for computer-processed voices, violins, mandolins, guitars, banjos and drums
Instrumentation: Stereo recording
"American Miniatures" was commissioned by Lynn Marie Kirby for an experimental film dealing with the evolution of the American Identity. The music has two purposes: it is used both as the sound track of the film, and as a concert piece that is performed over loudspeakers in a concert setting. In both incarnations, the American historical theme is clear. The music is in five short movements, each dealing with an aspect of the American Identity in both a particular and a general sense:
1. Roads West focuses on the urge to explore, specifically the
westward movement of the 1800's.
2. After the Battle of Bull Run depicts the conflicts of race and sovereignty of the American Civil War.
3. The Dust Bowl suggests something of the loneliness and poverty of the dust storms of the years of the Great Depression, that forced farmers off their land. More generally, the movement represents the dispossessed nature of the American psyche.
4. Gold is concerned with greed and the quest for wealth, particularly concerning the 1849 Gold Rush and the building of the railroads by the ruthless Robber Barons.
5. Neighborhoods is a reminder of the influence of the past on immigrants from Europe and elsewhere.
The piece was created by processing recorded sounds on a NeXT computer. The sounds range from single notes, as is the case with the drums, to entire musical phrases. There is no score other than the algorithmic mix specification. Quarter tones appear throughout the piece, as do diverging and converging multi-speed canons. The drum material in the second movement is based on Congolese rhythms and was created using an "automatic improvisation" program written in Common Lisp. The source recordings were performed by Tom Pressburger (drums), Emily Bezar (female voices) and the composer (strings and male voices). The software used was the Music Kit mixsounds program (written by the composer), Common Music, the UCSD phase vocoder by F. Richard Moore and convolution programs by Christopher Penrose.
For performance materials contact Terra Non Firma Press.