of Electroacoustic Music
üg was commissioned by Ensemble Modern, the Siemens Art Program and the Goethe-Institut as part of the project “Into…” and was composed between 2007 and 2008. The commission was related to a five week stay in Istanbul, where diverse acoustic materials, “sound shadows, sound traces from persons, buildings, situations” were collected. [Andre 2015, p. 40] The electronics were developed by Joachim Haas, Michael Acker and Mark Andre at the SWR Experimentalstudio in Freiburg (Breisgau), Germany. The piece is scored for 16 instruments (bass flute, oboe, bass clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn in F, trumpet in C, trombone, percussion (two players), piano, violin, viola, cellos 1 + 2, double bass) distributed across the space and live electronics using eight speakers placed around the audience.
At the core of the work’s poetic conception lies the idea of transition taking place on various levels, which is also reflected by the title “üg”, an acronym for “Übergang” (“transition”, c.f. Andre 2015, p. 40). The concept of transition relates on the one hand to cultures, religions and languages and clarifies Andre’s choice of Istanbul as a cultural space at the threshold between two continents. Among the texts used are four surahs from the Quran spoken in Arabic and German, fragments from the Old and New Testaments, from the Gospel of Matthew and from Exodus. The voice of a Rabi, whispering the Hebrew alphabet is heard, as well as voices of patients in hospitals in Istanbul and Freiburg whispering their names in Turkish and German. But there are also transitions between acoustic qualities of different spaces, between sonic, temporal and spatial properties (sound families, cf. Andre 2015, pp. 40) and between compositional situations.
Of key importance in this context is the signal processing technic called convolution, making possible the merging of two different sound sources. Generally speaking, this process is used to digitally simulate the reverberation of a physical or virtual space, allowing to capture the acoustic characteristics of a location such as a concert hall or a church and to apply it to any signal. In üg, the process entails the combination of the live signal from some instruments as impulse and the response of specific spaces in Istanbul (Hagia Irene Museum, Chora Museum, Blue Mosque, Neve Shalom synagogue specifically recorded by Joachim Haas and Mark Andre), as well as of other instruments. In this way, the instrumental “surface” of the piece is linked to its electroacoustic substrate, within which the different connections to other spaces, realities and situations are established on the one hand in a directly identifiable and on the other hand in an indirect way. The electronic elements acting directly are samples containing voices, words in different languages, instrumental sounds or city noises. Indirectly acting are the FFT analyses of spatial responses used to identify morphologic commonalities e.g. in the harmonic structure, as well as transformation processes such as convolution, filtering, delay, ring modulation and spatialisation triggered by the instruments. Fragility and disappearance [Verschwinden], observed by the composer in the distinctive decay of the convolution, characterise these processes:
“Das Verschwinden erlaubt die Entfaltung und Beobachtung der kompositorischen Räume, zwischen realen und repräsentierten Akustiken und Klangsituationen. Es geht um keine Reproduktion, sondern um eine Repräsentation.“ [Andre 2015, p. 42]
Thus, the spatial setting of üg aims for the emergence of transitional spaces [Zwischenräume] through the interplay between the representational space conveyed by the electronics and the instrumental actions performed in situ.
The instrumental figures themselves exhibit material properties, for example different degrees of discontinuity (“perforation”) ranging from smooth to granulated. This scale was inspired in the vocal quality of the recorded voices [Kolb 2008] and is applied in variations to all instruments. Other scales concern e.g. the proportion between sound and air and the distance between mouth and mouthpiece in wind instruments, or bow and grip pressure in the strings, all of them opening up additional transitional spaces. Some instrumental actions contain gestural elements relating to the performer’s body and the physical energy necessary to produce specific sounds (e.g. separate soft clicks on the violin by applying excessive pressure on the bow). As in this case, instrumental figures can take on the character of events given that they result in a way that is not entirely controllable or predictable.
