1. Thrum 9:08
2. Slumber 5:23
3. Day Trip 8:52
4. Out of Hand 11:36
Michael Tunnell, trumpet
Brett Shuster, trombone
5. Driptick 7:24
6. Red Plumes 11:12
Craig Hultgren, cello
7. Blue Traces 13:16
Kati Gleiser, piano
In this album I weave together two strands of my activity over the course of some twelve years: the production of music in the studio for performance over loudspeakers in a concert space, and the creation of scores for one or two acoustic instrument performers with live electronic accompaniment. The album title, Traces, of course refers to the final track, but it also alludes to threads connecting these seven pieces: exploration of the continuum between clear sound and noise; a predilection for dwelling on a harmony while animating the music through pulsation and timbral change; and incorporation of stylistic elements from rock, funk, and electronica.
I am grateful to the performers appearing here. I wrote three of the pieces especially for these musicians and collaborated with them to give many live performances of the works.
1. Thrum (1998)
I began work on Thrum by recording isolated notes I plucked on my steel and nylon stringed acoustic guitars. I assembled these into rapid-fire streams that reveal more of their human nuance as the opening passage continues. Suddenly, the breakneck pulse collapses, and the focus shifts to a sustained, raspy bass — a magnified image of the lowest guitar string. A dreamy, swirling texture eventually washes over this, and the initial pulse returns with a percussive twist. The piece ends with memories of the opening, submerged by a relentless low roar.
2. Slumber (2006)
In Slumber I recast old music in a new form. The source for most of the sound is a recording of “Kind in Einschlummern,” a piano piece from Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Unintentional pedal creaking from the recording yields the noisy roiling current of the opening. We slowly sense the presence of the intended piano notes — first as shimmering, out-of-sync repetitive patterns created from stratified chords, then as explicit melodic fragments tossed about the stereo field, and finally as a direct quotation from the Schumann.
Slumber was written on a commission from the Third Practice festival for pieces that reinvent the past. Thanks to Mary Rose Jordan for playing the piano, and to Neil Cain for engineering the piano recording.
3. Day Trip (2000)
I visited a park in New York’s Chinatown and heard dozens playing Mahjong. The sounds of tiles slapping and people shouting blended with other sounds of the city: cars honking, pigeons flapping their wings. This boisterous soundscape, recorded on a lazy June afternoon, provides much of the source material for Day Trip. Processed layers of this sound, along with noisy synthetic reinterpretations, complement and distort the original recordings, which fade in and out. My aim was to create a dream-like world, in which the real experiences of the park blend with imaginary musical visions.
4. Out of Hand (2008)
Michael Tunnell, trumpet; Brett Shuster, trombone
In Out of Hand, the computer plays a multifaceted role, ranging over the continuum between fixed-media accompaniment and improvised responses based on real-time analysis of the live performance. The musicians lead us across several contrasting landscapes, sometimes taking diverse positions on the underlying material, other times trading the same isolated fragments. In the final third of the piece, the two play in unison rhythm — with the computer extending their sound into larger chords — as they dodge an algorithmically-generated funk bass line.
5. Driptick (2010)
We normally hear the dripping of a faucet or the ticking of a clock in relative isolation. What happens when many variants of these sounds, joined with others from the household, combine to create a dense musical texture? In Driptick I orchestrate the clash of multiple, incompatible speeds projected by these sounds and play on our sense of musical timing. What makes music sound fast — is it surface rhythm, the rate of pitch change, or pure energy? In its three-part form, Driptick considers the possibilities.
6. Red Plumes (2011)
Craig Hultgren, cello
Deep beneath the surface of the Pacific lie hydrothermal vents that spew scalding water, laced with toxic gases, onto the near-freezing ocean floor. In the pitch-black depths, giant tube worms grow to a length of eight feet, protected from the harsh conditions by a tough outer shell. Having no mouth and no digestive tract, they host bacteria that convert minerals into food. The bacteria in turn receive food from the worm’s blood-filled plumes, which exchange carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other compounds with the seawater. A worm has no eyes, but somehow it can sense vibrations, which cause it to retract the plume into its shell. Imagine that you are hearing these vibrations.
I thank Craig Hultgren for allowing me to record sounds he produced on the cello, so that I could include them in the electronic part.
