07/2022 Ircam – FROrganized in partnership with Divertimento Ensemble - IT, impuls - AT, Royaumont foundation - FR, Time of Music - FI
03/2021 Divertimento Ensemble – ITOrganized in partnership with impuls - AT, Ircam - FR, Royaumont foundation - FR, Time of Music - FI
Why do we need a common music notation software? Why did we choose Dorico?
Composing collectively without a common writing tool would have imposed too many limits on our exchanges. We want to make modifications to each other's work, to take up, use and develop the material sketched out by another member of the group, to superimpose and combine the ideas of one person with those of the other. We also needed a common medium to give unity to our score. This need to exchange and to work on the basis of the same software is part of our desire to find a specific musical language for our collective composition project.
The three composers that we are have very different experiences with several music notation software. Choosing a common tool was therefore a significant challenge, which could have been a source of divergence within the group. We finally chose to work with Steinberg's Dorico software. On the one hand, it is obvious that it is particularly appropriate for contemporary music notation, and on the other hand, we had noticed several interesting features of Dorico that intrigued us, especially in a collaborative perspective (the “flows” for example, we will come back to that). Thus, to compose collectively and work remotely from different locations, we made Dorico our computer tool and our creative partner.
Framing the project: a free exploration of an augmented musical space
The collective approach of this project led us to put the theme of relationship at the heart of our project. After reflecting on the relationships within our group of composers, we quickly wanted to create a new form of relationship with the public. It is this form of concert-installation, giving the audience an important role, that we will describe in this article.
The future composition offers an immersive and free setting to the audience. The audience enters several rooms that they can explore at will throughout the 40-minute composition performed by 8 musicians. The musicians are spatially positioned in different places and synchronized with each other by the Polytempo software, allowing them to play together while being far from each other. Each member of the audience is also given bone conduction headphones (headphones that leave the ear open), allowing him or her to live an augmented reality experience: the sounds of the electronics diffused by the bone conduction headphones are superimposed on the real instruments. These headphones have the particularity of not obstructing the external ear. As a result, the sounds in the headphones and the outside sounds - those of the instruments and the environment - blend together perfectly, providing an augmented reality experience. The soundtrack and real-time effects played in all the headphones should therefore be related to the instrumental parts played in all the rooms, giving a unity, a collective basis to the individualized experience of the concert-installation.
Any concert is a subjective experience for each member of the audience, but the particularity of this composition consists in the fact that the audience is obliged to make choices concerning the instruments that its members will hear in the foreground according to its position in the space. This choice obligation individualizes the concert experience. The synchronization of all the musicians despite the great distance between them from one room to another should create a captivating sensation of continuity and tutti in the space. The continuity and the musical coherence will be further reinforced by the sounds diffused by bone conduction headphones uniformly in the space. The concert device used here, combining new technologies (bone conduction headphones, Polytempo software) offers an original experience to the contemporary music audience for which we must find innovative compositional strategies.
The Polytempo software developed at the ICST in Zürich (Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology), allows to compose complex tempo relationships between instrumentalists and to make them play music that would be unplayable without the help of technology. Moreover, the software lends itself perfectly to a synchronization between spatialized musicians in several places in the space. This setup allows the audience to experience an innovative music: audience members hear independent musical lines, spatialized in several communicating rooms, whose vertical counterpoint is provided by the Polytempo software. The music follows a horizontal dramaturgy going from A to B, leaving no room for chance in the relationships between the different instruments, but the audience is invited to find its own way inside the music, physically, by walking in the space. This freedom of wandering, placing the work halfway between concert and installation and giving a preponderant role to the perception of the public, questions the classical notion of work.
These ideas of exploration of a musical space by the listener and of augmented reality come from our previous individual experiences (virtual spatial installation, bone conduction headphones, other concert-installations) which have found a new collective form here by sharing with each other.
Three composers, three times less or three times more work?
Why did we stop at three, and not four or five composers? Wouldn't we be more efficient with five people involved? We were tempted by this reasoning to expand the team, but it seemed more advisable to limit ourselves to three people for reasons we will explain here. We wanted to avoid writing a collective work that would have been simply a juxtaposition of several individually composed parts. We wanted to exchange at each stage of creation, to share our sketches, to respond to the proposals of others. A team of 4 or 5 composers could have made this process more complicated to set up, not least because of the coordination of a larger number of agendas to fix regular meetings...
The question remains whether collective composition takes more or less time than individual composition. Spontaneously, one might think that the work will be done more quickly. In our experience, as in that of the /nu/thing collective, this view seems to be erroneous, since all the stages of creation must be discussed as a group, references must be shared and explained, and finally, the decisions taken must not be the result of more or less frustrating or satisfying compromises, but must have a clear adhesion for the group. Would collective creation then take longer than individual composition? The /nu/thing collective suggested this to us, perhaps as a simple warning that we should not underestimate the work involved. For us, we think it really depends on the collective, the type of work envisaged, the trust within the team. In our group, the exchanges have so far been sufficiently fluid and a certain division of tasks has been able to compensate for the many extra hours needed for collective composition.
Creativity is always collective, collaboration accentuates the benefits.
Creativity is a collective phenomenon: what we generally call “creative” is not the result of an individual activity but rather the product of several forces that occur together. By working on this project we are willing to use collaboration to directly accentuate the qualities and benefits of collective processes: dealing with complex problems, merging together different skills, methods, practices and knowledge.
Our group was formed especially for this project, as we already mentioned, on the basis of mutual esteem for each other's artistic works. We consider this to be a condition for the cohesion of the group and of the work, but also a factor that guarantees motivation for the project, whose humanly and artistically enriching dimension is moreover particularly motivating. Collective composition promotes for us the ideals of empathy and debate as fundamental for successful human and artistic interactions, by offering an ethic of creativity based on cooperation instead of prevarication of the others and competitivity. Dialogue, confrontation and acceptance of the other are important processes of the communication within our group.
Hello! Our names are Giovanni, Giulia and Mathieu, we are a collective of composers called CUE Creative/Union/Experience and we are looking forward to your visit on our blog to show you the behind-the-scenes process of a collective composition! The Divertimento Ensemble's “Merge up!” call for projects attracted us by the originality of the suggested collective approach. We were curious to learn more thanks to the mentoring of the /nu/thing collective as well as by putting our hands to work ourselves. Driven by the desire to learn from others, to pool our resources and ideas, to create new music that none of us would have thought of individually, our collective was formed specifically for this call for projects. Our paths had crossed briefly during musical encounters (at the Livorno Music Festival and at Ircam), but it was not so much our previous personal contacts as our aesthetic tastes and our mutual esteem that guided us in the formation of our collective. Giovanni took the initiative of contacting Mathieu first, then Giulia, with whom a horizontal working structure was established from the very first exchanges. As the call for projects was open to multidisciplinary creations, we considered asking visual artists or video artists to participate. However, we preferred to avoid the collective dimension focusing too much on the relationship between artists from different disciplines, as is the case for example in an opera production. It seemed to us more original in this project to focus on the relationship between three composers to create a new musical work. Merge Up! is a project organized by Divertimento Ensemble, in the framework of the «Collaboratory » activity of the ULYSSES Network. Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union Tutor: /nu/thing Technical partners: Dorico, Mezzoforte, ICST – Philippe Kocher. With the support of Aargauer Kuratorium, Fondation Nicati-de Luze, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia (supporting Mr Corajod). We thank them warmly for their support.