A multiplicity of temporal relations (“Zeitfamilien”) inform the formal articulation of üg. On a higher level, it is defined by metric proportions (approx. 44, 55, 66, 88, 100 and 120) in contrast to passages articulated by fermatas, whose durations can be precisely given in seconds or in relative terms (e.g. “medium long”). Canonic imitation plays an important role too. Particularly remarkable are the sections from b. 108-174 and b. 189-258, where either rhythmic cells or sound sequences are canonically disposed in several voices. Morphologic features such as the decay time of specific instrumental sounds can also become determining for the temporal articulation of the material as well as the specific rendering of envelopes, e.g. glissando curves by “pizz fluido” or overblow actions, only loosely suggested in the notation. On a micro level, temporal relations emerge e.g. through slight differences in repetitions. If we add to this the manifold temporal consequences of convolution and delay, not visible in the score, we observe a high degree of nuancing inside complex polyphonic structures.
Such constellations of morphologic qualities, performative actions and events, modes of representation, electroacoustic interactions as well as spatial and temporal relations, constitute, in Andre’s words, compositional “situations”. [Andre 2015, p. 43] Their course is not formalised. The overall form results from possible transitions that arise in a given situation, even if formal sketches seem to suggest a higher-level plan. In üg, these situations and their transitional spaces always relate to the underlying ecumenic tissue observed by Andre in Istanbul and to his belief in the pace-making power of spirituality and interreligious dialogue.
The live electronic performance of üg will ideally involve three performers controlling mixing, cueing, and the live electronics using 27 faders. All instruments are amplified, however, only the signals from trumpet, percussion, piano, violin and viola directly affect the electronics. The performative approach to the piece is determined by the reduced number of cues, one for each of the 13 sections. Each cue defines a specific instrumental-electronic constellation (s. figure I). The performer is thus requested to interact live with specific instruments over longer passages. This subtle “interplay”, sometimes with several instruments at a time, is a challenge due to the delicate and unexpected behavior of the convolution process, (s. performance report below) and lends the electronic part a strong live performative quality.
Fig. I: 13 sections of üg and electronics
-Edition Peters EP 12489R (2008)
The score contains explanations about different playing techniques for each instrument and information about the electronics. A diagram shows the disposition of the performers and the loudspeaker setup. Additional information on the electronics is provided in the layer of each instrument, such as which signal will be fed into the electronic processing. The sampler is played by the piano player through a midi keyboard. All live electronic processing is marked with the capital letter “E”, while samplers are marked with the letter “S”. There is no performance score or detailed information on performing the electronic part. Specific information concerning the performance of the electronics can be obtained through the SWR Experimentalstudio.
Each instrumental part contains an annex with explanations the special playing techniques required (cf. below).
c) Other Materials.
In addition to the score a booklet is provided containing performance notes and explanations of all symbols used for each instrument to produce specific sounds. Besides established symbols for special techniques (e.g. Bartók pizzicato, col legno, glissandi and quarter tones), other symbols are introduced that require special attention, namely those describing different grades of intensity and continuity or discontinuity of the sound in terms of quantity of air, bow pressure, sound form (“Klanggestalt’’) and overtones to be produced. For these, Andre uses a scale of fractional numbers from 1/5 to 5/5. For instance, 1/5 Perf indicates a sound with a relatively continuous sound form; 5/5 Perf on the other handa discontinuous or irregular one. Modifications of bow pressure for the string instruments are indicated with a scale ranging from +1BD (with a lot of bow pressure and continuous sound) to +5BD (with very high bow pressure and discontinuous sound).
In addition to the score, the publisher provided a link to a documentation folder (“doku 2018”, s. contents below) with more information about the electronics. It contains among other thigs a list of the microphones for each instrument and a description of the electronic processing for each cue (s. also “editorial instruction”).
