Digital Discourse (from Politics I)
Year Composed: 2022
Code and Instructions: https://github.com/eclemmon/politics_1
About the Work: ericlemmon.net/politics-i/
Representative Timing: 1:02
About the Work:
In western concert art music, the audience’s participation in the presentation of a musical work is traditionally restricted to a staid listening experience within a proscenium setting. Politics I aims to overhaul this rigid notion of music-making by breaking down the barriers between composers, performers, and the audience and rendering audible the politics of aesthetic preference that exists within participatory music settings. In this new computer music system, an audience member submits a text, the text is processed by the system, and then depending on the movement, this textual ‘action’ impacts the music generated by the system in specific ways. Drawing on insights from musical semiology and political theory, I argue that this setting allows audience members to recognize the possible sonic effects of their own inputs and make choices that impact the aesthetic experience in real time. Because this participatory setting provides the audience with agency to impact the musical work, the audience’s interactions give rise to an internal discourse. Within the internal discourse of this public, audience members articulate a politics of aesthetic preference, where the sonic results that are preferred by more audience members can take precedence within the musical texture of the work.
To systematically analyze these discursive processes within the audience and their potential to effect change within the music, the computer music system behind Politics I parses text messages submitted by the audience through an array of natural language processing (NLP) techniques in Python. In SuperCollider and Live, it then sonifies the analyzed content of the input messages while simultaneously displaying them visually in Processing. The system is customized to generate music such that distinct code-bases act as individual movements of a complete piece. Each of these movements serves as an analogy to a particular political system, with the purpose of not only musically representing how systemic structures influence political decision-making but also how they can be subverted through coordinated action. The work is of variable length, but usually lasts at least 20 minutes, but can be up to 40 minutes long. it has three distinct movements: ‘Digital Discourse’, ‘Cybernetic Republic’, and ‘Technoautocracy’. The movement presented as a work sample here is from a performance at the Peabody Institute.
Year Composed: 2019
Code and Instructions: https://github.com/eclemmon/toy_3
Representative Timing: 2:00
About the Work:
This piece for locally networked laptop ensemble and visuals titled toy_3 was built in Ajax SoundStudio’s PYO and uses a python-based TCP/IP chatroom. The visuals were created by chemist Masakazu Matsumoto based on data generated from a molecular dynamics simulation performed on the K supercomputer at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computation Science in Kobe, Japan. The graphically rendered model shows the peculiar ways in which water’s hydrogen-bonding network behaves when in a supercritical state. The sounds produced by the generative algorithm and texts submitted to the chatroom were coded to reflect the visuals.
The work sample here shows a June 26th, 2022 performance of the piece as part of last year’s New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival and features myself and my collaborator Niloufar Nourbakhsh.
Composed and performed by Edward Enman, Eric Lemmon, Rose Naggar-Tremblay, and Viktoria Nikolova.
Year Composed: 2021
Representative Timing: 16:12
About the Work:
This work was composed, performed, recorded, shot, and edited by myself, Edward Enman, Rose Naggar-Tremblay, and Viktoria Nikolova in the span of three weeks during the 2021, Westben Performer-Composer Residency. A digital opera, the work moves through a series of vignettes drafted by individuals and pairs in the group before arriving at a climax that features each member of the group.
The representative timing given here is the ‘duet’ between myself and Viktoria Nikolova, which features Viktoria’s voice, and me on both keyboard and as digital audio producer (mixing, mastering, further effects, and sequencing). Viktoria and I co-composed this movement. Some of the themes of the opera are featured here, including the aesthetics and virtuality of digital mediation as well as questions of mistranslation.
The notes associated with the web-opera are as follows:
\\ 23.7.21, Westben Performer-Composer Residency
Three weeks ago, we were four strangers in two time zones speaking three different mother tongues, gathered together in a virtual space.
While wanting to address the theme of post-pandemic hopes, we felt compelled to observe the processes that could lead us to communicate about it in the first place.
How could we translate each other’s thoughts into our own musical or linguistic identities, and what could be found in that welcoming and active listening?
Could we really be seen through the lenses of our devices?
Other timestamps of note that feature my work in sound synthesis, digital music composition, and audio production:
Scratched and Polished
Year Composed: 2022
Representative Timing: 3:56
About the Work:
Scratched and Polished is a short work for upside down singing bowl, wool kerchief, pencil, fingernail, and 1/8″-1/4″ adapter, contact microphone, and MIDI controller. In the work I was interested in exploring the materiality of the both the bowl and the implements I used. At the same time, I wanted to take advantage of the unique acoustics of recording via a contact microphone. The profile of the microphone allowed me to manipulate the timbre of the bowl with electroacoustic techniques like spectral resonators and filter delays to great effect.
The Impossible Will Take a Little While
Year Composed: 2015, with major revisions in 2018.
Representative Timing: 55:38
Starting Point in Score: Pg. 77 in the pdf, mm. 63.
About the Work:
In The Impossible Will Take a Little While, I sought to combine the emotional power of music with discursive political ideas and aimed to use this political art to inspire audience members to act politically in order to transform society long-term. The texts for the oratorio, which stem from the collection of essays and poems of the same name edited by Paul Rogat Loeb, offer hope and advice to the average individual as told from the perspective of those who are widely credited for bringing about systemic change in their respective societies, such as Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel. The essays’ message is that while these luminaries were at the forefront of social movements, their success was only enabled by legions of regular people contributing to social and political change. This message became especially important in the political context of the musical adaptation, as I wrote the work in response to an electoral minority within the US being able to maintain power through structural inequalities built into our system of democracy.
The video is cut together from two different live performances and a few recordings of movements that were made separately at the request of collaborators. The recordings without any video elements are from the 2018 performance. The recordings of the movements “The Green Dream” and “Origami Emotion” are from 2019 and 2016, respectively. All other video is from the 2015 performance of the work. The work is for a chamber orchestra of acoustic and electric instruments and four voices.
Other places of interest to listen:
10:55 The Green Dream (Acoustic violin Solo)
Starting Point in Score: Pg. 29 in the pdf, mm. 1.
41:22 To Be of Use (Full chamber orchestra with acoustic instruments and solo mezzo)
Starting Point in Score: Pg. 57 in the pdf, mm. 68.
59:48 No Future Without Forgiveness (Piano, Oboe and Clarinet)
Starting Point in Score: Pg. 86 in the pdf, mm. 21.