Composing with
Voltage-Control
Techniques

29
FEBRUARY
2024

h 16:00 – 19:00
STUDIO MIRIAM
Via Ponzio Cominio, 101

Kees Tazelaar, Visiting Professor from the prestigious Royal Conservatory Den Haag, Saint Louis’ Erasmus+ partner, is Director of the Department of Sonology and will be at Saint Louis, Rome branch to present two workshops aimed at students of Electronic Music and Applied Music Composing with Voltage – Control Techniques.

On Thursday, February 29, the workshop will be held at Studio Miriam (Via Ponzio Cominio, 101, Metro A Lucio Sestio stop).

Composing with Voltage-Control Techniques
Thursday, February 29, h 4-7 p.m.
STUDIO MIRIAM
Via Ponzio Cominio, 101
00175 Roma

Open to academic students of Biennium of Electronic and Applied Music and Triennium of Electronic and Applied Music subject to availability.

Free admission by reservation.

Training credits for academic courses: 1 CFA

Program Composing with Tension – Workshop

Variable Functions 1 and 2 were created between September 2022 and August 2023 in the Voltage Control Studio of the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague. The title refers to Gottfried Michael Koenig’s Funktionen (1967-69), a series of papers focusing on voltage control technology, which was relatively new at the time, and in particular on the so-called Variable Function Generator, used to determine both the timbre of the Funktionen’s base material and the parameters of the circuits used to transform this base material. With these compositions, Koenig has taken an important step in the further development of a way of composing electronic music in which there is no distinction between material and form, between temporal structure and timbral movement.

Koenig used voltage control techniques in the Funktionen to “program,” so to speak, the study. Different combinations of sounds and control signals and different distributions of sound types on the large form led to the different versions, whose titles are distinguished by color: Funktion Grün, Gelb, Rot, and so on. The Funktionen are thus not the result of the cut-and-paste work so common in analog studios, but of a truly new way of transferring compositional representation to a technical reality.

“Virtually all of my compositions created in Sonology’s voltage control studio since 1996,” says Kees Tazelaar, “have been strongly influenced by this way of working.” In addition, the tone generators, modulators, and filters in this study are now available in much greater numbers, and many new devices have been designed and built in this context, allowing for much more complex circuits that produce results with inherent polyphonic and spatial qualities. For Variable Functions 1 and 2, the devices of such a circuit were set up, after which multichannel recordings of the sound results were made without turning knobs or sliding faders. The devices were given a “command,” but they were not “played.” Circuit output recordings appear in the compositions in virtually unchanged form, although they may overlap one another.

“Another Koenig composition that should be mentioned in relation to my working method is Terminus (1962). Terminus has not only influenced my way of working in the tension control studio: in fact, there has not been a single composition I have made in which the influence of Terminus is not present in some way since my analysis of that piece in 1995.” At the heart of Terminus is the idea of combining the formal plan and the technical process of work. A number of sound structures were subjected to successive transformations (amplitude modulation, ring modulation, filtering, chopping, etc.) The sound structures and their transformations were noted on a family tree diagram, which formed the basis of how the genesis of the material develops over time as musical development. The different trajectories along the branches of the diagram result in variations in the form of the composition, which is thus not the result of a specific processing of the diagram: rather, the diagram is a potential form that includes the possible variations.

The idea of programming the voltage control study by means of complex circuits and systematically varying their settings played a key role in the realization of the sound structures of Variable Functions, while the family tree model is the basis of the two form variants developed so far.

Kees Tazelaar Bio

Kees Tazelaar took Sonology courses in Utrecht and The Hague and later studied composition under Jan Boerman at theRoyal Conservatory Den Haag. He has been teaching at the Institute of Sonology since 1993 and has been its director since 2006.
His electronic music is characterized by a combination of formalization, sonic richness, and a compositional approach to sound spatialization. His compositions have been commissioned by Performing Arts Fund NL, Johan Wagenaar Stichting, Festival in de Branding, Hollandia, De Veenfabriek, Festival Relevante Musik Berlin, and Groupe de Recherches Musicales Paris.
In addition to being a composer, Kees Tazelaar is a historian, specializing in the early years of electronic music in the Netherlands and Germany. He was twice Edgard Varèse Guest Professor at the Technische Universität Berlin, where he received his Ph.D. in 2013 with the dissertation On the Threshold of Beauty: Philips and the Origins of Electronic Music in the Netherlands 1925-1965 (Rotterdam: V2_Publishing, 2013).
Kees Tazelaar was awarded a Fellowship Residency by the Bogliasco Foundation in 2017.

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