Polytemporal Music Mapping

Perception, Composition, Performance and Synchronization

 Reich's Rabbit Hole

It was Steve Reich's "Clapping Music" and phasing techniques that led me down the rabbit hole, and once inside, I had to keep digging around for the lines between deliberate confusion, layering and cacophony. I wanted to know if the uninformed ear could comprehend what was happening and if there were any other aesthetic properties to be found at the end of those tunnels. In retrospect, I guess that I, like so many others, owe Steve Reich for exposing the rabbit hole.

I have to admit that the inclusion of computers and other electronic devices does taint the tunnels with a frightening smell. Musicians and technology are not eager companions, as I discovered when, in 2008, I advocated the adoption of real-time visualization to the performance of any piece of music. (Hence the inclusion of the Visualization section herein.)

The branching tunnels of this rabbit hole have been assigned to the following sections. Explore them at your own peril.

 Perception of Tempo

Here's a brief look into the debate concerning the perception of tempo, e.g. accuracy of response, speed of perception, biological receptors, etc.. This is basically a physiological and psychological debate between the use of auditory verses visual stimuli. This section also includes the appearance of a phenomenon predicted by physiologist Karl von Vierordt (1842) that occurred during a rehearsal of a string quartet. I did not warn the players that it might occur, and it was only after playing through the piece that I asked if anyone had felt a pronounced jolt to their sense of tempo. Very strange.

 Tempo Ramps

Two styles of tempo maps applicable to both polytemporal music and the performance of phasing music are presented in this section. Since the subject involves some serious details, further clarification may be necessary. Do not hesitate to ask questions.

 Requesting Tempo Maps

This sections includes various tempo maps which you are free to download and use. All I ask is that you reference this website in some manner with each use so that others can find the same resource. In addition, you may request the construction of tempo maps specific to your interests, and if I have the time, I will be happy to help.

 Engraving/Notation Problems

The creation of scores for each part involved in the performance of polytemporal music presents some unique problems. Bar lines will not line up when the tempi are not mathematical derivatives of a common time signature. I will present my solutions citing my own work and include a detailed listing of the problems being rectified and the methodology for their incorporation during rehearsal as well as performance.




 Click Tracks

The use of an auditory click track to sync music to film has been around for decades. But when it comes to using click tracks to perform polytemporal music live, unique and complicated synchronization problems rapidly appear.

 Elapsed Time-Stopwatch

With the adoption of mobile phone technology, the incorporation of this device into the performance of polytemporal music is now a reality. At the moment, its strongest application involves the use of this mobile device as a stopwatch to monitor elapsed time specific to each player's score.

 Multiple Conductors

This technique has historical references, and the solution continues to be demonstrated during performances of polytemporal compositions today.

 VPL Software

The demand for a polytemporal solution has seen the use of both proprietary and open source software such as Max/MSP, PureData, InScore,etc., which may involve other software in the manipulation of multimedia equipment, visual and audio signals. Just think of this situation as the difference between buying fast food verses cooking with your own ingredients. Since the commercial industry felt no significant demand for polytemporal products, the task was championed by the music and computer science departments at several universities and institutions, which partially explains why the Apple platform became favored over the PCs. There are now multiple software products competing for attention, and the race to declare a default standard has developed.

 Bounce Metronome

The introduction of Bounce Metronome software seemed destined to find application in the performance of polytemporal music. I have included different tempo maps that demonstrate both visual and auditory outputs using this software.

 Networked Video

I approached the problems of composing and performing polytemporal music by developing a system that uses networked computers and standard video production techniques. In this section, I include examples of completed works, tempo maps, hardware specifications, and even the construction of sturdy and cheap -- although not elegant -- DIY monitor stands.