Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor (2013)

Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor is a piece composed and performed by John Keston in collaboration with David T Steinman who also performs in the piece as the mobile conductor. Steinman creates a real-time audiovisual score that is broadcast into the performance space from a remote location. This score consists of textural, atonal, and arrhythmic “sound features” produced with artifacts from Steinman’s apartment. The imagery and amplified sound become content within the music as it is interpreted through improvisations by the synthesist, John Keston. Keston accompanies the sound features while controlling three analogue synthesizers (Novation Bass Station II, Korg Monotribe, and Korg Volca Keys). This use of an audiovisual score is a means to harness the sensory influence of non-musical sounds and images in our environments, elevating these sources to compositional structures.

Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor was performed on November 7, 2013 at the Strange Attractors festival, St. Paul, Minnesota. This video was captured during a private performance made shortly after the public showing. The piece is the first in a series of new Duets by Keston made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.

Duets Setup

The shot above shows the setup I chose to use for this project. Although it is possible to synchronize these instruments, for this piece I decided to run them independently creating poly-temporal accompaniment for the atemporal audio I received from Steinman’s mobile conducting. Multiple free-running clocks were involved. For example, on the Bass Station II there are two LFOs, BPM for the arpeggiator and sequencer, and the second oscillator can be routed to modulate the the filter frequency. Both the Monotribe and the Volca also have BPM for their sequencers and a free-running LFO. In addition the Volca and Memory Man delays produced unsynchronized repetitions. All of these independent time sources helped create chaotic, non-interlocking rhythms that mimic and/or contrast the audiovisual score.

Mobile Rig

The sound and video from the mobile conductor was broadcast via UStream using a Logitech Broadcaster camera. This technique makes it possible for the mobile conductor to choose content for the piece from anywhere with internet access and still perform in near real-time with the ensemble. This made our performances with DKO at Northern Spark 2013 and WAM Bash 2013 possible. It also means that the quality of the video and audio from the broadcast is limited. Other examples of Duets (Duet Under Bridge, Duet for Synthesizer and Spin Cycle, Duet for Synthesizer and Rail Cars) do not have this requirement and do-have/will-have better sound and video quality than the Instant Cinema series.

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