Bitumen & Media performance, 2018
Digital media performance with live viola quartet
Ashley Frith, viola
Jordan Dykstra, viola
David Schnee, viola
Zsolt Sörés, viola
Marcel Zaes, elec.
Premiered at Brown University
With PULSATIONS [BITUMEN], or just BITUMEN, Marcel Zaes presents a transcontinental music project which is a fusion of electronic and classical sound. 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. This work is the result of Zaes’ typical compositional practice which interweaves the instruments’ voices with sine tones and mechanical grids to generate abstract pulsations.
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 BITUMEN such as grid-based loops, signal-to-noise ratios and dynamic envelopes, while neglecting other, more classical compositional elements.
The title BITUMEN refers to the material ‘asphalt’ and emphasizes the interaction between the digital algorithm and the violists: machine-like regularity meets with organical irregularities to form a techno-organic surface.
JORDAN DYKSTRA DEMONSTRATES ZAES’ CUSTOM-MADE, NOVEL GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE WHICH IS PARTIALLY CONTROLLED BY AN ALGORITHM, AND PARTIALLY VIA REMOTE ACCESS FROM A CENTRAL COMPUTER WHICH SYNCHRONIZES ALL PARTICIPATING MUSICIANS: