“Zooming into Pollock”, for Electronic Sounds (2009) – 4’59’’
Jorge Meletti - Brazilian Composer
Zooming into Pollock stands as a musical investigation regarding sound and its relationship with both music’s surface detail and its underlying deeper structures. It was motivated by both some works as well the technique of the American Artist Jackson Pollock, especially that of spontaneously pouring and dripping liquid paint on canvas.
The composer tried to render into sound and time some of the fluidity and speed that Pollock’s “action painting” convey through multiple lines, curves, turning points, spots and stains of paint.
Although, instead of doing that rendering based on the observation from a fixed distance and static point of view, the music is conceived through three imaginary steps of approximation and magnification, each one zooming further into one hypothetical painting, revealing new and unsuspected elements, with different colors, textures and relative proportions.
The piece can be roughly divided in three main sections, each of them concerning one of the stages of magnification. The first section (0:00 – 0:55) can be understood as the first of such stages, assuming an observer standing in front of the paintings, from a regular distance. As such, the elements more evident might be multiple thin lines, suggesting very fast streams of paint running over each other. The music features such lines through approximately 1700 very short sounds, resulting fast streams of notes based on contiguous fragments from a fixed series of nine different pitches.
The stream of fragments features constant changes of direction, register, intensity and duration, yet keeping its surface linear nature. After a few statements of this series’ form, many other transpositions are introduced, in a symmetrical fashion, expanding the sound space outwards. As this section goes on, slower lines, although similar, emerge, revealing the melodic shape and the real nature and behavior of the fast fragments. Most of the material of this first section is based on enveloped sine waves, but the speed with which the notes are performed, and the high amount of overlapping and dovetailing among them result a kind of dynamic additive synthesis that gradually adds up character to the resulting sound.
After a short transition (0:55 – 1:20), which could be understood as the actual movement towards the painting, the second main section (1:21 – 3:12 ) begins. This section represents a closer view of Pollock’s work. As such, we still find streams of fast, light events, but also slower and heavier ones. These include stretched melodies based on fragments of the basic series’ transpositions, which now evolve gradually, in long sustained sounds, slowly modulated by means of frequency modulation. Upon and beneath them, shorter sounds populate the sound space, presenting several kinds of musical and acoustic behavior, such as the many fragmented chunks of the series, presented through bursts of percussive sounds, improvisational in nature, both at low and very high register.
The next transition (3:10 – 3:18), a brief moment of almost completely stasis, represents the final zooming movement into Pollock, gradually revealing, from a microscopic point of view, the hidden intermittent discontinuity of the poured paint, and its coarse and rugose surface. As such, the former continuous lines of sustained sounds now present their pulsating nature, which interferes with other lines producing slowly evolving textures. The major sound events now are widely spaced, more meaningful and expressive, bringing to view the interstitial gaps between them, which are scarcely filled with reminiscences from the earlier sections.
The piece has no sampled material. The sounds were entirely designed and organized in CSound, (v. 5.10, Barry Vercoe), and Blue (v.0.125, Steven Yi). The main electronic music techniques utilized were the additive synthesis, waveshaping and frequency modulation.
Hope you all enjoy this piece. Thanks Mr. Yi for the great tool you've created.