Douglas Geers
Tremor Transducer

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Title Tremor Transducer
Genre: Chamber work for amplified flute, piano, percussion, violin, cello and computer
Duration: 15 minutes
Score: Available as PDF HERE
Audio: MP3 excerpt HERE
MP3 of entire piece HERE
Video: N/A
Tremor Transducer is a single-movement chamber music work (ca. fifteen minutes) scored for flute/piccolo, percussion set, piano, violin, cello, and live electroacoustic music. The piece was written in memory of and dedicated to composer Jonathan Kramer. I studied with Jonathan during my doctoral work at Columbia University, and found him to be a wonderful teacher and source of inspriation who possessed a unique combination of intellect, curiosity, and mischevious humor.

Tremor Transducer was commissioned by NeXT Ens, a USA-based ensemble dedicated to the performance of interactive electroacoustic music. NeXT premiered the work in February 2005, and it continues as part of their touring repertoire. The computer music in this piece is created by an instrument written by the composer that transforms live audio from the ensemble as it plays.

Tremor Transducer was written to explore ideas related to two ephemeral phenomena: fire and sound.  Both of these are seemingly disembodied yet able to instill awe or wreak destruction; both can exist as silky tendrils, sudden bursts, or raging calamities; and both depend on the air for their existence.  Formally, Tremor Transducer is modeled on both the composite envelope of a single sound and the transcription of the changing heat levels of a fire. The electroacoustic sounds in the piece are synthesized in real time by a software instrument created by the composer in the Max/MSP environment.  The computer music’s role in the music is to be the “smoke” around the musicians, created by them but floating above, its incorporeal performance symbolizing the incorporeal nature of both sound and fire, emerging as if rubbing bows across strings could start fire as well as sound. 

In this piece, the computer provides timbral coloration to instrumental textures, and is cued by a member of the ensemble.  All computer sounds, except very low register, are created via digital signal processing of the live performance.  The computer music instrument was built by the composer in Max/MSP, and its interface was designed for simple use by the ensemble.

Harmony in Tremor Transducer is based upon a set of fourteen hexachords, arranged in order from most psychoacoustically consonant to most dissonant:
[image of chords on staff]

Harmonic motion in Tremor Transducer is governed by three things:
1. A pattern of “jumps” along the sequence of chords #0-13
    Ex: chord 8;  -3 = chord 5; +5 = chord 10; -6 = chord 4;
        -1 = chord 3; +3 = chord 6

2. The basic pattern (above) is manipulated using simple algorithmic procedures (retrograde, inversion, additive/subtractive, etc.)

3. Pattern of tonics of chords follows the notes of an inversion of the cello solo that opens the piece.

The recording here is from the second performance of Tremor Transducer, played by NeXT Ens at the Cohen Family Studio Theater, Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 23, 2005.

If you would like to know more about this work or the methods used to compose it, please email Doug Geers.