Content of the documentation
Mark Andre Ueg Hinweise und Ueberblick.pdf
Kanalbelegung Ueg 2018.xlsx
Kanalbelegung Ueg 2018.pdf
Signalfluss ueg 2018.pdf
Source: SWR Experimentalstudio
Author: Joachim Haas with Thomas Hummel and Constantin Popp, SWR Experimentalstudio
Title: Mark Andre, “…üg…»
ohne LCS, Z8, Altiverb
jo, th, cp v1.0
Software: Max MSP 7 64 bit/48 kHz
Remarks: Suggested DSP settings: IO 512; SlgVec 512; Overdrive OFF
File: #Perf ueg 2018 ohne Z8 ohne Altijh02.maxpat
The Max patch controls all the live sound transformations, file playback and sampled sounds. Eight groups of microphones/instruments are sent into the different modules:
Group 1: Piano (Condenser and contact microphone)
Group 2: Percussion 1 – Plattenglocken (piezo microphone)
Group 3: Percussion 1 (condenser microphone)
Group 4: Percussion 2 – Plattenglocken (piezo microphone)
Group 5: Percussion 2 (condenser microphone)
Group 6: Percussion 2 tam tam (piezo microphone)
Group 7: Violin / viola (condenser microphones – DPA)
Group 8: Trumpet / horn / trombone (condenser microphones)
Altiverb is one of the main elements of the electronic sounds in üg. It uses impulse response recorded and processed by the composer. Four stereo Altiverb engines are used. The input and the output routing are not fixed, instead, new settings are set according to the loaded cue.
Impulse responses (labels according to the score):
Quran Sure 2,7/8A
Glas im Flügel
Sure 2-A kurz
Akustik Nove shalom
Matthäus Lukas Collage
Tam Tam Klang 2
A gate function is implemented in the patch to minimise leakage from other sources into the convolution process. The noise gate can be set individually for all four Altiverb instances.
Delay/DelRM (E5 E6 E7)
The delay and the delay in combination with the ring modulation are different for all the eight channels.
The patcher Halaphon includes four units of the spatialiser. Only one of them is used in the piece. The units could manage up to twelve output channels, the unit used is set for the 8-channel setup.
The file player plays back an 8-channel file. It is only used in cue 12a.
This sampler was originally an Akai Z8 hardware sampler. In the 2018 patch the hardware unit is replaced with a patch realised by Thomas Hummel (“TH, 8.6.2015”)
The pianist plays on a midi keyboard; the sounds are played back in the patch itself. This setup requires a midi connection between stage and FOH.
Midi fader control
Fader control is very important. As noted in the documentation (Mark Andre Ueg Hinweise und Ueberblick.pdf), the sound projection of the transformations, the file playback and the samples have to be actively performed and balanced.
The midi controller requires 15 faders if automations are used, or 27 faders if all movements are manually controlled. The second option is recommended.
Fader mapping is organised as follows:
1-4 to Altiverb
5-6 from Altiverb
9-16 to delay/ring
17-24 from delay/ring/file player
25 Halaphon 1
26 volume sampler-
27 volume file player
-Ensemble Modern, SWR Experimentalstudio
Conductor: Franck Ollu
Sound direction/electronics: Joachim Haas
Alte Oper Frankfurt, 2009
[last accessed 10 December 2019]
Conductor: Alejo Pérez
Sound direction/electronics: Joachim Haas & Michael Acker
[last accessed 10 December 2019]
The schemes, photos and patch list provided by Joachim Haas of SWR in addition to the score describe in detail the placement of the musicians and the eight speakers in the hall, the routing of the sources for amplification and the live electronics. They also include suggestions as to the kind of microphones to be used, and their placement.
As Joachim Haas pointed out when sending the additional material, the performance of üg’s electronic part requires knowledge of a certain performance practice with respect to dynamics and transitions not entirely documented in the score and parts (e-mail from 12 September 2018), and he therefore suggested to get into touch with him. The advice and clarifications provided by Mr. Haas (who originally programmed the electronics for üg), before and during our workshops were essential in realising our performance of 18 January 2019.
