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Analysis of Jonty Harrison's Eq

Essay by review  •  November 28, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,972 Words (8 Pages)  •  986 Views

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Description of the sounds and effects in Jonty Harrison's "EQ".

The term sonic art is applied to all new styles of music that involve computers making noise. We can use computers in our everyday lives to create such wonderful pieces of art and literary texts and now this is becoming increasingly common with composers such as John Cage, Larry Austin, Jonty Harrison et al using the computer to make music. The music itself may in fact only be a small portion of the overall music itself. When discussing Jonty Harrison's EQ we can see instances of the music itself becoming a sub divide of the atmosphere. In John Cage's work 4'27" we don't actually hear anything being played on the piano, the composer has attempted to create a new atmosphere from the fact that the audience itself will only listen to the piece once, and with there being a new audience every time the piece is performed, we can believe that every performance will be different.

For the purpose of providing an accurate representation of the piece, I have chosen to use a table which will provide as much information as possible to the reader whilst also making it as simple as possible. In the table, I have termed area as a section in which there are definite instances of changes in style, they will be termed A, B, C and so on. The column with title as the heading will be a breakdown of the sections in the area and will be represented as 1, 1a, 3c etc. For the purpose of breaking down the sections I have chosen to include a start and finish time to clarify the areas which are being talked about. These times will be represented in a running time in minutes, where 0 minutes is the beginning and 15 minutes is the end. The purpose of having a column dedicated entirely to the duration of the title area is to provide a more thorough breakdown of the music and as such enable the reader to gain a definitive idea of where to find the sounds in question.

Area Title Start Time (min) Finish (min) Duration (sec)

A

A

B

B

C

C

C

C*

Fig 1.1 - A table showing a breakdown of the piece

N.B. C* is a continuation of the final C area, but is finished off in the same way as a coda

Jonty Harrison's EQ is a marvellous example of the contemporary sonic art movement involving computers. The piece EQ was written in 1980 for soprano saxophone and tape which could be more accurately described as a tape piece with soprano saxophone obbligato#. The piece itself consists not of music in the form of created sound but in the form of the process of making sound. By this, one can understand that the saxophone is played in the same way that one could make sound if one were to apply breathing techniques onto the saxophone so as to create sound in a notated form. However the saxophone itself is 'played' by using the keys as the notes. The performer creates the music by using key slapping techniques that give the sound created a resemblance to a woodpecker pecking on wood. The composer might have notated this using numerous different symbols, the most common of which could be a cross similar to (x). This key slapping technique takes place in the first section of the piece which last around a minute or so.

An example of how the composer might represent this 'sound' can be seen below in figure 1.2:



Figure 1.2 - a potential way of scoring the music in area A, section 1.

The reason behind scoring the notation in this way would be because whereas there could be a standard stave with bar-lines, key signatures and time signatures, it would be easier to represent within a certain time frame, be it 5 seconds or 10 seconds or whichever denomination is required. The other reason for producing a score this way would be because as the time passes, there are more spray circles to fit into the time frame, therefore we can safely assume that the performer would speed up the notes as the bar itself finishes.

The score itself can provide us with numerous instructions but why do we need the score for this piece? The piece itself is evidently for a soprano saxophone and tape so whereas in an orchestra there would be need for a composer, there need not be anyone keeping the time for this performer as the tape will be the best guide.

The most fascinating thing about the score itself is its ability to look extremely complex with not having any notes and instead have figures and symbols representing the actions that the performer should do. See Figure 1.3 below for a more detailed attempt towards creating a suitable representation of a musical score for this piece.

1 2 3 4 5

"

®

^^ ^ ^ ^^^^^ ^^

Figure 1.3 - example of how a contemporary score may look

" = key slapping Ґ = mouth pop noises С = 'shh' mouth noise __ = same dynamic

As one can see, there are five bars here which can represent a time frame of five seconds. The first row shows the live saxophonist (aka performer) which technique he is required to use at that particular point. The second row shows the performer which dynamics to use and the third shows the live performer what the tape is playing and therefore is acting as his metronome and conductor. The second line showing dynamics could be represented using arrows to resemble the same symbols that are used in notated music#. The arrow which has the head facing the front of the bar indicates a diminuendo because the direction of the arrow shows that the musician is 'moving away' from the point at which the music has become to be played. The opposite effect occurs when the arrow faces towards the new bar because the composer is approaching a point in the bar where the music must be louder than it has been. One could argue that the arrow is in fact more useful than the hairpin shape of the crescendo as it has a more definable starting point. There is also more opportunity for the performer to add his own brand of dynamics to the piece because there is not really a big indication

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