For Soprano, percussion, live sound transformation and electroacoustic material. (Note: Three performers)

General Information

To execute the live sound transformation a performer in addition to the instrumentalists is required (for details of live sound transformation see technical set-up). This performer should rehearse with the instrumentalists and feel together in the ensemble.

The third performer has been chosen to execute the live sound transformation so that less demand is placed on the instrumental performers, who are nevertheless responsible for the timing and synchronisation of the electroacoustic material.

Programme notes

The causes behind periods of 'diabolical havoc' often go unexplained and fall into the realm of superstition and hearsay. Inspired by two sources: the work of the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov, which is a collection of fiction combining satire, irony, and humour; and dynamic solar activity which, although factual, we know little about, I designed the materials and structure of Diabolus to capture these periods of unexplained 'havoc'.

Our lives depend on the sun as a source of light and heat. However, the sun is also the source of the solar wind, which is a flow of gases buffeting the earth's magnetic field resulting in, among other effects, power surges and the destruction of electrical equipment over expansive areas. The production of solar winds is closely related to sunspot activity, and during periods of high sunspot activity there can be seen an increased havoc in society on Earth. Both the macro and micro structure of Diabolus is derived from this activity: the duration and contour of the sunspot cycle, the time it takes the sun to fully rotate, the relationship between magnetic fields, the pairing and speeds of solar winds and their arrival at Earth.

The text of Diabolus is taken from key phrases remaining in my memory from the Bulgakov text "The Master and Margatita", combined with snapshots from Goethe's Faust (German original). These two literary sources seemed to be appropriately coupled; both dealing with interactions between the Devil and the soul. Much of the time the text in Diabolus is fragmented and recombined through the use of permutations, such that the grammatical structure is destroyed. In contrast, key points in the structure are marked by linguistically clear articulations.

Performance Instructions

1. The conventional tape part is divided into 26 separate sound files, triggered live by the instrumentalists as they perform the material in the score. This is designed to assist the performers in playing together with the acousmatic material and allow them more freedom in timing and live phrasing.

2. The sound files vary in length and are designed such that they overlap from between two to 50 seconds. However, the performers should exercise only subtle timing freedom - as if the trigger points are flexible joints. In this way, the pre-prepared material is controlled by the composer, while the 'joints', which occur at points of low structural importance or where rubato would normally be inhibited by an inflexible tape part, allow the performers to achieve significant timing freedom effective on a global structural level. Where the material requires only general synchronisation, the performers can achieve further freedom, knowing that the next 'duration' of material will begin when they decide. This method of arranging the acousmatic material should also simplify the learning process: the vague anticipation of events, indecision over the timing of quiet 'tape' entries, and ambiguities over the high point of a climatic surge, are reduced by the performers' more accurate judgement over the current location in the score.

3. Despite this triggering method, it is nevertheless vital for the performers to learn the acousmatic material such that they are not only able to anticipate the next articulation, but to also interact musically with the highly gestural nature and dynamic range of the composition as a whole.

4. Live sound transformations are used to transform the live material in a dramatic manner. A third performer reads from the score points to activate the various MSP patches. The instrumental performers should also be aware of this live part. In the score, brief indications as to the type of transformation are given.

5. The singer triggers all sound files. She must give cues to the percussionist at points where he should synchronise with her 'trigger' (e.g. page 5, T5), and she also cues the computer performer at points where exact timing is required (e.g. page 6 sampling). The percussionist should be able to visually see the singer pressing the foot pedal.

6. The graphic score provides a visual guide to the acousmatic material. It is however only one interpretation and performers will find it useful to add their own memory aids.

7. A CD is provided for rehearsal purposes. It contains a version of the complete electroacoustic part on which are recorded fragments of live vocal and percussion material to initially assist in score following. The next 26 tracks are the individual sound files triggered in performance. This CD is not for final performance. A CDr of materials is available from the composer.

Technical Instructions

Requirements: 1. Power Macintosh (G3 minimum) 2. Audio media III sound card or equivalent. 3. Microphones for singer and percussionist. 4. Minimum of four loudspeakers. 5. Performance materials CDr (contact composer)

MSP software is used for the live sound transformations. An MSP programme for the complete work can be found on the performance materials CDr.

Copy all materials (including sound files) onto the Macintosh hard disk and follow instructions.

The computer performer follows the instrumental parts and activates different areas of the MSP programme when directed in the score.

See figure 2 for performance set-up:

(a) Use two auxiliary outputs from the mixing desk to send signals to the left and right input of the computer.
(b) Percussion microphones are sent to the left input of the computer and the vocal microphone is sent to the right input. MSP programme routes the signal to appropriate stereo outputs, which should be routed to loud speaker pair 'B'.
(c) All instruments are slightly amplified and the clean signal sent to loud speaker pair 'A'. This amplification should never dominate. Its purpose it to integrate the sound from the performers with the sound from the loudspeakers, and to amplify otherwise inaudible sounds from the instruments. One should be aware that sound levels will need to be changed during the performance to achieve this mix.
(d) The triggered electroacoustic material should be sent mainly to loud speaker pairs 'B' and 'C' (if used), while lower levels are sent to loud speaker pair 'A'.
(e) The live effects should never dominate the live performers, but should however always be clearly heard.

Music extract

opening minute (2.8MB)

opening minute (1.4MB)