The concert took place on 18 January 2019 at the main concert hall of ZHdK. Performers were the ensemble Arc-en-Ciel, Simeon Pironkoff, conductor, Germán Toro Pérez, Carlos Hidalgo, Leandro Gianini and Peter Färber, live electronics.
The floor plan of the hall and the position of the audience are crucial factors, since the percussion and brass players are placed off-stage. In order to achieve a good balance between them and the players on stage, they should not be positioned too close to the audience.
Fig. II: üg, setup at ZHdK, January 2019
The additional documentation contains a patch list with a list of microphones, the routing for the amplification (speaker assignment) and the routing for the sends from the mixer to the MAX patch. There is however no clear indication on how the amplification of the instruments has to be handled (level indication, etc.).
Based on Joachim Haas’ remarks during the rehearsals, we would point out the following aspects:
• Amplification should be handled in such a way as to attenuate the almost inaudibly soft signals, but not to amplify them to the point that they become a clearly audible. When an instrument or a group of instruments are playing forte, the amplification should be reduced.
• For the tam-tam acoustic convolution effect (bars 181-188, percussion 2), the input gain level has to be increased. The amplification should slightly mask the acoustic sound of the percussionist’s voice. We suggest choosing a relatively thin instrument and to have it face the audience, so that the percussionist can speak from behind.
• For the pedal sounds in the piano part (bars 368-392), the level of the piano pickup has to be increased considerably to be audible and immediately reduced for the last hit (bar 393).
• If the stage is wide and the placement of the two front speakers is only possible with a long distance between them, a centre speaker for amplification of the stage instruments (especially the piano) can help to achieve a more compact and natural sounding result.
Audio monitoring of the samples for the piano player proved necessary. In past realisations, the use of a hardware sampler on stage provided an option to easily set up a monitor. In the new MAX patch version, the sampler is integrated in the MAX patch and the output cannot be split from the effects without modifying the patch. Using this signal as monitor source results in feedbacks on stage as soon as convolution or delay are used in the live electronics.
The distance between the conductor and the brass players made a video monitoring system necessary . In larger venues, this may also be required for the FOH and the percussion players.
Controlling the live electronics
The performance team opted for a fully manual control of the electronics using 27 faders, this task being performed by one performer.
In order to be able to practice the electronic parts, the rehearsals with the ensemble were recorded. In this way, it was possible to perform a virtual soundcheck of sorts. For specific cues, the instruments needed for the live electronics were recorded separately.
Simeon Pironkoff: Comments on Mark Andre’s üg
To deal with Mark Andre’s music is always a special event for me as a conductor. It is perhaps for this reason that I do not approach this music as such – i.e., discerning, structuring, organising on different technical levels – but purely compositionally and consciously with a certain naivety.
The performance notes at the beginning of the score suggest a latent polysemantic quality. Each explanation is not a “quotation” of the well-known vocabulary of new music, but contains a great deal of associative substance, mostly of course concerning all possible differentiations of breath and breathing. Even the strings develop an extraordinarily wide range of timbres, combining to form a kind of “catalogue of monochromic”: perforation, pressure, continuity, all possible levels of flautando resulting from the combination of bow pressure and speed.
Looking at the first page of üg I feel like I am standing in front of a Cinemascope landscape. The role of the conductor here is not that of the “all powerful time director” and “organiser of parameters”. Rather, the conductor of Mark Andre’s music is “organised” by the music itself. He is thus not a “controller”, but a listener who, at every moment of sounding (or rather of disappearing) runs the risk of getting almost dissolved within the gaps of this widescreen while marveling at it.
üg is music that draws its strength not from what is said but from what is “not said” or suppressed; a cosmos composed of syllables, dots, sighs, shadows, whispers, scratches, asthmatic sobs… Each event projects its past history and tries to “remember” itself. The music takes up and interrogates these attempts in their intricate ambiguity, illuminating them from all possible perspectives.
