Pulsations [Bitumen]

An audiovisual performance that combines generative digital music with four viola players using an original graphic notation and featuring a BRAID.live algorithm
by Marcel Zaes

performed by:
Jordan Dykstra (USA) – viola
Ashley Frith (USA) – viola
Zsolt Sőrés (HU) – viola
David Schnee (CH) – viola
Marcel Zaes (CH) – electronics

additional musicians San Francisco:
April Guthrie (USA) - cello
Joshua Westerman (USA) - viola

thanks to:
Ivo Sägesser for the photographic aspahlt stills
Brian House for developing BRAID.live
Cécile Vuillemin and Swissnex Boston for making this possible
Rebekka Meyer, Kiri Miller, Kristina Warren, Todd Winkler, Butch Rovan, Ed Osborn for their endless support

With PULSATIONS [BITUMEN], the Swiss composer-performer Marcel Zaes sets out to redefine the conventional concert performance. He presents a transcontinental music project which is a fusion of electronic and classical sound. PULSATIONS [BITUMEN] presents the least featured of all string instruments, the viola, with four exceptional players, and extends the viola’s sound with generative digital technologies that render the performance a live-sampling aesthetic. PULSATIONS [BITUMEN] is the result of Zaes’ typical compositional practice which interweaves the instruments’ voices with pure sine wave tones and mathematical grids to generate abstract pulsations. The result is a groovy, yet minimalist sonic world.

For this work, Zaes introduces a novel graphic notation system that is imperfect and solely capable of displaying a specific kind of rhythmic pattern. This notation system emphasizes musical parameters that are particularly important for PULSATIONS [BITUMEN] such as grid-based loops, signal-to-noise ratios and dynamic envelopes, while neglecting other, more classical compositional elements.

The title part ‘BITUMEN’ stands for asphalt and emphasizes the interaction between the digital algorithm and the violists: machine-like regularity meets with natural irregularities to form a techno-organic surface.

Performance duration: 65 min


11 Feb 2017 - Center For New Music - San Francisco/CA

4 Feb 2017 - Non-Event/Swissnex - Boston/MA

2 Feb 2016 - Brown University - Providence/RI US