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Church Belles

WAITE, Si (2015) Church Belles. [Composition]

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Abstract or description

Short Abstract

Church Belles explores how creating and using an interactive system for popular songwriting based on a physical metaphor impacts the composition process and the liveness of performances. Composing the piece was central to the research process (Candy and Edmonds, 2018) which involved a cyclical, iterative process of literature review, system-building/composing and reflection.
While common in more experimental styles, the use of interactive music systems in popular music tends to be limited (Marchini et al, 2017). Several studies have demonstrated the potential for physical metaphors to be used as a design strategy for interactive systems (Johnston et al, 2009) that both facilitates audience understanding and focuses the compositional process. In this piece, church bells were selected as the metaphor they are a highly familiar cultural object with a simple physical mechanism, capable of producing complex timbres and unpredictable rhythms.
Church Belles explores the impact of using an interactive system throughout the songwriting process. Creating the system therefore began before any songwriting took place, maximising the system’s influence over each stage of the composition. The research reveals strategies for working with interactive systems in highly-structured popular music contexts, which have been disseminated by a paper and demonstration at New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) (Waite, 2016). Performances with the piece demonstrate high levels of several aspects of liveness (Sanden, 2013).
Findings have been shared with international academic and professional audiences at Innovations in Music 2017 (London); Tracking the Creative Process in Music 2017 (Huddersfield) and Loop 2017 (Berlin). Recordings of the piece and accompanying commentary have been published online and the piece has been performed at Sonorities 2016 (Queen’s University), MTI concerts (De Montfort University) and NoiseFloor (Staffordshire University). The software for the piece is available for free download.

Extended Abstract

My background is a singer-songwriter and a vocalist-guitarist in bands. I wanted to create a system that would function as a co-writer and co-performer in the creation and live realisation of a composition with two-way interaction between musician and machine. I also wanted that system to function in a highly transparent way.
Church bells were selected as the basis for the system as they provide this transparency: they have their own, natural logic that creates a chaotic yet coherent element, which is integral to much of my work.
Pitch detection on the guitar’s signal is used to “ring” the bells – when specific notes are played on the guitar, specific bells are rung. The ringing of the bells in turn pitch shifts the performer’s vocal.
Although modeling a real world machine, it makes artistic and aesthetic sense to explore the possibilities that the digital system affords. As the piece progresses, loud notes on the guitar detach bells from their hinges. Additional sound is generated as they collide with each other and the boundaries of the virtual world.
The lyrics are inspired by my grandmother, who described what it was like to wait for my grandfather to return from nightly bombing raids in World War 2. Although decorated for his contribution, he never spoke of what he did.

Item Type: Composition
Additional Information: Church Belles explores how creating and using an interactive system for popular songwriting based on a physical metaphor impacts the composition process and the liveness of performances. Composing the piece was central to the research process (Candy and Edmonds, 2018) which involved a cyclical, iterative process of literature review, system-building/composing and reflection. While common in more experimental styles, the use of interactive music systems in popular music tends to be limited (Marchini et al, 2017). Several studies have demonstrated the potential for physical metaphors to be used as a design strategy for interactive systems (Johnston et al, 2009) that both facilitates audience understanding and focuses the compositional process. In this piece, church bells were selected as the metaphor they are a highly familiar cultural object with a simple physical mechanism, capable of producing complex timbres and unpredictable rhythms. Church Belles explores the impact of using an interactive system throughout the songwriting process. Creating the system therefore began before any songwriting took place, maximising the system’s influence over each stage of the composition. The research reveals strategies for working with interactive systems in highly-structured popular music contexts, which have been disseminated by a paper and demonstration at New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) (Waite, 2016). Performances with the piece demonstrate high levels of several aspects of liveness (Sanden, 2013). Findings have been shared with international academic and professional audiences at Innovations in Music 2017 (London); Tracking the Creative Process in Music 2017 (Huddersfield) and Loop 2017 (Berlin). Recordings of the piece and accompanying commentary have been published online and the piece has been performed at Sonorities 2016 (Queen’s University), MTI concerts (De Montfort University) and NoiseFloor (Staffordshire University). The software for the piece is available for free download.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Church bells, interactive, audio-visual, interactive system, Max for Live, Ableton Live, live performance, generative, physical metaphor
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies > Film, Sound and Vision
Depositing User: Si WAITE
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2016 10:10
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2019 10:51
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/2870

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