7. Blue Traces (2009)
Kati Gleiser, piano
Kati Gleiser tells a story about sitting in a sweat lodge at night on Cortes Island, in British Columbia. After warming up, she raced into the cold sea and marveled at the colorful glow cast from bioluminescent plankton. Moving her arm through the water disturbed the plankton, and in response they set off a bluish trail of soft light. This image gave me an idea for the piece: the piano plays, and the computer responds by creating gently glowing traces of sound, fashioned from live sampling of the piano. Near the end, the mood becomes more agitated, as if swimmers were now splashing around and plankton reacting excitedly.
John Gibson grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he played guitar in rock and jazz bands before gravitating toward contemporary classical music. After an early focus on purely instrumental genres, he began to compose electroacoustic music, which he often combines with instrumental soloists or ensembles. Among his works are pieces for laptop ensemble, video, chorus and electronics, and sinfonietta with laptops. His musical interests encompass repetition, noise, urban and natural soundscapes, algorithmic composition, and references to vernacular music. His compositions have received performances by the London Sinfonietta, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Seattle Symphony, Speculum Musicae, and at numerous festivals, including Bourges Synthèse, Seoul International Computer Music, Brazilian Symposium on Computer Music, as well as many SEAMUS and ICMC conferences. Significant awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Paul Jacobs Memorial Fund Commission from the Tanglewood Music Center. Recordings of his music appear on the Centaur, Everglade, innova, and SEAMUS labels. He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University, where his primary composition teachers were Milton Babbitt, Paul Lansky, and Steven Mackey. He has taught composition and computer music at the University of Virginia, Duke University, and the University of Louisville. He is now Associate Professor of Composition and Electronic Music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. For more information, visit john-gibson.com.
Kati Gleiser is an internationally recognized concert pianist, vocalist, and computer music artist. She has performed coast to coast throughout North America and as far as Shanghai, China, in venues ranging from barns to elite concert stages, including the Kennedy Center. She has appeared on NPR, including a weeklong segment on Performance Today. She holds a Doctorate of Music in Piano Performance from Indiana University, under the mentorship of Menahem Pressler. She is a passionate advocate for the environment and the Earth’s indigenous wisdom. For more information, visit kenova.org.
Cellist Craig Hultgren is an activist for new music, the newly creative arts, and the avant-garde. Over 200 works have been written for him, playing e-cello, amplified cello, or conventional cello. A former member of the Alabama Symphony, he now resides as a farmer-cellist outside of Decorah, Iowa, and plays in Luna Nova, a new music ensemble based in Memphis. Recently, he completed a multi-year CAMA artist residency with the St. Louis New Music Circle and performed a 15 Minutes of Fame concert titled Occupy Cello in New York for the Composer’s Voice Concert Series.
Brett Shuster is a Grammy Award recording artist and Professor of Trombone at the University of Louisville. He is a member of the Louisville Brass and has appeared with the Chestnut Brass Company, the Louisville Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Vermont Symphony, Arizona Opera, and the Boston Philharmonic. As soloist, he has appeared with the United States Army Orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfonica da USC (Brazil), and many others. He is also active as a sackbut soloist and performs regularly with Kentucky Baroque Trumpets and Bourbon Baroque. He holds degrees from the New England Conservatory, Northwestern University, and Arizona State University.
Michael Tunnell was Professor of Trumpet at the University
of Louisville. He performed with the Louisville Brass, was Principal Trumpet
with the Louisville Bach Society, and was Auxiliary Trumpet with the Louisville
Orchestra. A founding member of Sonus Brass, Tunnell toured the Far East and
South America with this group and as a soloist. He recorded several albums of
music, from contemporary to Baroque, performing on the modern trumpet, the
corno d’caccia, and the Baroque trumpet. He was awarded the 2016 International
Trumpet Guild Award of Merit.
@ John Gibson, All Rights Reserved, 2016.
All compositions published by American Composers Alliance (BMI)
Produced by John Gibson
Out of Hand recorded by Tim Haertel (TNT Productions, Louisville, KY, 6/8/10)
Red Plumes recorded by Bud Brown (Higher Ground Studios, Bessemer, AL, 7/1/13)
Blue Traces recorded by Chip Reardin (Airtime Recording Studio, Bloomington, IN, 8/18/10)
Postproduction by John Gibson
Mastered by Mark Hood (Echo Park Recording Studios, Bloomington, IN)
Composer portrait by Tall and Small Photography
Cover photos by John Gibson
Album design by Philip Blackburn
Funding provided by the Indiana University Office of the Vice Provost for Research
Innova Director: Philip Blackburn
Operations Director: Chris Campbell
Publicist: Steve McPherson
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.