Time Resonances

Soprano and live computer processing

Duration: 7.5 min.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I worked with abstract computer animation pioneer John Whitney Sr., who developed an insightful technique of animating elements according to a simple rule: the second element moved twice as fast as the first, the third three times as fast, and so on, recapitulating in motion the harmonic series present in the frequencies of acoustical instruments, including the voice. In Whitney’s beautiful abstract films, this simple procedure creates stunning visual patterns as the elements move in and out of points of convergence, creating an entrancing visual equivalent of the tension and resolution composers create in music. Although I have used Whitney’s methods in my own visual animations, in this work I create the same effect in sound by using a computer to stretch out the sounds of a live performer at the same proportions. This process is a technological elaboration of a medieval musical genre known as a "mensuration canon," a piece in which a melody is combined with itself but at a different speed. In this case the process results in points of convergence that occur at the half-way point, at the third and two-thirds points, at the quarters, the fifths, and other divisions of the whole performance, during which the singer repeats the original melody six times. The pitches, which are not changed by the stretching process, represent the same proportions but in the frequency dimension, meaning that chords of these pitch ratios -- known as just intonation -- converge at these points in time. The sung vowels and consonants are abstract, that is, without literal meaning. John Whitney passed away in 1995, and I have since seen in his works a reflection of the convergences in time that structure all of our lives.