üg is also music that transports the conducting ear into the sounds’ histories, at the same time subjecting it to a strict and uncompromising instruction; an interplay of divining and remembering. One has to develop a particular familiarity with the sounds and treat them with special love and care, for precisely because of their polyvalence they threaten to break at any moment. It is not about the content’s aesthetics, but about the content itself, and especially about its defenselessness, which the performer (or in my case the composing conductor) should be aware of. Above all, one has to conduct the disappearance of the sounds, rather than their initiation. Ultimately, it is about carefully listening to the qualities of what is lost, to put it somewhat poetically. And one has to be patient. We are not dealing with sounding objects that are just sounding at a given moment, but with sounding references.
Upon concluding my remarks, I notice that I had initially intended to take a much more technical and analytical approach in conveying my impressions of the performance of üg in Zurich at ZHdK and to talk about the instrumental effects and their dialogue with the electronics, about the conductor’s peculiar mediating role, about resonances and changing listening perspectives caused by the spatial disposition. Now I realise that I have totally failed with my “good” initial resolution (in my defense: because I am delivering these lines quite a long time after the performance itself). At the same time, I wonder whether the fact that the very special qualities of Mark Andre’s music, where the intensity of the musical discourse between performer and listener is produced at the level of the intangible, volatile and inexplicable at the highest level, thus creating new categories of musical presence, is responsible for this spontaneous digression towards the metaphysical?
In my view, the answer is positive because Mark Andre “thinks” his music to such an extent that he uncouples it from any need for expediency, ultimately taking it to the point where it (the music itself) no longer needs to take into account the composer or the musician, but instead vibrates and lives completely autonomously within its own uncoupled “remembering rhythm”.
Simeon Pironkoff, July 2020
Andre, Mark (2015): Die Klang-Zeitfamilien und kompositorischen Zwischenräume in “üg” für Ensemble und Elektronik. In: Tadday, Ulrich (ed.): Mark Andre. München: Edition Text + Kritik, pp. 40-60 (Musik-Konzepte 161).
André, Marc [sic] (2000). Die Frage nach der Architektur des Komponierens. In: Musik und Ästhetik 13, 2000, pp. 62-67.
Haas, Joachim (2019) “Die musikalische Darstellung des Zwischenraums. Ein Werkstattbericht über die Entwicklung und Bedeutung der elektronischen Transformationen in der Oper wunderzaichen von Mark Andre”. In: Biró, D. P. et al. (eds.): Live Electronics in the SWR Experimentalstudio. Hofheim: Wolje, pp. 211–242.
Jeschke, Lydia (2019) “Ab, auf, über: Perspektiven der Live-Elektronik bei Mark Andre”. In D. P. Biró et al. (eds.): Live Electronics in the SWR Experimentalstudio. Hofheim: Wolje, pp. 125–132.
Jeschke, Lydia & Andre, Mark (2015): “Es geht nicht um Dezibel” – Gespräch über die Elektronik in der Musik Mark Andres. In: Tadday, Ulrich (ed.): Mark Andre. München: Edition Text + Kritik, pp. 61-65 (Musik-Konzepte 161).
Jeschke, Lydia (2015): Gedehnter Raum, gefrorene Zeit, unendliches Dazwischen. Werke mit Elektronik von Mark Andre. In: Tadday, Ulrich (ed.): Mark Andre. München: Edition Text + Kritik, pp. 66-67 (Musik-Konzepte 161).
Kolb, Andreas (2008): Im Übergang ankommen – ein spirituelles Roadmovie aus Istanbul. In: Neue Musikzeitung 9/2008, online: https://www.nmz.de/artikel/im-uebergang-ankommen-ein-spirituelles-roadmovie-aus-istanbul [last accessed 20 May 2020]