Robert van Heumen Composer Improvisor Laptop-Instrumentalist Sound-Designer
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Tubes in Chains | Posts

Supported by the Performing Arts Fund NL through a composition stipend for 2013 & 2014.

January 15, 2014

Tubes in Chains / wrap

The performance on Nov 3 in Orgelpark went really well. I've finally finished mixing the recording, documenting the piece and creating a webpage for it. Hopefully we can play it more often; the challenge would be adapting it for other organs. But I gladly accept that challenge!




October 19, 2013

Tubes in Chains / final touch

On Sept 30 I found myself in Orgelpark again, for the final 'development' rehearsal of Tubes in Chains with Nora Mulder and Anne La Berge. Changes were made beforehand, we tested all the musical sections I created for the combination of church organs, flute and electronics and laptop-instrument. Nora and Anne gave me valuable ideas to solve things and to create a beautiful combination of sounds and a good sense of structure.

We will be using the MIDI-fied Sauer organ, the little chest organ and the characteristic Molzer organ. We'll have three days before the concert to work with the organ player Dominik Blum who will perform at the premiere.

Many thanks to Anne and Nora for working with me developing the composition. Nora was especially generous as she's not even playing the piece on the premiere!




July 1, 2013

'Shackle Affair: Organ' renamed to 'Tubes in Chains'

The composition 'Shackle Affair: Organ', which will premiere in November in Orgelpark, has been rebaptized. The name was still a work title, and I couldn't manage to find a better one, until now: Tubes in Chains.




March 29, 2013

Shackle Affair: Organ / further developent

Last Monday I spend another day at the Orgelpark, this time working with Anne (La Berge) and Trevor Grahl on more specific details of the parts of 'Shackle Affair: Organ'. I had some trouble getting started, for various reasons, one of them being too little sleep the night before. As the piece involved a lot of different aspects, both technically and musically, I find I really need to make specific plans for these development sessions, otherwise I get swamped in details and totally lose overview. So another learning moment. Next week I'll have another session and will make sure I'm a bit more organised.

Back to this session: I started out connecting it all: MIDI to/from the Sauer organ, audio from my computer to the speakers, audio from the dynamic mics in the Sauer to the speakers, to the Rat distortion pedal and to my audio interface for live sampling, audio from the little organ ('kistorgel') to the speakers, to the ZVEX distortion pedal and again to my computer for live sampling. My naive idea was to do this through the digital Yamaha mixer that was there. I've seen these monsters before, but never really worked with one. I'm sure they are very convenient once you know how to work with them, but it's not something you just setup as a first-time user. So that and too little sleep and there goes an hour (or two) without any progress. After getting a coffee with Anne I decided to leave it and just connect the organs one by one directly to the audio interface. Figuring out the connections at a later stage.

Another frustration was the Rat distortion pedal. I didn't seem to be able to have a decent volume, until I found out that these things just always feedback when you're sending them an signal. My conclusion: just open up the volume and let them scream, switching them off when you're not making any sound (any guitarplayer could have told me that, but hey, I found out the hard way).

I also decided not to amplify the Molzer organ. The Sauer and little organs are fine with the two mics on each, but I couldn't get a satisfying sound from the Molzer, so decided to use it only once in the piece, and then just acoustic. Limitation saves the day once again.

A MIDI issue with the Sauer organ was solved after discussing it with Trevor, who knows the MIDI console very well. I won't bore you with tech details, but just sending a MIDI reset message just before engaging register assignments works really well. Also, the MIDI reset message works great as panic key, so I can (in theory!) make the Sauer organ shut up from behind my MIDI controllers.

I was glad to also have some time finally with Anne and Trevor to discuss and try out musical ideas for the parts. Very inspiring to have someone interpret your instructions in a quite different way as you anticipated! That's why I love working with musicians and improvisors.

