Draconids is an interactive electroacoustic musical composition for soprano saxophone, bassoon, and computer.
The computer uses pitch tracking to follow along with the performers as they play the piece, performing real time processing to the instruments' live sound.
In October 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing my first meteor shower from a beautiful North Florida beach. In the extreme early morning hours, hundreds of meteors flooded the sky from all directions, most of them emerging from the direction of the constellation Draco. Some were quick and dazzling; others, to my surprise, drifted on slow, winding paths across the sky before dissipating into the night. The sense of tranquility and amazement I felt while watching this beautiful phenomenon is one that I will never forget.
In Draconids, I have ventured to render my impressions of the experience in musical form, not as a sonic mimicking of the meteors’ motion, but rather as an attempt to re-create the atmosphere of that awe-inspiring event. To ensure that the electronics are flexible and completely responsive to the performers, the computer uses pitch tracking to follow along with them, allowing them to interpret the music freely at their own pace.
The instrumentalists act partly as illustrators, establishing materials to which the computer adds motion and color; and as observers, reacting both to one another and to the overall soundscape. Multiphonics in the instrumental parts introduce altered harmonic spectra that further expand the tone colors available for the computer’s extraction and manipulation. The multiphonics are reflected microtonally in much of the wind instruments’ melodic material. Often, the melodic passages are consonant with the multiphonic’s harmonic spectrum, but even more often, I was fascinated by the sound of notes just outside the multiphonic spectrum. This effect can be heard especially in the final section, where the instrumentalists’ sound is convolved in real time with bassoon multiphonics, leaving behind long, sonic trails.
Real-time pitch tracking
Real-time digital signal processing: spectral processing, convolution, delay, cross-synthesis, and spatialization