Composing the Subconscious

    Looking at the calendar of upcoming performances at UCSD’s Conrad Prebys Music Center can often be a confusing process, with the shows themselves sometimes proving even more intimidating than they seem (ever been to a computer music recital?). In general, though, the concerts at CPMC are both thought provoking and very entertaining, and PASSAGE 9, an upcoming performance of a piece by UCSD composer Roger Reynolds, promises to be no exception.

    Featuring “an intriguing way of sharing observations, images, sounds and their unpredictable resonances,” the piece consists of a series of texts read (with the assistance of “an elaborate computer algorithm”) by Reynolds, with musical accompaniment by percussionist Steven Schick, flutist Rachel Beetz and computer musician Paul Hembree. The Guardian caught up with Roger Reynolds last week to discuss the performance. The details of the performance — more specifically, the computer algorithm that facilitates it — might seem rather confusing, so Reynolds provided some helpful clarification.

    “I will read some texts live, while others — that I have pre-recorded — will be reproduced at the same time,” Reynolds said. “It’s a conversation with myself. The texts are on a wide variety of subjects. Most of them have a story line and also a ‘take away.’”

    The texts will be accompanied by two musical performances and projected imagery. When asked about this multimedia aspect of his performance, Reynolds noted that the presence of several (sometimes conflicting) streams of sound as well as a visual element “offers you the freedom to follow the implications aroused in your own mind and sensibility — rather than to be given a pre-determined message. While normal concerts have a visual dimension, it is fixed and limited. PASSAGE 9 approaches its audience in more varied ways and with more varied content.”

    “I realized a few years ago that I was not so comfortable any longer with giving ‘a lecture about a thing,’” Reynolds said. “It felt more interesting to make a presentation of what was on my mind in a more non-linear way, a way that invites each person in the audience to make her or his own response.”

    This attempt to transfer some of the artistic agency of his performance to the mind of the listener is achieved through the help of an 8-channel surround sound system, controlled by the aforementioned computer algorithm. Reynolds is convinced of the positive influence of computers on contemporary music.

    “All artists, all human beings, have an imaginative inner life,” he said. “Through most of human history, those inner imaginings were not directly shareable. They were confined within us. Now, with the aid of general-purpose digital computation, the province of the imagination can become that of shared experience. If I want my voice to seem to meander choreographically around a room, it can be done.”

    To be sure, PASSAGE 9 sounds like an intriguing performance. What can students expect from the piece?

    “It would be safe to say that students attending would not have experienced anything quite like it before — that they will be, perhaps, disconcerted by the idea of multiple texts coming into their ears at the same time; and it that it will not be coercive,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully, what it will be is ‘suggestive to the imagination.’”

    PASSAGE 9 will be performed Wednesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.50, though student rush tickets will be available for free an hour before the show.

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