Giacomo Albert: E-sketch analysis: Marco Stroppa’s Chroma between the late ’80s and early ’90s 28:54
- Saison 2015-2016 - None - None > TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music
- Oct. 9, 2015
- Program note: TCPM 2015
- Giacomo Albert (conférencier)
This paper aims at deepening the relationship between digital technology from the one side and compositional thought and techniques from the other, focusing on Marco Stroppa’s music of the late 1980s and early 1990s. This relationship will be investigated through the analysis of both the compositional techniques, and the computer aided compositional tools, that Marco Stroppa developed during the creation of Traiettoria and Proemio. By this way, a correlation between the architecture of the programs and the dramaturgic and musical structures of the works will be stressed.
During his career Marco Stroppa developed many Computer Aided Compositional (CAC) tools, also thanks to the help of IRCAM’s assistants as Serge Lemouton. Many of these programs have been collected in a package, engendering a programming environment: Chroma – OmChroma (partially made public as Open Music’s library).
Chroma’s evolution paralleled the variations and the development of Stroppa’s compositional thought and techniques. During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s the composer ported both Traiettoria’s (1982-84; rev. 1988) sound synthesis programs and Spirali’s (1987- 88) “Vertical Pitch Structures” (VPS) – a chord managing method based on constraint programming –, from Fortran’s based Music V, to LeLisp (and to Common Lisp immediately afterwards), giving rise to Chroma. Once these programs have been joined into a single environment, the composer developed them further, and employed them for the composition of Proemio (1990-91), a radio opera based on a text written by Adolfo Moriconi.
In the paper, I will study this transition, analysing both the programming environment and the compositional techniques, i.e., from the one side Chroma and from the other side the most important Traiettoria’s and Proemio’s music structures. In order to better understand the connection between technology and compositional thought and techniques, I will compare Proemio’s computer aided sound synthesis programs to Traiettoria’s. In particular, I will focus my attention on the third section (from 7’57” to 11’10”) of the second movement/module of Traiettoria’s score, and on Proemio’s episode devoted to the “character” Maria Goretti. Looking at both the architecture of the programs and the way they have been employed during the compositional process, and, from the other side, looking at the music structures, it will be possible to stress that the different programs mirror the difference between a processual, developing conception of form in Traiettoria (based on the conception of the superposition and juxtaposition of multifarious developing “OIMs”), and a static structure in Proemio, a kind of formal organisation well-suited for depicting characters (based on the idea of “sonic potentials”). Highlighting the use of different programs in relation to different sections of the work, I will theorize a connection among the architecture of the programs and the dramaturgic and musical structures of the works.
Both Traiettoria and Proemio have been investigated by many researchers; thus, many features of the two works and of their creative process have already been analysed and developed. In particular, Traiettoria’s compositional process has been studied by Stefano Marcato – both in his MA dissertation and in a later article –, by myself in my MA dissertation, and by Noémie Sprenger-Ohana and Vincent Tiffon in four recent articles; Giordano Ferrari studied Proemio in three articles and I dealt with some aspects of this same work in my MA dissertation. In this paper I will carry on these studies further, through the comparison of the two works and the concentration on the analysis of the relationship among computer aided compositional tools and music structures.
In order to pursue this topic I will deal with sketch study and work analysis, trying to establish a link between them, well aware of both potentials and problematics of this enterprise, as also theorized by Gianmario Borio in “Sull’interazione fra lo studio degli schizzi e l’analisi dell’opera”. In Stroppa’s case, sketch material includes many different kinds of sources: handwritten notebooks, music sketches and drafts, versions of the libretto, prints of computing algorithms, software interface and sound files. Analysing Brian Ferneyhough’s work Ross Feller has outlined many of the main problems that a researcher faces working on e-sketches, particularly on music composed between late Eighties and early Nineties: a historical phase where computer and handwritten sketches were usually combined. Moreover, printed e-sketches document only a tiny part of the creative process, tend to preserve only what the composer explicitly wanted to conserve, and usually convey only the final step of the compositional process.
In order to study Stroppa’s computer aided compositional tools, I will concentrate on three aspects: first of all, I’ll individuate and analyse the primitive expressions, i.e. the implicit knowledge entailed in the different programs and in their interfaces, that is, both the representation of the compositional parameters that the programs convey and the possibilities of interaction that the programs allow. Furthermore, I’ll also give a look at a second aspect: the fundamental architecture of the environment. Finally, I’ll try to understand how primitive expressions can be combined in order to create compound elements.
My main goal is to relate these analyses to the compositional strategies, and to highlight the correspondence between Stroppa’s new and different programs from the one side and the underlying musical strategies and compositional techniques from the other. So, the goal of this paper is to identify the link between digital implicit knowledge and music structures, through a systematic analysis of the computer aided compositional tools and, in general, of the procedures and techniques that Stroppa developed.