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notation

each key will be notated on a treble clef staff as labeled.

each key will be notated on a treble clef staff as labeled.

with the low center key being C, the kalimba scales to high D, on both the left and right sides. the pitches obviously are not equally tempered, but a tonal scale looks simple on the staff and feels like the easiest vehicle for notation.

with the low center key being C, the kalimba scales to high D, on both the left and right sides. the pitches obviously are not equally tempered, but a tonal scale looks simple on the staff and feels like the easiest vehicle for notation.

So, with the scale system in mind, let's listen again to the sketch k07:

below all the processing, the motif is this simple three-note pattern, shown naked below.

democracy looks like

A video posted by adam cuthbért (@cuthbear) on

the left G key is pitch higher than the right G key, so in this case, the difference between L and R is important. I'll send tuning video soon so you can adjust the kalimbas to what I've been working with (or not... maybe we can leave that part up to chance). 

the left G key is pitch higher than the right G key, so in this case, the difference between L and R is important. I'll send tuning video soon so you can adjust the kalimbas to what I've been working with (or not... maybe we can leave that part up to chance). 


structure

- we'd love sketches whenever you have them. do you think this will be conventionally notated? will it be more of a "road map" piece written on in text?  learned by rote?


when you mentioned a road map/chart-style notation, it made me think that this would be a smarter way to do it than conventional notation. the notes will still need to be given, so the above pitch and rhythm schemes will apply, but structurally, a chart makes more sense.

so, here are two of the three chants inside the piece (somewhat cut off, but there are surely longer videos online):

translated to the staff, it looks like this:

using these rhythms in the call-and-echo protest march format, and the pitch scheme outlined above, we'll develop the music within a structure.


now let's take a look at the macro structure. this portion is still in progress. consider each line a cell (or measure) which can be repeated to the ensemble's discretion. k1, k2, k3, and k4 are participants in a march. they take turns calling and echoing the preferred chants of the movement. the structure is meant to mimic the organic development of chants within a march. they rise up, gain steam, and recede, making way for other calls. chanters' voices get tired and they drop out, and other voices step in. it's all a community effort, which is the core inspiration of this whole concept.


tech

- we should talk soon about any hardware / software that we should absolutely have to play this

alright, here's my final tech config. 

  • each kalimba gets strapped up with a contact mic. mine is duct taped on the back, opposite the keys.
  • your Audio Interface must have 4 preamps so everyone can plug in.
  • I'll send you a plug-and-play Ableton Live set which will be easy to troubleshoot.
  • Novation Launch Control ($99, try craigslist because they're common)
  • On the bright side, I will not be needing a copyist for this project after all (it took a much different direction than i thought it would at first.
- my first guess is that we'll be able to operate faders with one hand, but we'll have to try it obviously

good to know that it doesn't sound impossible. a solution i'm thinking is that, based on the macro structure outlined above, if you're not one of the players in that cell, you're on "knob duty" and support in the background by modifying the timbres of the current players. i think there's something a little poetic about that too, wherein not everyone is chanting in a protest but their presence still makes a difference. this will be figured out in time though.


final thoughts for the moment

it feels like the last portion is simply the notes now. i made the mistake earlier on of going straight to sound design before the big picture was properly developed, so it took a while to share something concrete with you. i'm curious to know your thoughts about how it looks so far. if the politics are too literal, we can perhaps omit the words to the chants in our program notes. in terms of tech, i promise you it's totally simple, and it will only be a matter of setting the gain right on each channel so there's no hiss but still a bite to the sound.

i hope the literal play element is not off-putting to you. i think it only needs to be passively theatrical, and that may not even need to be stated beyond the score itself. 

- love the footwork connection!  I literally just yesterday started learning about this music from another composer we're working with (Jonathan Pfeffer, based in Philly)

amazing. i learned of Jonathan’s work recently. I love what I’ve heard. Cant wait to hear his piece for you guys.

one last thing about the structure, with regards to Footwork... the drums and bass element of this piece, as sketched in the drafts last month, are going just be constantly evolving below you, like the drumline in a march. this stuff will sound more footworky, but that's icing on the cake. i think the top priority now is to get you something you can play with, so i'm going to shoot for something next week.