Friday, January 07, 2005

Podcast1024: Symmetrical Melodic Variation on La Monte Young's Romantic Symmetry by Dave Seidel

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Today's piece is described in depth on Dave Seidel's web page here. Here's how he describes the piece:

This is a variation, in four voices of long, slowly-changing tones surrounding a central drone, on La Monte Young’s 1989 sine-tone piece The Romantic Symmetry (over a 60 cycle base) in Prime Time from 144 to 112 with 119. It is an electronic piece written and realized with Csound.

Dedicated to La Monte Young in his 70th year.

Duration: 9 minutes 14 seconds.

Background & Technical Details

La Monte Young’s Romantic Symmetry is a piece consisting of a chord of 22 sustained tones that express a specific set of harmonics of a 7.5 Hz fundamental frequency. All of these harmonics are prime or octaves of primes, except for 119. It is one of Young’s sine-tone installations, intended to run continuously for extended periods of time. The frequencies in the piece range from 60 Hz up to 8.64 kHz.


For timbral materials, I made an instrument that combines a simulation of a plucked string (using Csound’s pluck opcode) with a simple oscillator tone. I did not use a pure sine wave except for the central drone, but the other tones use relatively pure waveforms consisting of the first partial with different strengths of the 2nd, 4th, and 8th partials; since these are all octaves of the fundamental, the pitch ratios remain unmuddied.

I am indebted to Kyle Gann, without whose writings I could not have even begun to study and explore areas of La Monte Young’s work which would otherwise have been inaccessible to me.

The most intriguing thing about La Monte Young's piece is how it sounds when you move about the space. Each discrete location in a room will have a different sonority, and bring out different overtones as you walk, or turn your head. Turn this piece on at home and walk around and see if you don't experience some of that effect in your own space.

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