My Inventions series is a collection of seven studies that explore concepts of polyrhythm and polyharmony for musicians playing with interactive computer software. The computer always interacts with what the musicians play, so the music is different every time, not frozen. In Branches (Invention #7), I chose the metaphor of the tree to structure the way that rhythmic subdivisions extend outward from a central pulse. Originally written as a trio for piano, percussion, and turntablist, the interaction of the piano’s MIDI output with all three independent computer rhythms creates different branches, each in a different cycle but all using a common pulse, derived from the same trunk, as the relationships evolve from simple to complex and back again, swinging from branch to branch. There are also stylistic branchings – logdrum and marimba music from Central Africa provide samples for the computer in the first half of the piece; in the middle, the voices are primarily synthetic, evolving in the second half to samples from DJ Eddie Def’s Hamster Breaks LPs,
which were made for turntable scratching. Additionally, there are technological branchings – the computer runs genetic algorithms that “grow” new rhythmic leaves from the rhythms and notes of the piano. As I hear the computer’s responses, I respond to it in my playing, creating a feedback loop (food). I wrote the software for the piece, which is an interactive polyrhythmic sequencer called Ritmos, in SuperCollider. A TouchOSC program on the iPad facilitates control and monitoring of the software from the piano. I crave more of the polyrhythmic pulse in electronic music: a complexity made of simple parts in densely interwoven relationships, with a place for everyone to listen, but impossible for anyone to hear, play, or contain the whole. Both improvisation and composition are essential here. Polyrhythm implies syncretic culture – one with many centers that accepts, absorbs, borrows, samples, transforms, and evolves in many directions at once.
track released October 7, 2018
Branches was recorded on August 13, 2016 at Mills College in Oakland and mixed in Berkeley by Philip Perkins.
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