Three Works for Live Electronics
Pulsers (1976) explores the world of rhythms created electronically by analog, rather than digital, circuitry. With analog circuitry, the time-base common to the rhythms can be varied in many different ways by a performer, and can eventually become unstable.
This recording of Pulsers incorporates an improvised tape by Takehisa Kosugi, with his “electronic violin”, made in collaboration with this work.
The core component used to produce Pulsers is a complex modulator designed by Gordon Mumma in conjunction with a sound system proposed by me for the Pepsi Pavilion, at Expo ’70 Japan (a project of Experiments in Art and Technology Inc.). Alterations were made by me to trigger mechanisms of the circuit, as well as to its output ports, in order to enhance the variety of rhythms possible, and to allow multiple outputs having different characters. No primary input signal is used; rather, phase-shifted feedback is the trigger source.
Material for this record was assembled and mixed by David Tudor and Nicolas Collins at Airshaft Studio, NYC. A microcomputer-automated mixer of Collins’ design was used to cross-gate source tapes, live concert recordings, and finally the resultant 8-track tape.
Untitled is a part of a series of works composed in the 1970s that were developed through experiments in generating electronic sound without the use of oscillators, tone generators, or recorded natural sound materials.
Composed in 1972, it was designed for simultaneous performance with John Cage’s vocalization of his Mesotics re Merce Cunningham. The work was revived in 1982, and performed with improvised vocals by Takehisa Kosugi.
The generation of Untitled begins with two chains of components, each chain linked together with multiple feedback loops having variable gain and variable phase-shift characteristics. The configuration of devices and their inter-connections, was conceived of as a “giant oscillator”, with random characteristics variable by the performers response and consequent actions. The number of controls to be simultaneously manipulated being very large, the output of the two chains was recorded several times, each time as a live performance.
The recorded tapes were then used at random in performance, feeding them (as a stereo signal) to yet a third chain of components, itself consisting of two chains similar to the first two, but having variable feedback loops in common, and also the capability of separating the outputs into different parts, switching these amongst four channels in the performance space.
The components used, mostly home-brew, were: amplifiers (fixed or variable gain, fixed or variable phase-shift, tuned, saturating types), attenuators, filters (several types) switches, and modulators with variable side-band capability. No control voltages, as such, were employed.
Phonemes was commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for Cunningham’s dance “Channels/Inserts”, a work made both as a “filmdance” and for the stage. The first stage performance took place at City Center Theater on March 24, 1981.
Phonemes employs two discrete processes which provide input source material for an array of sound modifying electronics, thus creating a multitude of outputs. It is difficult to recognize that these outputs are derived from the same source, as each undergoes a unique set of modifications. The first process utilizes a customized percussion generator with the ability of extending attacks up to several seconds in length. The second uses a vocoder capable of chopping a sound into small pieces. In performance, Tudor takes short sounds and lengthens them and in turn, long sounds and shortens them, thus creating two processes which can overlap and interplay with each other in time and space.
During the piece’s composition Tudor found the combinations reminded him of speech...hence its name.
—John D.S. Adams, New York City
“...the principal input is sometimes a problem, so sometimes I have to wrestle with it to make it happen. And then a lot of variation is possible because of the fact that there is a second input. There is a real choice you can make. Sometimes I make what seems to be the wrong choice, and I have to sort of correct the situation without removing what I’ve chosen. So, in other words, I have to live with it.”
—Excerpt from an interview with David Tudor conducted by John David Fullemann, Stockholm, August 31, 1984, discussing Phonemes.
Takehisa Kosugi played electronic violin in Pulsers and provided vocals for Untitled.
Pulsers and Untitled were recorded by Nicolas Collins at Airshaft Studio.
The Phonemes remix for this CD was produced by John D.S. Adams.
Pulsers and Untitled were released on LP in 1984; Phonemes has been added to them for the release of this CD.
Remastered by John D.S. Adams at Classic Sound, New York.
The re-release of this recording has been assisted by a contribution from the Helen M. Buckner Charitable Trust.
The technical diagram reproduced on CD booklet is by David Tudor.
Art Direction and Design: By Design
© P 1984 & 1996 Lovely Music
© 1972, 1976, 1981 David Tudor
LCD 1601 [A] [D] [D]