One last note: I have been struggling with the structure of the composition. The basic idea is to have about 10 parts in the piece that are presented to the players through the Shackle System: a visual cueing system where players have the power to cancel new part proposals by the system and also can request a new part at their conveniece. So parts of semi-random length will be proposed in semi-random order (semi meaning: between a predefined min/max value). Players can cancel those proposals, and in the middle of a certain part ask the system for a new proposal. There is no guarantee that in a set of about 30 minutes all parts will be played. This is fine for a Shackle set, because we play quite often, so it is actually nice that some parts don't cross the stage everytime, creating a unique performance at every Shackle concert. But for this piece, that due to its very specific instrumentation nature will probably not be played many times, it would be preferable that every part is played at least once.

The same can be applied to the order of the parts: in a Shackle set it is much better to have parts in a different order everytime, so a Shackle set has the same basic ingredients, but is always different - not only because parts can be interpreted differently everytime, but also because how we play a part depends for a great deal on what came before. But for this piece I do have a certain order in mind, and I would like to have an audience hear that.

So after talking to Anne about it, I decided to make it much less flexible: the order of the parts will be fixed, and the players will not have any influence on the structure. Except for myself: I will have the opportunity to cancel a new part proposal if I feel the current part is not done yet, and I will be able to request a new proposal if I think we're ready to move on. The parts will still last a random lenght (between a fixed min/max value) so the lenght of the piece will not be set in advance. But my ability to advance or extend the piece with cancelling or calling up proposals will make sure it will be within reasonable boundaries (probably between 20-30 min).

Over and out now. On my way to mail a couple of Shackle Sticks to the WORM shop.




March 5, 2013

Shackle Affair: Organ / part names

For this composition I will use the Shackle System as a way to structure the piece. This system is basically a visual cueing system, proposing parts for the performers to play, giving them the option to cancel proposals and request new ones. In the way we use it in Shackle, the proposals and lenght of the parts is chosen in a weighted random fashion by the system. This makes it very flexible and surprising, also for us as players. For this piece I will probably make it a bit less surprising, possibly by setting a specific order but still letting the players decide when to go on to the next one. Or limiting the number of 'cancels' for each player, so that they will have to think hard if they really want to cancel the next proposal. To be determined.

I've actually composed 10 (or 11) parts already, and in the process of finetuning them. I will keep the rules for each part a secret for now, but below is a list of the names, plus explanations. All searched for in connection with 'shackle' - limiting one's possibilities. And then soon you get into darker territory...

  • Fetter (a chain or manacle used to restrain a prisoner, typically placed around the ankles)
  • Trammel (poetic/literary: a restriction or impediment to someone's freedom of action)
  • Bilboes (an iron bar with sliding shackles formerly used for confining a prisoner's ankles)
  • Crackdown (severe measures to restrict or discourage undesirable or illegal people or behavior)
  • Tether (the horse had been tethered to a post)
  • Yoke (Dutch: juk / a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to)
  • Halter (a rope or strap with a noose or headstall placed around the head of a horse or other animal, used forleading or tethering it / archaic: a rope with a noose for hanging a person)
  • Bridle (a horse's bridle)
  • Manacle (handcuffs)




March 4, 2013

Shackle Affair: Organ / another working day at Orgelpark

Last Monday I spend a full day at Orgelpark. As they are closed on Mondays, I was on my own. I mainly worked on amplification of the organs for live sampling and processing. My conclusion after this day:

  • For the Sauer organ I will use the two dynamic microphones that are already installed in the organ, to live sample and process the sound. I will also put a Rat distortion pedal on the organ. This sounds great on the organ. After this work is done I should try a drone piece for the organ, in Sunn O))) style.
  • For the Elbert Kistorgel I will use two Neumann microphones stuck into the opened top of the organ. The bleed from the speakers into the mics will be acceptable. I will definitely live sample and process the sound from the organ, and also extend it with a ZVEX distortion pedal.
  • I'm not really sure yet how to amplify the Molzer organ. I did test putting a wireless Beyer Dynamic mic in there, but placement is very important as I'd like to get a balanced level from all pipes. So next time I'll put two of those microphones in there on stands, and see if that works.

