David Behrman

On the Other Ocean/Figure in a Clearing

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A welcome CD reissue of the original subtle, sustained, and serene vinyl recording. The beautiful and meditative "On the Other Ocean," a new music classic, is Behrman's first interactive piece in which the musicians played acoustic instruments that triggered the production of harmonies from computer-driven synthesizers, and the musicians were in turn influenced in their spontaneous improvising by what the computer did. This is the basic setup for interactive computer music. The computer in this case was a microcomputer called the KIM-1, a precursor to the Apple II, and one of the first personal computers available. Flutist Maggi Payne and bassoonist Arthur Stidfole improvised around six pitches chosen by Behrman, and when they played one of the six notes activating the pitch-sensing circuits, Behrman's homemade synthesizers would produce harmonic responses. This music is of a holy place, an oasis outside the rush of linear time. "Figure in a Clearing," for computer-controlled synthesizer and improvising musician on cello, was the composer's first piece to employ a computer to make music. The software program varied the time intervals -- "modelled on the motion of a satellite in falling elliptical orbit around a planet" according to Behrman -- between chord changes; the resulting slow deflection and pitch- and/or rhythm-shifting modulation seem to create the type of sound elasticity of interest to Behrman, which he has continued to refine in his works. The cellist was given six pitches with which to spontaneously improvise, and was requested that he not speed up when the computer-controlled rhythm did, maintaining his own personality. The timbre of the synthesizer waveforms and cello are perfectly complementary.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 23:45
blue highlight denotes track pick