Douglas Geers

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Title Turnstile
Genre: violin and computer-generated sounds                          
Duration: 5.5 minutes
Score: PDF HERE 
Audio: MP3 HERE

Turnstile is a brief work for violin and tape. The piece is meant to simulate one's psychological processes while moving from a "private" to "public" environment and the mind's attempt to retain its private world while also constraining one's behavior to fall within that which is allowed during public interaction. Thus the name of the piece: A turnstile, as one would encounter when entering a subway, is a mechanical device whose function clearly is to allow or prevent one's access to a public space. It is the threshold that one must traverse to gain access to a particular public space, that of mass public transit. Musically this work expresses these ideas in several ways; most obviously by compactly contrasting supple melodic lines and soft textures with boisterous rhythms and brash sound colors. Structurally, the piece juxtaposes and connects musical moments, immersing the solo violin in a dreamlike environment/accompaniment of highly processed samples. This quasi-mosaic structure reflects the mind's internal switching between public action and private thought and emotion.

This piece was created by performing extensive signal processing upon a small set of field recordings and studio samples in order to develop the sounds necessary to realize the formal design of the piece. The samples were of two main origins: first, recordings made in the 125th Street 1/9 subway station in Manhattan, New York City. The second sound set consisted of samples created during a recording session in which a violinist played materials written for this piece.

The formal design of the work was to juxtapose materials in a mosiac structure, with the violin as the 'voice' and the electroacoustic sounds consituting an environment in which this voice moves. However, part of this environment is in fact reflections and distortions of the violin's own sound.

The technical means used to create this work began with my construction of a systematic network of four-pitch harmonies, with syntactical rules governing the motion from each harmony to the next. I then instantiated this system in software, writing a C program to traverse this network in stochastically-controlled 'random walks,' which despite the generalized randomness nevertheless followed the syntactical movement rules of the harmonic network. Next, I created a set of 87 rhythmic motives and used another C program of my own to randomly select a series of these as the basic rhythmic material of different moments/tiles of the mosaic structure of the piece. I then used my rhythmic material and harmonic pathway to create the violin part for the entire work. As mentioned above, I recorded some of this material for use in the tape part of the piece.

After constucting the violin part, I went about the realization of the tape part for this work. For simple editing, I used Bias Peak 1.6. For other signal processing, including filtering, time stretching, reverberation, and other digital delays and effects I employed IRCAM's Audiosculpt, the shareware environment RTcmix (Linux, with scripts written by myself), Metasynth, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Turbosynth, and the shareware application Ceres (Linux). For sound mixing, I used Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer 2.1. I used no MIDI synthesizers or controllers in the composition of this work.

Back to the main Turnstile page.

If you would like to know more about this piece, please email Doug Geers