This article describes the "maximalist" approach I take in my musical composition. This approach embraces heterogeneity and allows for complex systems of juxtapositions and collisions, in which all outside influences are viewed as potential raw material. I focus here on the notion of hybridization, in which two or more sharply-defined and highly-contrasting aspects of experience are combined to produce something that is both alien and strangely familiar. Recent technological advances have allowed hybridization to extend into the realms of the synthesis of sound itself, the ensemble relationship between musical lines and the connection between performer and instrument.
This page contains writings, interviews and lectures on composition, aesthetics, and computer music technology
This brief essay chronicles some of my shuttlings between the domains of music and nature, and looks closely at examples from three different genres: instrumental music, vocal music, and computer music. More generally, it illustrates the compositional strategy of starting from the known, in this case bird song and behavior, and abstracting to the unknown. The familiar, whether it be a musical style, a bird song or a computer-simulation of the human singing voice, is already something of great richness and character. The process of abstraction then involves combining several familiar elements in an unconventional manner, or stretching the familiar in strange directions or to unnatural proportions. The result can be something quite alien, but with a strong hauntingly-familiar identity, as if viewing a face from a long-forgotten childhood dream.
Use of bird song can be viewed as one example of "external" artistic inspiration that, far from the popular view of a passive experience that overcomes an artist, involves active molding and sculpting of raw material into something new. In taking such an inclusive approach, the artist has, quite literally, the world to gain. Paradoxically, when he or she allows private personal experience to find its way into music, the result can be more broadly relevant, compelling work.