I am super pleased to announce that I will be premiering a brand new piece (Thamnophis sirtals: 2.25 Incantations & Spectral Taxonomy) at the upcoming Aphonia Recordings showcase on Friday, May 1st. Thamnophis sirtalis.
It is a taxonomically-themed, microtonal composition written for a voice & strings ensemble consisting of a number of active NW performers & Aphonia artists (ie. Amy Denio, Derek M. Johnson, Emily Pothast, members of Problems, Mood Organ, Midday Veil, etc..) I’m pretty excited to get all of these folks under one roof & feel extremely honored to have them performing my piece.
be there or be square-rooted!
-Ben Robertson (Aphonia Recordings Co-Founder)
Friday, May 1st @ Gallery 1412
1412 18th ave – Seattle
8:00 PM sharp!
Thamnophis sirtalis: 2.25 Incantations & Spectral Taxonomy for voices, electric bass guitar, cello, amplified viola, & amplified violin
Composed & Produced by:
Ben L. Robertson Aphonia Recordings co-founder, The Precambrian
Emily Pothast (Mezzo-Soprano; Midday Veil)
Amy Denio (Alto; The Tiptons, Kultur Shock, etc..)
Jackie Ahn (Violin)
Ian Ackerman (Violin; Problems, Romanteek, The Strangers)
Gabriel Will (Viola; Problems)
Derek M. Johnson (Cello, Bloodclot, The Dead Air Fresheners, etc..)
Timm Mason (Fretless Bass; Mood Organ, Midday Veil, Eldridge Gravy, etc.)
Traditionally, biological disciplines, such as Taxonomy, & the arts have been viewed as, more-or-less, distinct from one another. Intersections between these two seemingly disparate practices are often more figurative than structural. Perhaps the clinically macabre imagery particularly associated with taxonomy, complete with shelves full of dead plants & animals preserved in bottles of formaldehyde, has done little to marry biological sciences to the expressive arts. However, the parallels in methodology that unite these two disciplines offer great potential.
By definition, a taxonomist gathers empirical observations regarding the physiology & behavior of organisms (both living and deceased) to craft an explicit vernacular that definitively describes his or her biological subjects. Through a similar methodology, the spectral composer may gather relevant acoustic data, classify this data in the form of a literal or symbolic language, & establish a protocol of musical conditions that reflect the nature of data collected. Within the piece, this process entails the development of a proprietary vocabulary, or spectral taxonomy, to describe & classify the individual harmonic phenomenon and spectral behaviors exhibited in the context of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. The resultant spectral taxonomy is the maturation of a system of microtonal tuning & counterpoint that effectively exploits the unique timbres produced by specific FM algorithms.
Phonetically, the piece adopts the aesthetic of an Audubon field guide, as each vocalist recites a series of incantations documenting the Latin names of various North American subspecies of the ubiquitous Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis.