Vivid Air (2010) — Robert Scott Thompson — Electroacoustic Music

Passage (2009) was originally composed at the  invitation of clarinetist F. Gerard Errante and first appears on recording as part of his Delicate Balance (2010) disc. In this work, performed for this recording by Tadej Kenig, the live acoustic clarinet is deeply melded into the textures of the electroacoustic component, yet is cast in the role of a solo voice presented with a minimum of signal processing in order to preserve the distinctive tone and character of the instrument.

The musical concept of Passage developed out of my engagement in composing ambient music combined with my interest in sound processing and transformational elaboration in electroacoustic music. My goal was to create a composition that was on the cusp of avant-garde sensibilities (my over-arching approach to music) and more direct musical expressions emphasizing melodic materials within clearly drawn harmonic fields. To this end, the clarinet solo part is carefully blended into the texture of the work to emphasize and embellish passing harmonic implications throughout the sections of the composition. The song of the nightingale is featured prominently in the composition and especially in the final section where signal processing lends the song and otherworldly metallic sheen.

Vivid Air (2010) is a work that owes a great deal to the close collaboration of percussionist Stuart Gerber with whom I have collaborated on a number of works including Sanctum (2007) and Out of the Vivid Air (2009). The composition is organized into five gestural fields, as indicated by the sectional titles, but is continuous in sound.

The various sections of the work emphasize specific groupings of sonic resources in the percussion instrumentation and also the overall timbral trending from sounds created by elaborated membranophones (drums played with objects coupled to them, such as clock chimes) toward metallic instruments and sound qualities, through small instruments and sounds of allusive origin, and finally returning to membranophones played in a more traditional manner.

The formal design of Vivid Air presents interactions of solo percussion and electroacoustic sound interspersed with passages that are purely electroacoustic. In the spirit of acousmatic music, gestural qualities are paramount, yet the origins of the sounds is often obscured leading the listener into a sound world where the real and imaginary mingle veiling the authentic origins of the sounds. The use of percussion instrumentation is key to this goal of the composition as the sonic qualities of the solo percussion materials and composed gestures often blend significantly with the elements of the electroacoustic sounds creating new amalgams and sonic complexes.

The Ninth Wave (2001) was composed as a dedication to cellist Craig Hultgren. The form of the work is made up of nine distinct gestural fields and is continuous in sound. The materials of the electroacoustic component are created from transformations of ‘cello source recordings but also include sounds that are purely synthetic — such as the “vocal” sounds in the central section of the work which were created using a variation of the CHANT formant synthesis technique.

Outward to Infinitude (2010) is a work of electroacoustic music that features various acoustic sound sources and transformations of them. In some ways this composition is reflective of my work in ambient music and was specifically composed for this recording to round out this collection of works.

– rst


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