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Diffusion & Purported Projection


“Sound in Space Festival: The Art of Interpretation of Electroacoustic Music” at theFenway Center in Boston reconvened Friday afternoon, Thursday, November 18, with “Interpretation Workshop 2.” Composer-researcher Daniel Teruggi lectured and answered questions. Teruggi, born in Argentina in 1952, teaches Sound Visual Arts at the Paris I Sorbonne University and directs a seminar on new technology applied to musical analysis at the Paris IV University.

He began by saying, since “everything was covered in Thursday’s workshop” led by Hans Tutschku, and so he had been wondering what to do for his presentation. He decided on a recounting of the history of the electronic movement that began in the twentieth century. But there was more to his recalling the milestones beginning with Pierre Henri in Paris and Musique Concrète in the 1940s. Interjecting his philosophical bent, his own experience with perception, and his ruminations on the subject, Teruggi allowed us a glimpse into his world of music-making.

“Monophony,” he said, “did not exist until stereophony came along,” meaning composers such as Pierre Henri were already working with space. He pointed out three uses of space: “space within the sound, around the sound, and imaginary space.” He went on to express his belief that “Monophony will always capture space” despite the growing understanding of stereo as being the “mirror of our ears.”

In the ‘60s came four-track and in the ‘90s, eight-track with small machines. “That’s one story. Next story, performance.” With this music’s popularity growing in the ‘70s, bigger halls were needed for the audiences which, in turn, demanded more that the two speakers producing stereophony. He noted that the front (the stage area) of concert halls being resonant and the back being dry compromised performances of electroacoustic music. “Boom-boom-boom-boom-tic-tic-tic-tic,” he shot off vocally, illustrating the effect in exaggerated fashion.

With these big spaces needing multiple sound sources, there evolved an array of small- to large-sized loudspeakers, the objective being to imitate the symphonic orchestra. This is when the concept “performance” entered the world of electrically produced sound.

“Performance enhances the composition.” Unlike a piano performance, for example, coming from the “front” of a space, multi-sourced sounds coming from all possible directions — front, back, laterally, diagonally and so on — are dramatically affected by the size and other features of a given space. Such compromises are addressed through performance, particularly the placement of loudspeakers and employment of “faders” controlled by the performer. Recall that faders allow expression, articulation and projection of sound.

Where Tutschku understands the movement of sound through multi-sources as diffusion, Teruggi argues for projection. Whether it be diffusion or projection, adaptation lies at the root of electroacoustic performance. In addition, “spectral adjustments of the various speakers,” Teruggi says, can generate “big soloists and small soloists.”

Teruggi also spoke about perception, how we are in the present while simultaneously in the past and future. As I recall, this mindset would come from French philosopher Henri Bergson. With unfamiliar sounds comes a shorter present-past-future, and that is one reason listeners wind up with “I don’t get it, I don’t like it.” Reference, Teruggi reminded us, playing the huge role it does in our recognition and understanding, also factors into creating and performing electroacoustic music.

Cutting edge composer Teruggi’s ruminations on today’s consumer society, inferior quality of MP3s, and decline of interest in concert music surprised me for their being so old-fashioned in substance as well as in argument.

Had the two-hour-plus lecture, I thought, been modeled on Tutschku’s master class with the lesser experienced student competition finalists working in tandem with experienced composers, a lot more could have been gleaned about the art of electroacoustic interpretation. For some fifteen or so minutes Teruggi did perform some passages from his own powerful and affective compositions for the purpose of illustrating diffusion — or projection— as Daniel Teruggi would have it.

Final leg of the Festival:
Saturday, November 19, 2011
4:00 PM    Panel Discussion with invited composers
6:00 PM    Curated concert of important electroacoustic works from North America
7:30 PM    Bus to Goethe-Institut Boston, 170 Beacon Street, Boston
8:00 PM    Reception and Composition Competition Awards Ceremony in Goethe-Institut

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in  Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.


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