were so captivating and different from a typical classical music concert. I can honestly say I would love and hope to attend another recital by the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios!


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