PLOrk : 2012 : Spring Concert

From the Waters - Anne Hege
LOrX Aeterna - Perry Cook
Walo - Lainie Fefferman
Some Assembly Required - Jascha Narveson
Undeciphered Writing - Jeff Snyder
Victorian Webs - Michael Early
Four Squared for Ligeti - Dan Trueman

with special guest Kathleen Supove
Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton University

The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) presents an evening of music performed by
members of the Spring 2012 PLOrk classes

Iris Chang | Daniel Chyan | Charles Evans | Samantha Gebb | Travis Henry | Christina Hummel | Isaac Julien | Hannah Kronenberg | Kynan Rilee | Evan Leichter | Kenrick Rilee | Abulhair Saparov | Avneesh Sarwate | Hana Shin | Ben Siegfried | Sarah Strenio | Nikitas Tampakis | Shu Haur Tang | Riley Thomasson | Minh-Tam Trinh | Katie Anna Wolf

Dan Trueman and Rebecca Fiebrink, Directors
Jeffrey Snyder, Associate Director
Perry Cook, Co-Founder (with Dan Trueman)

1. From the Waters
Anne Hege

For me, there is something inherently magical about the laptop orchestra. It has seemingly endless potential, and somehow, I imagine if anything where to bring a spirit back, this meshing of machine, man, woman, and music would be it. For those of us who grew up thinking that a time machine was a beautiful Delorean, or a space-like pod could merge man and fly, the hemispherical speaker of the laptop orchestra and the slim lines of the tether controller convince me that this is the vehicle for speaking with the beyond. My thanks to Maya Deren for her inspiring book Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, Rebecca Fiebrink for her fabulous application the Wekinator and all her help building this piece, as well as the performers of Middle Passage (an earlier version) and From the Waters, Dan Trueman, and Rinde Eckert, for their feedback and advice.

2. LOrX Aeterna
Perry Cook

This is a study in using the onboard laptop sensors and digital signal processing to augment the human singing voice. The singer voices are captured, processed, and controlled by tilting of the laptops, to expand and transform the choir. Long live laptop orchestras (and choirs)

3. Walo
Lainie Fefferman

This is one in a series of pieces I'm doing that are meant to be portraits of the ensembles playing them (very meta!). I like the idea of a piece of music that acts like a visual art portrait – you get to see something of the artist and something of the subject at the same time and the whole thing feels really personal. The voices you’ll hear in this piece are all founders, members, and former members of PLOrk. I love PLOrk and I love these guys and I hope you enjoy it. (PS. Thanks to Konrad Kaczmarek for teaching me Max and hearing me whine about how confusing it is!)

4. Some Assembly Required
Jascha Narveson

Like a lot of PLOrk pieces, this piece sends messages over a network to all the players, co-ordinating musical events across the ensemble. Unlike most PLOrk pieces, the main creative input from the players involves making all of the sounds that respond to these messages. All the beeps, boops, hums, buzzes, and samples that you hear in this piece are the creations of the individual players, while the sequence in which you hear them is being sent from a central conductor computer. In performance, the main creative input from players is voting to move from scene to scene when they get bored with whatever’s happening - once enough players vote to move to a new scene, the music progresses. The final scene is the end of the piece, and all the sound stops.

5. Undeciphered Writing
Jeff Snyder
featuring instruments designed by Jeff Snyder

“In roast you are a guest of the ducks - go dream!”
- attempted translation of the Sitovo inscription, written in an unknown script

This piece is written for an ensemble of instruments designed and built by the composer. The music is inspired by examples of writing that have been discovered but never translated, ranging from intentional codes to ancient scripts for which the spoken language is unknown or cannot be identified.

6. Victorian Webs
Michael Early
featuring Kathleen Supove, piano

Victorian Webs is a fantasy based loosely on Morse code. Listening to the ‘performance’ of Morse code is mesmerizing – its rhythms falling into musically unpredictable patterns. The piece uses fragments of Morse code – words, letters, punctuation – to create a more uniquely musical language. The bits of Morse code that I use come mostly from the inaugural message transmitted on the first U.S. commercial telegraph, in Pennsylvania: “Why don’t you write, you rascals?” The title of the piece is adapted from Tom Standage’s book The Victorian Internet, which draws parallels between our own Internet and the Victorian era’s use of the telegraph to communicate and transmit information over long distances.

7. Four Squared for Ligeti
Dan Trueman
featuring Kathleen Supove, piano,
and laptop instruments created by Dan Trueman

Both Ligeti’s famous Musica Ricercata II, for solo piano (perhaps most known for its cameo in the Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut), and my own Four, for, um, solo 6-string electric violin (unknown for anything, as far as I know) are spare, spacious pieces, featuring just a few notes, oft repeated and separated by long silences. In an experiment in musical vandalism, I have smashed these two pieces together and filled most of the silences as best I can. At the heart of this new Frankenstein is a pair of “synchronic metropianos:” laptop- interconnected, strangely-tuned virtual pianos with embedded, pitched metronomes (don’t worry if that’s not crystal clear—you’ll hear). This pair, in tandem with a good, old- fashioned piano, creates a constantly shifting core of meter changes, among other things. Surrounding this trio is a cohort of other laptop instruments. Some slowly sustain the piano sounds with modified golf video- game controllers (the tethers, fast becoming a standard instrument in the laptop orchestra worldwide; no kidding here!). Others type, creating chattering clusters of clicky sounds, all synchronized via a wireless network. Finally (speaking of Frankensteins), others play a bizarre digital hybrid of the flute and electric guitar (affectionately called the blotar, a brainchild of the nutty Dr. Perry Cook), also with the tethers (multi-talented, these tethers), using a neural-network created with PLOrk co-Director Rebecca Fiebrink’s fantastic Wekinator. Finally finally, the piece closes with the chatter of as many mechanical metronomes as we could muster, something Ligeti himself would surely have appreciated. Did I forget anything? I’m grateful to these wonderful PLOrk students for being so adventurous in taking on this piece and all the others on this program, and to Kathy Supov√© for inspiring this piece at the outset.