Violin House - 2008
Full Audio Recording
Video Excerpt from SEAMUS 2009
Violin house is a work of sonic architecture. It is a series of constructed sound spaces that a solo performer enters, interacts with and exits at his or her leisure. It is improvisatory the same way walking through a house is improvisatory because there are no limits on the amount of time spent in each room and what can be done in each room. A given performance depends entirely on what the performer plays, as there is no prerecorded material in the piece. The rooms are silent until the performer uses sound to illuminate the spaces and their characteristics. The presentation takes the form of an exploration of these imagined rooms.
The 'house' consists of a series of 14 presets in a Max/MSP patch. These correspond to the different 'rooms' and determine how the violin's sound will be processed. A single footswitch is used to trigger the transition between rooms. In this way the performer is almost literally stepping into the next room. The aspects controlled by the processing are the number of playback buffers, playback speed, amount of pitch shift, delay time, and pan. To make these effects more dynamic, their values change over time.
For the entire piece, the pure violin's signal is present in its unprocessed form. When the piece is performed live, the signal is still present in the loudspeakers. While there are technically no limitations on what the performer can play in the rooms, I've written up a series of suggestions for each room, which a performer can draw from. These explore a number of extended techniques, including hitting the strings, bridge and wood with the fingers and bow, bowing in unusual places, and using 'crunchy' rhythmic bowing sounds. The performer is under no obligation to follow these suggestions literally. However, while constructing the rooms, I found that certain sounds worked particularly well in room transitions. I am considering making some of the transitions mandatory for the performer to ensure smooth transitions between rooms. I don't feel this compromises the theoretical framework of the piece because these transitions can be viewed as 'doors' between rooms. If you want to enter the next room you must pass through the door.