Starting with New Technologies

Updated: Apr 12

In my journey as a composer I have been influenced in good and bad ways by new technologies. I believe technologies can be used in a good way when making music, performances, opera, theatre and/or any type of art. However, they can lead you to wrong decisions and miss understanding of what they actually are. In this work with electronics, that I am working on, I thought that even not being a pro on it, I could explore it as a tool to enhance or even to give a distinctive quality of timbre to the final result. So the process started.

I started recording the sounds I wanted to use, exported them into Logic Pro and days after I was making a tape. I was really into it and I really enjoyed what I was doing. Suddenly, I remembered that apart from the sounds I recorded I could use fragments from previous pieces, specially the ones that I composed couple of years ago. That gave me a boost of energy to keep doing whatever I was doing. After using MaxMSP granulator, Logic, my intuition and some other electronic devices, I finished the maquette of my electronic tape.

Since version 7.5, Sibelius is capable to link an external video or sound and compose with it as a guidance. After uploading the tape, I started to compose, using the tape as a guide for my composition - and there it was, the first mistake. The electronic is made by strong and affirmative clicks and those are suppose to create some activity both in the ensemble and in the tape itself. At the begging, the first song we hear is the click from the tape, and that is the starting point of a sort of choral-melodic-gesture in brass instruments. At the end of that first choral, the click silence the trumpet and the trombone, triggering some activity in the winds.

These all sound very exciting, but the reality was not rally. I started feeling lost and not controlling what I was doing. I was been controlled by the tape and the idea of having new technologies as a new tool disappeared. So, I stopped. Closed Sibelius file and had a break.

In Mahler’s Das Lied Von der Erde (1908/09), although the piece has nearly one hour of music, he uses a mandolin in the last movement, and not even for the entire of it, only in the final section. In Carlos Caires’ Instante (2011) for pre recorded electronics and orchestra, he just uses the electronics at the beginning of the piece, triggering a sort of energy that will be transmitted to the orchestra, making the rest of the composition entirely orchestral. In the instrumentation of my own song cycle, Tell me again the music of that Tale (2019) I use the guitar only in specific moments. In my own piece Redefinition… (2016) for percussion duo, brass ensemble and tape, electronics are used as a prelude, in one single moment of the work.

After thinking about these, I realised that having new technologies in my work does not necessarily means that I need to be constantly using them. I am not making an electronic work, I am making music that nevertheless wants to gain from the timbral effect of having an acoustic and electronic sound combined. Also, when writing with new technologies it is necessary to keep in mind, although the idea will differ from composer to composer, that electronics, videos or any other type of technological tool should be used as another instrument, nonetheless not as a controller of everything that will happen.