I also tested MIDI control to and from the Sauer console a bit. Triggering notes and changing registers with the joystick. Very cool, but very dangerous: a high risk of stuck MIDI notes. Although I trust my SuperCollider programming, I'll have to test this thoroughly, and then some more. What we don't want is hanging notes during a concert. MIDI coming from the Sauer console will trigger flute samples in my SuperCollider setup. Also quite risky, but I have more control there so I can always break in if things go haywire.

A short documentation video:




February 20, 2013

Shackle Affair: Organ

'Shackle Affair: Organ' is a composition for various organs, flute with electronics and laptop-instrument, performed by Dominik Blum and Shackle (Anne La Berge & Robert van Heumen). ’Shackle Affair: Organ’ is the next step in Shackle’s research project into restriction and structure in electro-acoustic improvisation. For this installment 10 new musical sections will be composed, each of which prescribes a way of playing the instruments or a limitation in sound material. During the concert these new sections will be presented to the players through the Shackle System. The players will have the option to cancel proposed sections or request new ones. ’Shackle Affair: Organ’ is developed with financial support from the Performing Arts Fund NL.

In the last couple of weeks I've been biking to Orgelpark a couple of times to prepare this work. For The First Law of Kipple I've done quite some work on the Sauer organ, but the other organs at Orgelpark were quite a mystery to me. Trevor Grahl showed me around some of them. My favorites: the small 'kistorgel' (chest organ?), with only 4 registers, but an amazing sound. Perfect for amplification, sampling, processing. The other fav is the Molzer organ, a little used old organ with a very characteristic sound. Both of these organs reside on the concert floor, so can easily be used together with the Sauer Organ console.

It was/is a challenge to find extra-musical sounds within these organs. Although the Sauer organ is the most technically advanced organ, the other two (kistorgel and Molzer) have more possibilities for extended techniques it seems.

Next week I'll be looking at amplification of these organs, testing live sampling and live processing. Then at the end of March I'll be working there with Nora Mulder and Anne La Berge to try out a first version of the piece. Looking very much forward to that!




January 5, 2013

'The First Law of Kipple' and 'Shackle Affair: Organ' premiere at Orgelpark

At the end of this year, two of my works will premiere at Orgelpark. Very exciting! More about these works in other posts, but below the announcement.

A virtuoso chain reaction in noise and sound Van Heumen, Dramm & Ferrari with Marco Blaauw, Dominik Blum and Shackle

Location: Orgelpark, Gerard Brandtstraat 26 Amsterdam Date/time: November 3, afternoon

Ferrari / Visages V part 1 & 2 (1959) 6:33
Dramm / new work for solo trumpet (2013) 3:00
Dramm / (chaincurve) (2006-7) 22:00

Van Heumen / The First Law of Kipple (2012, premiere) 21:05
Van Heumen / Shackle Affair: Organ (2013, premiere) 20:00

The First Law of Kipple (Robert van Heumen 2012, premier) (FLoK) is a composition for 4-channel tape and MIDI-controlled organ. ’FLoK’ is inspired by Gorecki’s Miserere and a library of processed recordings in various churches. It is about creating order in chaos and crunching melody into noise. ’FLoK’ is commissioned by Het Orgelpark in Amsterdam.

There’s the First Law of Kipple... ’Kipple drives out nonkipple.’...Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot. (Philip K. Dick)

Shackle Affair: Organ (Robert van Heumen 2013, premiere) is a composition for various organs, flute with electronics and laptop-instrument, performed by Dominik Blum and Shackle (Anne La Berge & Robert van Heumen). ’Shackle Affair: Organ’ is the next step in Shackle’s research project into restriction and structure in electro-acoustic improvisation. For this installment 10 new musical sections will be composed, each of which prescribes a way of playing the instruments or a limitation in sound material. During the concert these new sections will be presented to the players through the Shackle System. The players will have the option to cancel proposed sections or request new ones. ’Shackle Affair: Organ’ is developed with financial support from the Performing Arts Fund NL.

http://www.orgelpark.nl/
https://west28.nl/shackle-archive/affair/




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